J.J. Henry: Out of the Blue in Vegas

Nobody ever sees super-low rounds coming. You kind of have a sense that you’re playing well generally, you don’t have any vaunted expectations and so you relax. That’s what happened to J.J. Henry in the first round of the Shriners Hospitals For Children Open at the TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. And he shot a 60 to lead by one over Andres Romero.

Even he didn’t see it coming halfway through the round. Starting on the back, he shot a credible 4-under 32:

You know, I mean I played solid on the front.  You know, you’re just trying to get off, it was still pretty cold in the morning.  I was just trying to shoot a couple under and kind of get my feet wet.  And I made the turn and actually made a nice birdie on my 11th hole, the second hole.  And that was probably the point — you know, I got to 5‑under, knowing I have a reachable par‑5 and a couple of short par‑4s if I can keep the ball in the fairway.  I wouldn’t say there was anything that all of a sudden I felt like I was going to shoot 58 or 59, but I just felt like I played pretty consistent throughout the whole day. 

He was still just 5-under through 12 holes. And then he went crazy: 4 birdies in five holes and a 50-foot eagle at the last for a 28:

That’s my low round.  I mean I’ve shot 61 out here.  I shot 61 I think in Phoenix back probably six, seven years ago, [2006] but that’s my low round out here.  Obviously you gotta shoot low out here and it’s nice to get off to a start like that.  Absolutely.

You don’t tend to give J.J. Henry lot of thought because he’s basically a middle of the pack kind of player. So that’s why his 60 gets him the PopUp Player of the Day.

But before we write him off as just another journeyman, he does have a 13-year record he shares with just nine other players, only three of whom are Americans; since 2001, the three of them are the only American players to finish in the top 125 money winners in all 13 years:

Well, it tells me it’s kind of — obviously the consistency is there.  You know, a couple things, you gotta obviously play pretty darn good golf and you gotta kind of stay healthy and do the right things and I’ve been able to do both over the last 14 years.  Obviously pretty tall company.  You’d like to finish maybe a little higher and do a little bit more.

But you’re in kind of a pretty small group.  I think it’s me, Mickelson and Furyk are the only three Americans.  Nobody probably would get me on that.  That’s a pretty good trivia question.

For his part, Andres Romero typified that total immersion mindset that insulates you from the rest of the world: you just play golf while the holes go by:

I was focused on my game and I was trying to do my job, and that’s all.  I feel very good and focused on the game and every shot.  So I wasn’t paying attention to the leaderboard and the other guys.

The two things that made all of this possible was very little wind and soft greens; you could just look at your target and hit it there. The weather’s going to be the same on Friday, so unless the Tour gets nasty with the pin positions, we should see more of this kind of scoring.

The question is, since it’s so hard to backup super-low rounds, who will it be?

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