Russell Henley, who will turn 24 on April 12, is making his Masters debut this year. A native of Macon, Ga., and a graduate of the University of Georgia, he won the 2010 Haskins Award as the top college golfer in the U.S. and represented the United States at the 2011 Walker Cup. Henley tied for low amateur at the 2010 U.S. Open and became only the second amateur ever to win on what is now the Web.com Tour when he captured the Stadion Classic at UGA in spring 2011. In January, he became the first PGA Tour rookie in 12 years to win his first tournament, the Sony Open in Hawaii. He agreed to share his thoughts on his first Masters with Masters.com’s John Steinbreder.
I played another practice round today. Just nine holes. My old Walker Cup teammate Nathan Smith and I played the first nine, and I felt a whole lot more comfortable today than I did yesterday.
I am getting better with the crowds and the excitement, and my game is feeling really good. I know it will be a tough test once the light turns green on Thursday, but I will be ready for it.
I did a lot of chipping on the golf course today. I saw when I played with Tom Watson yesterday that he hit a lot of chips, so I thought I had better do that myself. I hit a bunch to the first green from the right side, which is something Tom suggested I do. It’s the place to miss with your approach shots to that hole.
I also hit a lot of chips and pitches around Nos. 2 and 6. In addition, I hit a lot of putts from the middles of the greens in different directions to where the holes will be located.
It’s important to work on my game like that, but I wouldn’t say that I love beating balls and practicing. What I truly enjoy is playing, being on the course and trying to get the ball into the hole with something on the line.
To keep my focus and be productive when I am working on my game, I try to play games with myself or with the guys with whom I am playing. Things like trying to two-putt nine holes in a row from more than 25 feet. Same with chips and pitches. It keeps things interesting, and it keeps me practicing. And while practicing isn’t always fun, it’s what makes you better.
To that end, I also spent a lot of time on the practice facility here today. It is an amazing area, and I was hitting pitches from 80 yards in and bunker shots from those deep bunkers. You have greens that you hit to out there that are just like ones on the course, and it is like nothing I have ever seen.
I also like the practice putting green, and it is a lot of fun to hit balls there in front of all those people. It is so cool, and it makes me feel pretty good about making it to where I have. I pat myself on the back a little bit for getting here, but I know I have to keep working hard.
Yes, I have developed a bit of a routine in just a few days. I get out to the golf club around eight in the morning and have a little breakfast in the locker room. I look out the windows at the course and remind myself that I am not dreaming. Then, I head to the range and get stretched out by a trainer before I hit balls. Then, I go play.
On Wednesday, I’ll get here a little later, maybe 10:30 or 11:00, and hit a few chips and putts before playing nine holes. Nathan and I are playing with Tom Watson in the Par 3 Contest, teeing off at 3:16 right behind the Big Three of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
How great is that?