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Another Henley bombshell?

By Neville Leck Last updated: 18th January 2013

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Russell Henley celebrates in Waialae

Russell Henley celebrates in Waialae

Playing in a tournament just a week after sensationally winning his maiden US PGA Tour title will, more than likely, prove to be a huge anti-climax for Russell Henley.

The letdown in these circumstances is invariably considerable and no man, to my knowledge, has ever gone on to win in the week after a maiden victory on the PGA Tour, let alone in just his second Tour event.

But that's not to say that it can't be done - or that Henley can't be the one to do it.

The ice-cool Georgia State graduate and former US Walker Cup golfer gave the appearance at Waialae where his three 63s helped him break all kinds of records, that he is carrying enough form, has sufficient game and more than enough ice in his veins to pull off the unthinkable.

Yes, I do believe he has an outside chance of picking up an amazing double in just his second Tour start by adding this week's Humana Challenge in Southern California to the Sony Open he won in Hawaii last week.

The 23-year-old rookie, who hit 60 out of 72 greens in regulation in Hawaii and led the field in both strokes gained-putting and total birdies, could hardly have asked for a better week to pull of a unique double.

His aggressive game seems to be tailor-made for this week's Championship, previously known as the Bob Hope Classic and played over five rounds.

The three, par-72 courses on which the first 54-holes of this 72-hole pro-am will be played in La Quinta - the PGA West Palmer Course, the Nicklaus private course and the La Quinta Country Club, also the venue for the final round on Sunday - are all among the easiest on the PGA Tour and can each be birdie paradises when the wind doesn't blow.

And the good news for the players this week, according to the usually reliable Golf Weather.com, is that there'll be no rain and that it will be sunny and cool with gentle breezes from the east and south west that will average 6 mph for most of the week and won't get up much above 8 mph.

La Quinta is the longest of the three desert courses, but at just 7,060 yards, it's hardly a big bomber's paradise and that opens up the chances of a lot more players getting into the race.

In the meantime Henley isn't the only one in the respectable field who will be heading out on Thursday with the hope of winning.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy won't be one of them. Nor will the World Nos 2, 3, 4 and 5, Luke Donald, Tiger Woods, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose.

But with men like Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open Champion, Brandt Snedeker, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, Matt Kuchar, the current Players Championship title holder, and Phil Mickelson, a four-time major winner and a two-time winner of this event, in the field along with a host of other former major winners like Zach Johnson, David Toms, Trevor Immelman, and David Duval, the field is hardly one to be sneezed at.

Snedeker, in particular looks a good bet for the title.

He followed up his Tour Championship triumph at the end of last season with a third place finish in this season's opener at Kapalua two weeks ago and will tee off on Thursday boosted by the knowledge that he's managed top-10 finishes in each of his last three appearances in La Quinta.

But getting back to Duval - it was in this tournament (then still called the Bob Hope Classic) at the PGA West Palmer course in 1999 that the former World No 1 and 2001 Open Champion shot a rare, record-equalling 59.

Duval might just be past doing it again, but in the near perfect weather conditions expected to prevail this week, don't be too surprised if an up-and-coming quality rookie like Henley or an in-form Ryder Cup bomber like Dustin Johnson, winner of the season-opening Tournament of Champions at Kapalua two weekends ago, does manage to go below 60.

Neville Leck



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