Jan. 14, 2013
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU — Former NC State All-American Tim Clark had never played better than he did at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii and neither had anyone else at Waialae Country Club, until rookie Russell Henley came along.
Clark birdied the final four holes in the last round and still lost ground to Henley on Sunday. Henley won his debut as a PGA TOUR member with a tournament-record 24-under 256, closing with his third 63 of a remarkable week.
That was the third-best 72-hole total in TOUR history. Clark’s 21-under 259 total was in the Top 15 and the lowest of his life. He also closed with 63, pulling away from everybody but Henley.
Clark, who won the 2010 PLAYERS Championship, now has runner-up finishes in nine consecutive years, including Sony in 2011. That week, he suffered an injury in the pro-am and would play just three more rounds the rest of the year. As a rookie, the 35-year-old South African injured his wrist here.
“I either come second here or blow myself out for a year,” Clark said. “Yeah, it’s strange. I love coming here, but it’s … I’ve hurt myself twice and it put me out for two whole years.”
Clearly, Clark is back again. He had three Top 10s last year, including a runner-up at the Wyndham Championship.
“Obviously last year was really me just trying to get back to playing,” he said. “A couple times I felt like I was in contention, certainly in Connecticut I thought I had a chance to win there, and didn't feel great coming down the stretch. And then last year at Greensboro, when Sergio (Garcia) played really well on Sunday and beat me. But that felt pretty good.
“So I was excited about coming out this year, and certainly today I myself felt pretty calm. I wasn't thinking big picture. I was able to stay in every shot. That for me has always been my biggest problem. I get too goal-oriented in thinking about that win, and today I didn't really let that happen. Under normal circumstances that round would have won me the tournament, but I just got outplayed.”
At least Clark came close. No one else could make that claim.
“Tim was pushing me pretty hard out there,” Henley said, grinning. “I wish he wouldn't have done that. That was stressing me out.”
Clark plans to play a lot early this year to try and earn his way into the U.S. and British Opens. The Presidents Cup is also on the horizon.
Now, if he could just find a way around the rookies.
“I'm thinking about that,” Clark grinned. “They should maybe make these guys play somewhere else for a little bit more. It’s great for the TOUR, and the fact that they're such nice guys, you can only be happy for the guy in getting his first win.”