‘It stings’: For Russell Henley, a Sunday 65 wasn’t good enough

Russell Henley hits a tee shot at the Sony Open.

Russell Henley had a five-stroke lead with nine holes to play but lost the Sony Open in a playoff.

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Give Russell Henley credit. He admitted what most players might not have: it’s hard to sleep on a lead.

Henley held the 54-hole lead at the Sony Open, leading Hideki Matsuyama by two heading into Sunday’s final round at Waialae Country Club, but the 32-year-old, despite owning three PGA Tour wins, entered Sunday 1 for 5 in converting 54-hole leads or co-leads. So he had reason to be leery.

“It’s tough. I’ve slept on a few leads the last couple years,” he said on Saturday night. “It’s hard. I struggle to sleep. I’m already not the best sleeper. … Guys are so good out here. You just have to play at such a high level for so long to be in contention. So hopefully I can keep doing that and play well tomorrow, give myself a chance on the back nine.”

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So somehow Henley, already leading by two, went out and shot 29 on the front nine on Sunday and led by five at the turn — and still lost.

Henley didn’t make many mistakes, but Matsuyama kept chipping away. So even though Henley shot 65 and was given a two-stroke lead, he still came in second. Leading by five, Henley bogeyed 11 and Matsuyama inched closer with birdies on 10, 11 and 15 to make it a one-shot deficit with three to play. On 18, Matsuyama two-putted for birdie to shoot 65 and force a playoff.

“I definitely was nervous, but I felt pretty good,” Henley said Sunday. “Felt like I was able to still hit some good shots. You know, don’t feel like I was that far off. Yeah, disappointing to lose, but Hideki hit a great shot in the playoff. End of regulation I thought I made that putt, and I’ll look back on this and take confidence from it because his putt moving past my coin looked like it was going a little left and I thought I hit a really good putt, and moved a little bit right. So I thought I had him, but he got me.”

Henley’s 54-hole lead/co-lead conversion rate dropped to 1 for 6.

“It stings,” Henley said. “I played some great golf. I feel like I was in it the entire time mentally this time. I didn’t have too many mental lapses like I have other tournaments where I’ve been close to the lead in the last couple years. So feel like I was there. You know, just got to keep chugging.”

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Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining GOLF.com in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.

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