Henley rallies to win playoff
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Russell Henley made good on his second chance at the 18th hole Sunday and won the Honda Classic after a wild day that began with Tiger Woods walking off the course with a back injury and ended with a four-man playoff.
The closing hour at PGA National was a series of blunders by the contenders — and even the winner.
Henley was in a three-way tie for the lead, 40 yards left of the flag on the par-5 18th in regulation, when he chunked a chip so badly that it only got halfway to the hole. He had to two-putt for par, and then watched as Rory McIlroy nearly made a great escape from an otherwise bad afternoon. McIlroy, who lost a two-shot lead, hit a 5-wood from 236 yards to just inside 12 feet for an eagle and the win. It narrowly slid by on the right.
In the playoff, Henley was the only player to reach the 549-yard hole in two, and he two-putted from about 40 feet for birdie. Ryan Palmer missed a 10-foot birdie putt. McIlroy went from the back bunker to the front collar and had to scramble for par, and Russell Knox laid up and missed a 20-foot birdie attempt.
“This isn’t going to sink in for a while,” Henley said.
Thousands of fans who spent hours in the warmth and wind of south Florida surely felt the same way.
Woods abruptly quit after 13 holes and was driven straight to his car. He later said he had lower back pain and spasms, and was unsure if he could play at Doral next week. And then came all the mistakes by four guys trying to win.
Palmer missed a 5-foot par in regulation that would have won it. He closed with a 69, the only player in the last six groups to break par. Knox needed a birdie on the last hole, but he went from the fairway bunker to the rough, well over the green and then calmly made a par putt just inside 10 feet for a 71 to get in the playoff.
They all finished at 8-under 272.
The conditions were tough. The play was so underwhelming that McIlroy said that if he had won, “It would have felt undeserved in a way.”
He won’t know that feeling.
Instead, the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland closed with a 74. It was his second straight tournament in stroke play that he played in the final group and shot 74. He tied for ninth in the Dubai Desert Classic. His undoing came on the 16th, when McIlroy missed on a 6-iron from the bunker and went into the water, making double bogey. He fell out of the lead for the first time with a bogey from the bunker on the 17th.
“I was fortunate I was in the playoff,” McIlroy said. “Seventy-four wasn’t good enough to get the job done. To go out with a two-shot lead, you have to play well enough to win the thing. If I had won today, I would have counted myself as lucky. I’ll pick myself up, get back it, try to get back at it at Doral and try to get the job done.”
SINGAPORE — Paula Creamer made a 75-foot eagle putt on the second hole of a playoff with Azahara Munoz to win the HSBC Women’s Champions for her first LPGA Tour title since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open.
Creamer’s downhill putt curled right to left across the 18th green. The American ran across the green, fell to her knees and put her head on the ground, laughing and pounding the grass.
Creamer closed with a 3-under 69 to match Munoz at 10-under 278 on Sentosa’s Serapong Course. Munoz, from Spain, shot a 70. Australia’s Karrie Webb was a stroke back in third. She blew a three-stroke lead on the back nine, bogeying three of the last six holes.
Creamer has 10 LPGA Tour title.
CENTURION, South Africa — England’s Ross Fisher won the Tshwane Open for his fifth European Tour title, closing with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory.
Fisher finished at 2-under 268 at The Els Club at Copperleaf. South Africa’s Danie van Tonder and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey tied for second. Van Tonder shot 66, and Hoey had a 68.
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