Russell Henley put four splendid rounds of golf together at El Camaleon Golf Course in Riviera Maya to blitz the field by four strokes and win the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.
Henley tied the 72-hole tournament scoring record with a total of 23-under 261. It marked Henley’s fourth career win and ended a five-year winless drought.
“I guess all the times that I didn’t get it done I learned from it and here we are,” said Henley, who closed with a 1-under 70.
Something had to give on Sunday: Henley, 33, had failed to convert his last five 54 hole leads and was winless since the 2017 Houston Open. But he was also the 18th player in Tour history to record a score of 191 or lower through 54 holes; each of the previous 17 to do so went on to win. Not to mention that Henley’s six-stroke lead was the largest since Jon Rahm at the 2020 Memorial and players with a six-shot lead entering the final round on the Tour the last 15 seasons had won 22 out of 24 times.
But Henley had blown the 54-hole lead at the 2021 U.S. Open, shooting 76 and finishing T-13, and took three putts at the 72nd hole of the 2021 Wyndham Championship to miss out on a playoff. His most recent missed opportunity happened in January at the Sony Open at Hawaii, where his birdie putt at the last to win stayed out and he lost to Hideki Matsuyama in a playoff.
“All those events that I didn’t close on, they hurt. You don’t know if you’ll ever get to win one more,” he said. “To win out here is hard.”
Henley played near flawless golf for three rounds, opening with a pair of 63s and doubling his lead to six strokes with a 65 on Saturday. Henley was the only player bogey-free through 54 holes, but he’s been candid about his troubles sleeping on the lead. On his fifth hole on Sunday, he tugged his drive into trouble and made bogey. Reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler went out early and shot a bogey-free 62 and cut Henley’s lead in half to three.
Would Henley fold like a newspaper on Sunday yet again? Not this time. He bounced back by bagging three birdies in a row to stretch his lead back to six. From there, he maintained a judicious balance between boldness and good sense, preserving his lead by playing the last 10 holes in 1 over. Henley led the field in driving accuracy and scrambled for par 18 of 20 times when he failed to hit the green in regulation.
It could be said that this event owed Henley one. In 2019, he missed the cut after calling a penalty on himself for breaking the Tour’s one-ball rule as a condition of competition, an innocent gaffe that cost him eight strokes.
“That was a weird one,” Henley said.
Brian Harmon, one of four different players to make an ace at the tournament, closed with a bogey-free 66 to finish second, but this week belonged to Henley, Harmon’s University of Georgia teammate.
“Jealous of his putter. He putts it so great and he’s really rounded his ball-striking into form,” Harmon said. “Not a lot of people would give him credit, but I think he was top 10 last couple years in Strokes Gained: Approach to the Green. He’s been striking it well, so as soon as that putter gets heated up, he’s tough to beat. Yeah, he buzz-sawed everybody.
Scheffler ended in a five-way tie for third. He needed to finish no worse than solo second to reclaim the No. 1 ranking in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I feel good, game feels good,” Scheffler said. “A few things go my way, a few more putts go in, I could have been right in the tournament.”