Sunday, January 21, 2018
Golf

Russell Henley leads tightly bunched group at Deutsche Bank Championship

NORTON, Mass. — Russell Henley doesn't get into contention as much as he'd like, though he is tough to beat when he's anywhere near the lead.

Rory McIlroy seems to be there all the time.

They were among a host of contenders Sunday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, setting up the second straight week in the FedEx Cup playoffs in which the final round resembles a free-for-all.

The difference at the TPC Boston is the presence of McIlroy so high on the leaderboard.

Henley ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch around the turn on his way to 6-under 65, giving him 12-under 201 overall and a one-shot lead over Billy Horschel going into a Labor Day finish loaded with possibilities.

Ten players were separated by four shots. Six have won on the PGA Tour this season.

And one of them, McIlroy, has won the biggest events.

McIlroy was dialed in with his swing and shot 7-under 64 to get within two of the lead. He played with Chris Kirk, who also shot 64 with birdies on his last two holes — a chip-in for birdie on a shot that would have gone 10 feet by the hole had it not banged into the pin, and an eagle putt that stopped an inch short on the 18th.

"I've been in this position quite a lot recently," McIlroy said, "so I know how it's going to feel."

Henley plays in the final group with Horschel, a former Gator standout who birdied his last three holes for 67.

Henley can look as good as anyone then disappear. He won the Sony Open last year in his first PGA Tour event as a rookie and never seriously contended again. He won the Honda Classic in March in a four-man playoff that included McIlroy. Since then he has missed eight cuts and has only two finishes in the top 20.

"I think I'm just still figuring it all out," Henley said. "I feel like I've been working really hard on my ball-striking to keep the ball more in front of me. I always feel pretty good with my putter. The other thing I have to work on is my attitude, and not be so hard on myself."

CHAMPIONS: Fred Couples rallied to win the Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary, Alberta, chipping in for eagle for a course-record 9-under 61 and beating Billy Andrade with a tap-in birdie on the first hole of a playoff.

Couples, 54, also eagled the par-5 11th and had five birdies in his bogey-free round at Canyon Meadows. Andrade closed with 62, making a short eagle putt on the par-5 18th to match Couples at 15-under 195.

Couples entered the round four strokes behind leaders Joe Daley, Joe Durant and Bob Tway.

LPGA: Austin Ernst won the Portland Classic in Oregon with par on the first playoff hole against South Korea's I.K. Kim. It was the first professional victory for Ernst, 22, who shot 5-under 67 in the final round to get to 14 under at Columbia Edgewater. Kim, the first- and second-round leader, carded 68. Ernst pulled into contention with 5-under 31 on the front nine, highlighted by a chip-in eagle at the par-5 fifth.

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