HONOLULU (AP) — PGA Tour rookies Russell Henley and Scott Langley, a former Illini, get to play one more round together at the Sony Open, this time with a lot more on the line.
Henley two-putted from 30 feet for birdie on the last hole Saturday for a 3-under 67, allowing him to catch up to Langley, who had to settle for a par and a 65. They broke the tournament scoring record through 54 holes at 17-under 193.
Better yet, they had a three-shot lead over Tim Clark.
At stake on Sunday is a trophy, the customary lei draped around the neck and an invitation to the Masters.
If the third round was any indication, Clark and everyone will have to chase them down. The 23-year-old rookies never flinched on a warm afternoon with only a mild breeze on a Waialae Country Club that was ripe for low scores.
Langley made seven birdies to offset a pair of bogeys. Henley has been steadier, and he carries a streak of 43 holes without a bogey into the final round.
They each have a chance to become the first rookies to win in their PGA Tour debut since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson Open.
“The Vegas odds on me winning were probably not very good,” said Langley, not a betting man himself. “I hope somebody bet on me and I make him a lot of money.”
Henley looked relaxed when he finished his round and still feels as though he’s playing with house money. After all, it’s his first tournament of the year and he already has a chance to win.
“It’s already been a successful week,” he said. “Win or lose, I’m not too stressed about it.”
The rookies have ruled along the shores of Oahu, and if not for Clark, it would have been even more pronounced. Clark made a birdie on the last hole that put him into the final group.
Otherwise, that spot would have been occupied by Scott Gardiner of Australia, who had a 64 and was four shots behind.
Charles Howell III, twice a runner-up at the Sony Open, had a 67 and also was four behind.
Seven players were within five shots of the lead, which included Monday qualifier Danny Lee and Pat Perez, whose goal to have a more positive attitude was severely tested on the final hole when he missed a 40-inch birdie putt. Perez still had a 67 and was at 12-under 198.
Henley and Langley shared low amateur honors at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open, and then became fast friends by flying together to Northern Ireland for the Palmer Cup. They were thrilled to be playing together for their rookie debut in the opening two rounds.
Neither had any idea they would still be together going into the final round. Nobody has been able to catch them.
Langley was two shots behind until a two-putt birdie on the ninth and a short birdie putt on the 10th to tie for the lead. He pulled ahead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th, and after a three-putt bogey, regained the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th.
Those expecting to see the rookies get stage fright in the final group on the weekend quickly learned that these aren’t ordinary rookies — at least not on Saturday. Both played with remarkable poise and kept this Sony Open a two-man show.
Except for John Daly, of course, who always manages to keep it interesting. He pulled his tee shot into the hill on the sixth hole, hit a rock and hurt his shoulder.
He made triple bogey, took four shots from 20 feet on the next hole for double bogey, made another triple bogey on the eighth and then holed a 50-foot birdie for a 45 on the front nine. That gave him a 79.
A far more subtle meltdown belonged to Chris Kirk. He was two shots out of the lead when he hit a tee shot into the canal on the par-5 ninth, his next shot out of bounds and made a 20-foot putt to escape with a triple bogey. He played the other par 5 much differently, chipping in from 80 feet for eagle on the 18th to salvage a 68. He was five behind.
Henley started the third round with a two-shot lead and he didn’t give it up until Langley holed a 12-foot birdie from just on the fringe at the 13th.
They play different styles, with Langley hitting low shots with great control, but both of them can putt. Henley showed that with a number of par saves early on, along with his 15-foot birdie on the second hole and another birdie from about 8 feet on No. 8.