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Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama within two at Sony Open

Hideki Matsuyama hits a tee shot at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Picture: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Hideki Matsuyama hits a tee shot at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Picture: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Published Jan 16, 2022

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Los Angeles - Russell Henley fired five birdies in a three-under par 67 on Saturday to stay atop the leaderboard at the Sony Open, where Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama was two shots back.

Henley, who won the first of his three US PGA titles in his tour debut at the Sony Open in 2013, couldn't match the fireworks of Friday at Waialae Country Club.

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But his 18-under par total of 192 was enough to stay in front of Matsuyama, who charged up the leaderboard with a seven-under par 63 that featured seven birdies.

Henley shook off an early bogey with birdies at the seventh and ninth to make the turn one-under for the day.

After a 14-foot birdie at the 11th he gave a stroke back at 13 before pushing his lead to two strokes with a birdie at 15 and a 16-foot birdie putt at the 17th.

He was unable to take advantage of the par-five 18th, where he was in the right rough off the tee and his second shot left him 150 yards to the pin.

"I was trying to lay it up more to like a wedge distance, so I could attack the pin," Henley said. "I just misjudged my lie in the rough tremendously."

Overall, however, Henley was pleased with his round

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"I figured it wouldn't be quite as easy as the first two days," said Henley, who followed a first-round 62 with a 63 on Friday that featured two eagles. "It's just not how golf works typically. I wasn't planning on making bogeys, but definitely wasn't expecting to shoot eight-under again.

"But at the same time I felt really good about my game all day. I never really got too nervous or too ahead of myself."

Matsuyama said putting was the key to his seven-under effort, which gave him a career-best 54-hole score.

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"Even my missed putts found the hole," Matsuyama said after another bogey-free round.

His strong day on the greens included a 37-foot birdie bomb at the 13th.

He got things going with a nine-footer at the second and rolled in a five-foot birdie putt at the seventh. He two-putted from 47 feet to birdie the par-five ninth and rapped in a four-footer at 12.

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After making a 13-foot birdie at the 15th, Matsuyama missed the green with his second shot at the par-five 18th and chipped to 13 feet, rolling that in for one last birdie.

Matsuyama was two strokes clear of a quartet sharing third on 196.

Li loses ground

That included China's Li Haotong, who started the day in second place, three shots behind Henley, and carded a two-under par 68.

Li, a two-time winner on the DP World Tour who has seen his ranking slide from the top 50 to his current 460th, was holding his own alongside Henley with a 24-foot birdie putt at the fifth, a birdie at the par-five ninth and an up and down birdie from a greenside bunker at the 10th.

But he lost ground with a three-putt bogey at 13 and a birdie at 14 was followed by a costly double-bogey at the par-four 16th, where he needed four shots to reach the green.

He regrouped to birdie the par-five 18th and was tied at 14-under with Canadian Adam Svensson and Ireland's Seamus Power - who both shot 65 - and American Matt Kuchar, who signed for a 67.

"Any day you shoot under par is a good score," Li said.

AFP

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