Russell Henley certainly is excited about playing again in the Masters.
But the Macon native is even more thrilled about what will happen away from Augusta National Golf Club next week as he makes his third appearance in golf’s first major of the year.
“It’s surreal that I’m playing in the Masters for the third time,” Henley said. “But my reasons for loving that week have changed the past couple of years. I just love to get to hang out with my parents that week and watch movies with my dad, while my mom is cooking for us. We don’t get to do that very often anymore, so I’m really looking forward to that.
“I’m putting my focus on my friends and family and just letting everything else take care of itself.”
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There should be plenty of family and friendly support on the course and off for Henley during the week. Growing up a couple of hours from one of the game’s most famous courses gives the week a home-course feel, and there have been plenty of Georgia fans to cheer Henley on the past two years, as well.
“It really gets the crowd going some when I make a birdie, so hopefully I can make some this year,” Henley said. “The crowds there have been great for me, and I always look forward to playing in front of them. But I just want to focus on the right things, and if I do that, it will be OK.”
Henley missed the cut in 2013, shooting 72-81 to finish at 9 over. But he played well last year, shooting 73-70 to make the cut.
On the weekend, he had rounds of 75-75 to finish tied for 31st at 5 over.
“The goal would be to compete,” Henley said. “I would love to get in the hunt and test myself and see how I handle that.”
Henley has handled the early part of his PGA Tour career well.
He has won a tournament in each of his first two seasons on the tour, and he qualified for the Masters this year based on earning a spot in the Tour Championship last fall.
This season, Henley has made the cut in all nine of the tournaments he has entered, and he finished in the top five at The McGladrey Classic and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Henley is playing this week at the Houston Open, and he is 47th in the FedEx Cup standings while sitting 59th in the Official World Ranking.
“I feel like this year is going well, and my bad is getting better,” Henley said. “That has been the goal the past year to get my bad to be better. I just have to keep my chin up and keep chugging along because I have been close. Getting close and making cuts isn’t the goal; the goal is to compete and win. But I could have a great tomorrow. You just never know. That’s how I have to keep thinking about it and stay positive with my game.”