The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 4 , 2014
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Henley is the best

Russell Henley

Palm Beach Gardens: American Russell Henley emerged as the last man standing to win his second PGA Tour title in a four-way playoff for the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, in Florida, on Sunday.

Henley, 24, birdied the first extra hole, the par-five 18th, from two feet in fading light to edge out Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, American Ryan Palmer and Scotland’s Russell Knox on a dramatic afternoon at PGA National.McIlroy, Palmer and Knox finished shared the second spot.

McIlroy surrendered a big lead with an error-strewn 74 in the final round, though he made a birdie at the 72nd hole to qualify for the playoff after hitting a superb second shot to 11 feet, only to miss the eagle putt.

Henley (72), Palmer (69) and Knox (71) also made mistakes over the closing stretch to finish level with McIlroy at eight-under-par 272. Henley sounded as if was still in shock as he spoke of his victory. “I hope I can have a bunch more Sundays just like that in my career,” he said. “It was a rush to be out there playing with Rory and the crowd.

“I’ve never been part of a crowd so big cheering for me. It was an amazing feeling. It was so much fun.”

Henley appeared to have thrown away a chance of winning when he dunked his six-iron into the water at the par-three 15th for a double-bogey. But he steadied his apparently sinking ship with pars on the final three holes, which was enough to make the playoff.

“I was so nervous coming down the stretch,” said Henley, who won his maiden PGA Tour title at last year’s Sony Open in Hawaii. “Just hanging in there and trying to enjoy every step.”

McIlroy, however, had even more to rue. The double major champion led by three strokes after six holes but played the next 11 in six over as his swing deserted him and he pulled a series of shots well left.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods withdrew from the tournament during the final round, citing a back injury. He retired on the 13th hole at PGA National, where he was five over par for the day and level for the tournament, having struggled to the turn in five-over 40.

“It’s my lower back with spasms,” Woods, 38, said in a statement. “It started this morning warming up.”

Woods said it was too soon to know whether he would be able to defend his title at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, starting in Miami on Thursday. “It’s too early to tell,” he said. “I need treatment every day until Thursday to try to calm it down and we’ll see how it is.” (agencies)