Weekly Recap: Henley Hangs On

Weekly Recap: Henley Hangs On

This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.

The Mayakoba stop on the PGA Tour schedule has long been a haven for older, shorter-hitting golfers. Viktor Hovland put a dent in that narrative the past two years, but the trend resumed this year with Russell Henley cruising to a four-shot win at the Worldwide Technology Championship at Mayakoba on Sunday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

The 33-year-old Henley matched the tournament record of 23-under-par to earn his fourth PGA Tour title and first since the 2017 Houston Open. In the process, he moved to a career-best 33rd in the world rankings. Brian Harman was the runner-up and Scottie Scheffler, bidding to return to No. 1 in the world, headed a group of five golfers who tied for third.

El Camaleon Golf Club is barely 7,000 yards, all but an anachronism in today's PGA Tour. It has allowed golfers who normally have a tough time competing with the big hitters to have a fighting chance -- at least for week. That's been the case since the inaugural Mayakoba tournament back in 2007, when a then-50-year-old, light-hitting Fred Funk won for the final time on the PGA Tour.

Nobody would confuse Henley with Funk, for whom 250 yards would be a long drive. But Henley averages about 293 yards, which ranks 149th on Tour.

Henley has been considered one of the most accurate iron players in golf over the past few years. That's the sort of characteristic that usually makes a golfer slump-proof. But that wasn't the case with Henley

The Mayakoba stop on the PGA Tour schedule has long been a haven for older, shorter-hitting golfers. Viktor Hovland put a dent in that narrative the past two years, but the trend resumed this year with Russell Henley cruising to a four-shot win at the Worldwide Technology Championship at Mayakoba on Sunday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

The 33-year-old Henley matched the tournament record of 23-under-par to earn his fourth PGA Tour title and first since the 2017 Houston Open. In the process, he moved to a career-best 33rd in the world rankings. Brian Harman was the runner-up and Scottie Scheffler, bidding to return to No. 1 in the world, headed a group of five golfers who tied for third.

El Camaleon Golf Club is barely 7,000 yards, all but an anachronism in today's PGA Tour. It has allowed golfers who normally have a tough time competing with the big hitters to have a fighting chance -- at least for week. That's been the case since the inaugural Mayakoba tournament back in 2007, when a then-50-year-old, light-hitting Fred Funk won for the final time on the PGA Tour.

Nobody would confuse Henley with Funk, for whom 250 yards would be a long drive. But Henley averages about 293 yards, which ranks 149th on Tour.

Henley has been considered one of the most accurate iron players in golf over the past few years. That's the sort of characteristic that usually makes a golfer slump-proof. But that wasn't the case with Henley for much of 2022. His irons were a little bit off and, in combination with his routinely poor putting, he was, in fact, in a slump.

He showed flashes with a top-10 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and a top-5 at the Wyndham Championship but then went MC-35-MC-45 in his next four starts leading up to this week.

Mayakoba helps a guy like Henley. It requires accuracy more than length, and the slow paspalum greens give a big assist to even the poorer putters. Henley was decent with his irons, ranking 21st in the field in greens in regulation. The real difference was on the greens. He ranked eighth in putting average, and that was enough to put him over the top by a comfortable margin.

Henley thus was able to win after beginning the day with a six-stroke edge. In the process, he ended a streak of five straight losses when holding the 54-hole lead, most recently at the Sony Open in January, when he was overtaken by Hideki Matsuyama.

He missed a shot par putt on No. 5 for his first bogey of the week and his lead was suddenly down to three. But he responded with three straight birdies, and the rest of the day was garbage time.

"I just tried to learn from my past and my screw-ups," Henley told reporters in Mexico. "All those events I didn't close out, they hurt. You never know if you'll win another. To come down 18 with a four-shot lead was really cool."

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Brian Harman
All of a sudden, Harman is inside the top 25 in the world, at No. 24, just shy of his career best of 20th. In reality, it's been a steady progression filled with many quality weeks throughout 2022. He has had eight top-10s, with the Mayakoba runner-up adding to three earlier third-place showings. Harman is 35, diminutive and the narrative out there is that he does better shorter courses, but when you have that many top-10s you are playing well in many different situations and conditions. We should see Harman one more time before the end of the year, in two weeks at the RSM Classic.

Scottie Scheffler
Scheffler needed to a solo second to overtake Rory McIlroy and return to No. 1 in the world. He had no chance to catch Henley on Sunday, but he did close with a 62 to finish in a three-way tie for fifth just a shot behind Harman. Scheffler will have another shot to regain the top spot with a win (only a win) this coming week at the Houston Open. McIlroy will play next in two weeks at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. As for Scheffler, putting has been an issue ever since the Masters. At Mayakoba, he ranked 18th in putting average. While that was encouraging, it was on the slower paspalum greens, so let's reserve judgment.

