Former Frog Henry claims first PGA Tour victory
July 2, 2006
CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) -- Former TCU golfer and Connecticut product J.J. Henry's first PGA Tour win gave the hometown crowd something to really celebrate.
The Fairfield native shot a 3-under 67 Sunday for a victory at the Buick Championship by three strokes, becoming the first Connecticut player to win the 55-year-old tournament. The 31-year-old tipped his hat and applauded the fans as he walked up the 18th to an ovation. He dropped his putter and pumped both fists in the air when his par putt rolled in.
He's been coming to the tournament since he was a boy, dreaming each time about a victory.
"Every time I'd leave here I'd go back to the putting green or the driving range and pretend I was winning the tournament," Henry said. "It means the world to me."
The victory also clinched Henry a spot in his first British Open and moved him to sixth in Ryder Cup points. Henry, who now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, takes home $792,000, his biggest paycheck since joining the PGA Tour in 2000.
He is just the third former TCU golfer ever to win a PGA Tour event, joining Charles Coody, the 1971 Masters champion, and Don Massengale, who won the Canadian Open in 1966. At TCU, Henry was the 1998 National Co-Player of the Year and finished second individually at the NCAA Championships.
"I'm so happy for J.J.," TCU head coach Bill Montigel said. "He is such a great ambassador for the university and is a true example of what someone can achieve by working hard, staying patient and being dedicated. I couldn't be any prouder of him."
Hunter Mahan (65) and Ryan Moore (67), who had surgery on his left hand in March, tied for second at 11-under. It was Mahan's best finish in two years. He also was looking for his first tour win.
"Sometimes we get too caught up in trying to figure out how someone else does it instead of trying to find your way," Mahan said. "I feel like I'm getting closer to finding my way and doing what I need to do to go out there and play well."
Nathan Green (66) was all alone in third at 9-under. Former Buick Championship winners Stewart Cink (67) and Woody Austin (68) were in a group that included Shigeki Maruyama (66) and Bubba Dickerson (67) at 7-under.
Henry not only had to beat the field, but had to get out ahead of the weather. The final round was moved up about three hours and golfers went off in threesomes because of the threat of severe storms late in the afternoon. Rumbles of thunder could be heard by the time Henry's group reached No. 15. The storms did hold off though, and Henry and his family celebrated on the 18th green to the delight of the thousands of fan lining the bowl-shaped hole.
"His dad would bring him here when he was 5 years old," Henry's mother, Nancy, said. "This is where he's grown up and he's been here all these years."
En route to the win, Henry was under par all four rounds and was nearly unflappable the last two days. He made just three bogeys in the final 36 holes.
A fan of the tournament since he was a kid, Henry played here as an amateur in 1998, finishing tied for 56th. This year marks his eighth appearance at the TPC at River Highlands. His best finish was a tie for 21st in 2003.
He started the day with a two-stroke lead and wasted little time pulling away. He birdied the third, eighth and ninth holes and made the turn at 14-under with a five-stroke lead and plenty of momentum.
The gallery grew with each hole and when he sunk a 14-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 No. 11, the fans roared. They were there to pick him up on the next hole when he stumbled. After hitting his approach in a greenside trap on No. 12, Henry just missed rolling in a 14-footer to save par. He added another birdie on the par-5 No. 14 to extend his lead to five strokes over Moore. He would need it.
"It's all over now, baby! It's all over now," one fan yelled.
That guy turned out to be right. Henry had built a five-stroke cushion at that point and, with the hardest holes of the course still ahead, the field had some work to do.
"When someone's in a pretty comfortable position, with a big lead like that, [you] needed someone to jump out right away and put pressure on him," Moore said. "Obviously he didn't falter."
The fans wouldn't let him.
They were there to pick him up on the next hole when he stumbled. After hitting his approach in a greenside trap on No. 12, Henry just missed rolling in a 14-footer to save par. He added another birdie on the par-5 No. 14 to extend his lead to five strokes over Moore. He would need it.
Moore just missed an eagle chip-in on No. 15 and tapped in for birdie to stay just four back with three holes remaining. But Moore promptly gave one back on the water hole No. 16, sending his drive into the pond and scrambled to save bogey. Moore nearly eagled again on No. 18 as his approach from 110 yards out skipped over the cup. He tapped in for birdie to clinch second.
"I didn't really put any pressure on [Henry] early," Moore said. "When I had some chances, I had some good looks at birdies the first five or six holes and just couldn't get them to go."
Mahan birdied his final two holes to clinch his best finish since he tied for second at Reno in 2004.