Russell Henley works his way to commanding lead in CJ Cup at Shadow Creek

NORTH LAS VEGAS – When the calendar hit September, Russell Henley started a five-week break away from the PGA Tour. He wasn’t exactly (...)

Russell Henley works his way to commanding lead in CJ Cup at Shadow Creek

NORTH LAS VEGAS – When the calendar hit September, Russell Henley started a five-week break away from the PGA Tour.

He wasn’t exactly on vacation.

“I practiced some, but I have a 2-year-old (Robert) and a 1-year-old (Ruth), so I try to give my wife, Teil, a break,” Henley said. “And they are a handful. It was work, it just wasn’t golf work.”

Henley got back to his day job last week and knocked some rust off and tied for 27th in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. And on Saturday, with his game a bit tightened up and his putter lighting up the greens, he took the lead in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek as he tries to win his fourth PGA Tour title and first since the 2017 Shell Houston Open.

Henley, who began the third round four shots behind 36-hole leader Xander Schauffele, shot a bogey-free, 5-under-par 67 that included three consecutive birdies after making the turn. He is three clear of the field.

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“Left myself in some good spots to make some birdies and had some really nice par saves and scrambled well,” Henley said. “Did a lot of good things. I’ve got to just keep my head down and play a good round for me. There’s so much golf to be played, this is just a break we’re taking and I’m just going to try to keep doing it.”

Lanto Griffin (66), Jason Kokrak (68), Talor Gooch (69) and Schauffele (74) were at 12 under. Schauffele had set the course record Friday with a 64.

“The putter saved me,” Griffin said. “I hit it all right there in the middle of the round, hit some good shots, but kind of the start and the end I struggled a little bit off the tee. But the irons feel good and the putter feels great. It was a fun day.”

It wasn’t a fun day for Schauffele, who just couldn’t get going. A day after making eight birdies, he made just two and made four bogeys.

“I was trying to figure out what was worse, whether the pace of play or my quality of golf,” Schauffele said. “It was kind of a tie. It was just a lot of bad breaks kind of. Not to be like a sour person, but just one of those days. Today was my bad day for the week, got it out of the way before Sunday, which is nice.”

Major champions Jason Day (66) and Justin Thomas (68) and first-round leader Tyrrell Hatton (73), who won last week’s BMW Championship on the European Tour, were at 10 under.

PGA champion Collin Morikawa (71) was at 9 under. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (65) and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy (66) led a group at 8 under. McIlroy birdied six of his last nine holes.

Henley, 31, is ranked No. 121 in the world and his confidence has been shaken since his last victory. He admitted earlier this week he hadn’t been in contention for quite some time but he definitely hasn’t looked out of place playing with his name on the first page of the leaderboard from the outset.

During his recent break, Henley did start to work on his putting, once the strongest part of his game and it looks to be again this week. He incorporated some drills and the work is paying off. He had 27 putts the first round, 26 the second and 26 again in the third, which included 10 one-putt greens. He leads the tournament in strokes gained: putting.

“I definitely lost confidence,” Henley said of his putting. “I lost confidence in everything. I had my moments where I would keep my card, which was just so great. I remember at one point I was 160‑something on the FedEx a couple years ago and had a good week at John Deere. Just trying to keep grinding even when you don’t feel good about it, that’s really the key out here.

“I’m starting to feel better. I’m working with Ramon Bescansa on my putting and he’s really helped me. He’s kept it really simple with me, which is what I need. I just feel like some putts this week are going in. I’m thankful.”

Source : Golf Week More