WASHINGTON – Russell Henley sank a 33-foot eagle putt at the par-5 15th on his way to seizing a three-stroke lead after Saturday’s (Aug 14) third round of the US PGA Wyndham Championship.
The 32-year-old American closed with a bogey to fire a one-under par 69 and stand on 15-under 195 after 54 holes at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Henley’s clutch downhill putt, his longest successful one this week, produced the day’s lone eagle at 15 and doubled his lead from two to four strokes after a 62-64 start matched this season’s tour-low first 36 holes.
“I’m not always going to shoot 62 or 64. I feel thankful to be under par today,” Henley said. “I feel like mentally I was pretty tough considering how I was feeling.
“Just a little bit sloppy, but overall made some good decisions, made some really nice up-and-downs and I’m thankful for where I am.”
Henley could complete a wire-to-wire win on Sunday, a situation much like June’s US Open, when he shared the lead after each of the first three days only to close with a 76 and finish in a share of 13th.
He’s going to count on his family to keep his mind occupied until Sunday’s tee time, moved up to the morning due to expected afternoon storms.
“I try to just get away from it for the few hours that I have, go help my wife put my kids to bed and probably change a few diapers and read a few books to them,” Henley said. “There’s no really secret.”
American Tyler McCumber was second on 198 after shooting 66 with a pack on 199 including Olympic runner-up Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia, South African Branden Grace, Canada’s Roger Sloan and Americans Kevin Kisner, Scott Piercy and Kevin Na.
England’s Justin Rose and Australian Adam Scott were in a group on 200.
World number 56 Henley seeks his fourth US PGA title and the first since winning the 2017 Houston Open.
Henley’s clutch downhill eagle, his longest successful putt of the week, produced the day’s lone eagle at 15 and doubled his lead from two to four strokes. His 62-64 start matched the tour’s low 36-hole score this season.
Henley birdied the par-5 fifth hole, landing his approach four feet from the cup and sinking the putt, and made bogey at 11 after missing the green on his approach, blasting 32 feet past the hole and two-putting.
At 18, he missed a 10-foot par putt to trim his lead one below his 36-hole margin.
“I was just a little bit tentative, maybe a little bit nervous,” Henley admitted. “I’ve never had a four-shot lead, so just kind of dealing with all the thoughts that are not wanted in my head and just trying to focus on what I want to do.”
The tournament is the final event of the 2020-21 regular season with the top 125 players in points securing tour rights for 2021-22 and advancing to next week’s first playoff event.
Sabbatini, in his first event since taking Tokyo silver, endured a roller coaster 69 with five birdies and four bogeys after matching his career-low 36-hole PGA start.
Sabbatini, 45, seeks first US PGA title since the 2011 Honda Classic and crack the top 125 after starting the week 16 places adrift.
Rose, the 2016 Olympic champion and 2013 US Open winner, is fully exempt for next season. He shot 69 and stood 126th in points entering the last round, just outside the playoffs.
“I didn’t play particularly well,” Rose said. “It was kind of like grinding it out more than anything.”
Scott and Taiwan’s CT Pan, also fully exempt for next season, were inside the top 125 and had improved their position through three rounds.