5 Things: Henley, Horschel possible Ryder Cup options

Russell Henley walks to the 18th green during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Henley shot a 6-under 65 on Sunday.
Russell Henley walks to the 18th green during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Henley shot a 6-under 65 on Sunday. ( Associated Press )

Sunday, August 31, 2014

NORTON, Mass. – Six months and 16 tournaments covers a long time, even longer when it’s filled with a lot of pedestrian and less-than-inspiring golf. Oh, but how that stretch of mediocrity could be easily forgotten should Russell Henley continue his suddenly stellar play and win the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Hearing the crescendo of roars that were ignited by matching 64s from Rory McIlroy and Chris Kirk in the 12:05 pairing, Henley came along more than an hour later and posted 65 to push to 12-under 201 and assume a one-stroke lead over Billy Horschel (67) in the third round at TPC Boston.

Henley? If you need to think a little, that’s because you probably haven’t heard his name since March, when he won at Honda. There have been eight missed cuts and just one top 10 since, so he was more a guy scratching just to advance in these FedEx Cup playoffs than a favorite to win.

Yet here he is, in the lead by one over Horschel, and by two over a stellar trio – McIlroy, Kirk, and Jason Day (69), which leads us into 5 Things to know from Sunday’s third round:

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1. HOW 'BOUT THESE RYDER PICKS? Monday’s final round has more at stake than winning and losing. It also has Ryder Cup implications, some not even envisioned a few days ago.

Both Henley and Horschel could potentially toss a Bert Blyleven curve ball at U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.

Conventional thinking coming into the DBC was that Hunter Mahan had secured a captain’s pick with his win at The Barclays last week and that Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Moore, and Webb Simpson were other leading considerations.

Henley? Horschel? You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who was mentioning them, but how could winning not influence Watson’s thinking? Especially since it would be Henley’s second win of the season, the other coming in a playoff over McIlroy, Russell Knox, and Ryan Palmer.

“It's just one of those things that I try not to think about,” Henley said, when asked about making the Ryder Cup team. “Coming in here, I mean, nobody is really expecting me to play well. I was 62nd in the FedEx (Cup standings) coming in, and hadn't had the most consistent year. It all sounds great and it seems great, but I've got to do a lot of good stuff for that to happen.”

Horschel is not shy in saying he would salivate at the opportunity to play for Watson. His fiery attitude could be a positive addition.

Interestingly, when asked if thought a win would be good enough to put Henley on the team, Horschel didn’t come out with direct support. Will that be how Watson feels?

“Obviously, I know he had a down part in between the two wins,” Horschel said of Henley’s drought. “It's something Tom (Watson) has to look at. It’s not my choice. I would look at it, but I can't tell you right now if I would put him on the team or not. That's sort of a sticky question that I could answer badly.”

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2. STREELS ON WHEELS: The last time Kevin Streelman was in New England, in late June, he was making seven consecutive closing birdies to shoot 64 and pass Sergio Garcia to capture the Travelers Championship. On Sunday at TPC Boston, he was at it again. This time, he made 10 birdies in a 6-under 65 that pushed him to 8-under 205, and in contention for what could be a wild Labor Day finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

“It’s fun here,” he said. “I heard a lot of fans say, ‘Do what you did in Hartford.’ The support is awesome. The people are great up here, the food is great, my wife and I love it. It would be fun to get both championships here in the Northeast.”

Streelman was red-hot with the putter, needing it only 24 times in his round. Beginning at the seventh, he one-putted nine of 10 greens, and in all, he made eight putts of 10 feet or longer.

“It’s pretty good to get on the greens and know you’re going to hit the hole from anywhere inside 30 feet, really,” he said.

But the birdies aren’t the wild part of Streelman’s week. Through three rounds, he has four double-bogeys (including one at 14 Sunday) and a triple (a 7 at the par-4 14th Saturday), and yet he still, somehow, is in contention. He’s tied for eighth.

“That’s crazy,” he said. “Yesterday, I hit into a couple hazards, chunked some shots. We fixed that on the range with my takeaway, which helped out today. And I putted awesome.”

That can make up for a lot of things.

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3. HOPE FOR NO. 100: For many, this PGA Tour season began last fall in California. But for Geoff Ogilvy, it really began a month ago. In his first 20 starts, he missed nearly as many cuts (nine) as he made (11). But a victory at Reno’s Barracuda Championship (opposite the WGC-Bridgestone) has bolstered his confidence, and a good run on the back nine Sunday at TPC Boston (6-under 29) and third-round 65 has him in position to extend his season at least another week, if not more.

Ogilvy entered DBC sitting in the field’s 100th – and final – spot. But at T-11 through 54 holes, another good Sunday could earn him yet another bonus start at next week’s BMW Championship. A projected finish of T-8 or higher could move him through to another week. Not bad for a guy who was fed up with a poor season and ready to take a four-month break in July. And not bad for a guy who thought his playoffs officially ended at Barclays, where he missed the cut. Surprisingly, sitting at home, he would hang on to the 100th spot to earn one more opportunity. Now he needs to climb into the top 70 to make it to next week’s BMW Championship.

“Outside of Reno, I didn’t really have a good year,” Ogilvy said. “I was coming in a long way down the list. But you’re one week away from getting all the way to Atlanta (Tour Championship) and having a chance to win the whole thing, which is nice. I guess I’m one good round from the same sort of story.”

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4. HELP NEEDED: Ryan Palmer might need a tutorial on how to play the par 5 second.

In Saturday’s second round, Palmer had the lead after an opening birdie when he hit a 112-yard wedge into a hazard at the second and made double.

In Sunday’s third round, Palmer bombed a 344-yard drive and had just 165 yards to a hole cut front right. Again, he hit into the hazard, though this time he made only a bogey.

The second is ranked fourth-easiest this wee with a field average of 4.875. Don’t tell Palmer, though. He’s played it to an average of 5.66.

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5. SHORT SHOTS: Webb Simpson might be encouraged to know that there are similarities to the 2011 Deutsche Bank Championship that he won. Three years ago through 54 holes he was 9 under, tied for seventh, and two behind Bubba Watson. This year? He’s 9 under, in sixth, and three behind Russell Henley. Of course, Simpson has to love the fact that he’s far beneath the radar as he makes one final spring to the finish line for a possible Ryder Cup pick. … With a secondary cut required, seven players were sent packing: Brendon de Jonge (74), Patrick Reed (82), Andres Romero (74), Matt Jones (79), Freddie Jacobson (80), and Matt Every (86). … There were only four eagles, two at the par-5 second (Michael Putnam, Matt Jones), two at the par-5 18th (Geoff Ogilvy, Charles Howell III). … Phil Mickelson shot 72 and sitting in a tie for 59th, he’s projected to qualify for top 70 in the FEC standings and next week’s BMW Championship. … Keegan Bradley had his second bogey-free round of the tournament, but shot only 69 and sits four back; Chris Kirk, Rory McIlroy, Geoff Ogilvy, Charl Schwartzel and Robert Streb also went bogey-free.