So much for rookie nerves. PGA Tour rookie Russell Henley birdied the final five holes en route to a 7-under 63 Sunday and a 3-stroke win at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Henley, who was making his third career PGA Tour start and first as a tour member, smashed the tournament scoring record with his total of 24-under 256. After setting the 36- and 54-hole scoring marks, Henley broke the 72-hole mark by four strokes at Waialae Country Club.
His total of 256 was the lowest in PGA Tour history by a rookie and matched the second-lowest score in PGA Tour history in a 72-hole event.
"I think the year on the Web.com Tour. I was in this situation a lot the last 10 tournaments. I had a good last half of the year and it prepared me," Henley said on TV of what helped him get through this win. "I don't really know what just happened honestly. This is the most nervous I've ever been and that was the hardest thing I've ever done."
Tim Clark birdied the final four holes, and seven of the last 11 overall, to match Henley's 63. Clark ended alone in second at minus-21.
Scott Langley, who shared the third-round lead with Henley, managed an even- par 70 in the final round. He shared third place at 17-under-par 263 with Charles Howell III (66).
Matt Kuchar (65) tied for fifth place at minus-16 with Chris Kirk (66) and Brian Stuard (65).
Henley and Langley, who became friends when they shared low amateur honors at the 2010 U.S. Open, were paired together for all four rounds. They traded the lead over the first two days, then shared it after three rounds.
The final round had all the makings of a two-man duel. That's what it turned out to be, but it was Clark, not Langley, that was there down the stretch.
Henley knocked in a 2-foot birdie putt at the first, while Langley stumbled to a bogey after a poor chip. Armed with a 3-stroke lead, Henley parred six in a row from the second before stumbling to a bogey at No. 8.
As Henley teed off the ninth, Howell eagled the ninth to get within one of the lead. Henley responded with a 2-putt birdie to push his margin back to two.
The 23-year-old birdied the 10th from eight feet out to remain two ahead of Langley, who birdied the ninth and 10th after a pair of early bogeys.
Henley parred the next three holes before catching fire.
He ran home a 43-foot birdie effort at the 14th to start his hot closing stretch. The University of Georgia alum converted a 12-footer for birdie at 15 to remain three clear of Clark.
Henley hit a tremendous recovery from the trees on No. 16. His second stopped 12 feet from the cup and he sank his birdie try from there.
At the 17th, he made a 17-foot birdie putt. Henley pitched his third to eight feet at the par-5 closing hole and poured in that putt for birdie. After looking rather stoic throughout the final round, Henley threw a huge fist pump to celebrate his first PGA Tour title.
"That was just me trying to focus on my routine and letting the shot go and not trying to guide it or help it, and that's kind of one of the tendencies I have under pressure," stated Henley of his focus down the stretch. "That was definitely 10 times as nervous as I've ever been."
Clark was even-par through seven holes. He ran off three consecutive birdies from the eighth to make the turn at 17-under, where he was two back.
The South African birdied the 15th from six feet out. He followed with a 5- footer on 16 and a 17-foot birdie effort at 17.
Clark, the 2010 Players champion, sank a 9-footer for birdie at the last, but Henley's hot close left Clark three back despite making birdie on the final four holes.
"I'm very upbeat. He played very impressively today. You know, whenever you get beat, you're happy for the other guy. I certainly don't feel like I let it go, so I'm happy how I played. He's a really impressive player and a nice guy to go with that," Clark said in a televised interview of Henley.
Langley traded a bogey for a birdie from the 13th. After stumbling to bogeys at 15 and 16, the left-hander birdied the final two holes.
NOTES: Henley earned $1.008 million for the win ... His bogey on the eighth stopped a string of 50 consecutive holes without a bogey ... Henley led the field with 26 birdies ... His total of 256 better the old mark of 260, which John Huston set in 1998 and Brad Faxon matched in 2001 ... Clark, who battled an elbow injury over the last two years, finished second for the 11th time in his PGA Tour career ... Y.E. Yang also had a 63 to match Henley and Clark for low round of the day ... The tour heads to the California desert next week for the Humana Challenge, where Mark Wilson won by two shots last year.