Holding a three-shot lead heading to his final hole Sunday, Russell Henley already was in good shape at the Brickyard Collegiate Championship.
But Henley, a Georgia junior and former Stratford star, gave himself a little more breathing room on his final hole. Reaching the green in two shots, Henley dropped the putt for an eagle and a round of 7-under-par 65.
That round gave Henley a five-shot advantage entering today’s final round and also matched the Brickyard at Riverside course record.
“It was good to finish like that,” Henley said. “I honestly was just trying to get the ball on the back of the green. I was between a (3-iron) and a (4-iron), and I knew a 4 would have been pushing it a little bit. I know if (Georgia head coach Chris) Haack would have been with me, he would have just told me to hit it on the back of the green and take my two-putt. But luckily it was closer than I expected, and I made the putt.”
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Henley said he missed only two greens during the round. He had four birdies on his front nine and one more on the back.
The round included no bogeys, and Henley only has one bogey in the tournament so far.
“I’m hitting the ball good; I’ve been hitting the ball well the past couple of weeks,” Henley said. “I hit the ball well (Saturday), too, and I knew if I kept giving myself chances, they just have to start falling.
“You can’t really expect to shoot a 65, but I knew I could do it. I’m hitting the ball in places that even when I miss it, I can still get up and down. When you have rounds like that, you can’t take it for granted. You just have to enjoy it, and I’m really happy with my game right now. It was fun.”
It was enjoyable for Haack, as well, although he expects a lot out of Henley and fellow junior Harris English. Georgia’s program has had quite a bit of turnover since last year and is also playing through a couple of injuries.
Even English re-aggravated a groin injury Saturday but bounced back from his 4-over 76 in the first round with a 2-under 70 on Sunday.
“We expect a little lower,” Haack said with a laugh when talking about Henley’s round. “Both he and Harris, we lean on those two guys, and having them playing well is always big for us. Russell played well. He is keeping it in play and giving himself a lot of chances and took care of them.”
Henley, who is 10 under, has one more round to do just that. Georgia Tech’s John Tyler Griffin is his closest competitor entering today’s round.
Henley finished tied for ninth in this tournament last year and tied for third two years ago.
“I’m not really thinking about last year,” Henley said. “I have another year of experience to build on. I took last year and learned from it, but I’m not thinking about that, really.
“I really can’t worry about where I am on the leaderboard. I just have to worry about doing my routine and going one shot at a time. That seems to be working, and where I am compared to the field doesn’t really matter until it’s over.”