Seamus Power
Tying for third in a strong field a week after winning in a woefully weak field might be the more impressive feat. The key part in our eyes is that Power was able stay focused on the heels of just his second career win. What follows winning on Tour is consistency. Power is 35, not a youngster, so that might help in this regard. Somewhat stunningly, Power is up to 29th in the world rankings.

Joel Dahmen
Dahmen had quietly -- until now -- been having a good fall season with a tie for 13th at the Sanderson Farms and for 16th in a quality ZOZO Championship field. Throw in a tie for third at Mayakoba and Dahmen has thrust himself back into the top 100 of the OWGR. He has been a poor putter through the years, and he still is statistically even after ranking 19th in putting average at Mayakoba. Because of that, a consistent upside is somewhat limited.

Will Gordon
Gordon has already made more money in five events this fall than he did in 31 starts in 2020-21. In between, he was forced to head back to the Korn Ferry Tour last year. Gordon tied for third at Mayakoba and has made all five of his cuts this fall. That follows a superb season on the KF Tour in which he won a playoff event. Gordon is still only 26, and not everyone makes a dent on Tour in their first go-round. He is up to a career-high 152nd in the world rankings and is worth watching.

Troy Merritt
Merritt was the fifth guy to tie for third.  He's 37 and, while he is ranked 90th in the world, he is very good at sprinkling in a few high finishes a year to prop up his ranking. He was also 14th at the Rocket Mortgage and fourth at both the Valero and Pebble Beach. Merritt tied for 15th at Mayakoba last year, and he was runner-up at the Rocket Mortgage, so we see a pattern of playing well on certain courses. It's best to limit rostering him to his favored tracks.

David Lingmerth
Lingmerth won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, a Korn Ferry Tour playoff, event, to return to the PGA Tour full-time for the first time since 2017-18. And he's making the most of the opportunity. The 35-year-old Swede tied for eighth at Mayakoba, coming on the heels of a T11 at Bermuda last week.  Those are the only cuts Lingmerth has made in five starts this fall, but that's a good chunk of FedExCup points that he'll need to keep his card.

Maverick McNealy
McNealy had been playing well coming in and he had played well before at Mayakoba. So a good week was anticipated, and he came through with a tie for 10th. It was McNealy's fourth straight top-20 this fall and it moved him to 63rd in the OWGR, his personal best. Perhaps it's unfair to harp on this, but he is still on the lookout for his first career win.

Taylor Montgomery
Montgomery had another good tournament, and it came in a week we wondered how well he would do. The Korn Ferry grad has shown in just a few weeks that he among the best putters on the PGA Tour. The paspalum greens tend to be an equalizer, but Montgomery mastered them by ranking seventh in the field in putting average. That fueled his tie for 10th, moving him to a career-best 65th in the world rankings.

Viktor Hovland
Hovland's bid for a Mayakoba threepeat fell short with a good-but-not-great tie for 10th. It was a pretty standard week for him: T4 in greens in regulation, 32nd in putting average and T72 in scrambling. In winning last year here, Hovland putted far better on the paspalum greens he said he likes.

Collin Morikawa
Morikawa tied for 15th, which qualifies as a great week the way he's been playing. It was just his fourth top-25 result in 13 starts since the Masters. Morikawa spoke this week about his putting woes, and he has hired a coach to help. At Mayakoba, he ranked T74 in putting average, which surely wasn't good. To finish T15 with such bad putting shows how good the rest of his game remains. Morikawa likely will drop out of the top 10 of the OWGR soon; he currently sits 10th.

Thomas Detry
Another week, another good result for the Korn Ferry grad by way of Belgium. Detry tied for 15th, coming on the heels of a runner-up in Bermuda, and this was his fourth top-15 of the fall season. He moved up to 81st in the world rankings.

Matt Kuchar
El Camaleon is the type of track where Kuchar can still deliver, and he did so with a tie for 27th. Even though he was priced a bit high at $8,000, this was just one more piece of evidence that Kuchar remains somewhat relevant and playable at the right price at shorter tracks.

Tom Hoge
Hoge had a terrific run going into Mayakoba, so a missed cut is not entirely surprising, nor should it be much of a deterrent when he tees it up next. Hoge had connected five straight top-13 results beginning with the Tour Championship and continuing through his first four starts this season, emphatically ending his sudden cold spell over the summer.

Tony Finau
This was Finau's first official start since the TOUR Championship in August -- he did play in the Presidents Cup -- so a missed cut was certainly a possibility. Even with only two rounds played, he should be in much better position to do well this week in Houston, especially with the Memorial Park course a better fit for Finau's game.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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