AUGUSTA, Ga. — On the third day of the Masters, Russell Henley finally arrived.
The Georgia native didn’t light up a rain-softened Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday the way some of his fellow competitors did. His one-under 71 was a grind. But he walked off in style, sinking a 10-foot birdie putt at the last to give himself a chance to improve on his career-best T-11 finish here last year.
More importantly, Henley finally felt more like himself, more at ease and able to enjoy the year’s first major, even with the intermittent rain showers. Turns out, he’s had a dark cloud over his head for weeks.
“I was finally able to breathe,” he said with a slight smile.
Henley’s wife, Teil, gave birth to the couple’s first child, son Robert, on Tuesday in Charleston, S.C., via C-section after going through a difficult pregnancy. Later that evening, doctors informed the new parents—Russell was at the hospital after playing a practice round at Augusta on Monday—that Robert needed to be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit because his head had begun to swell slightly, and they wanted to more closely monitor his condition.
That kicked off a sleepless night as Russell and Teil received updates on their son every few hours. It wasn’t until late afternoon Wednesday, around 5 p.m., that doctors were certain Robert was out of any danger. Henley arrived back Augusta late that night and teed off in the first round of the Masters at 12:32 p.m. with Shubhankar Sharma and 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize.
He didn’t start to full relax until around noon Friday. That’s when he learned from his brother-in-law, while making the turn during this second round, that Teil could take Robert home. Henley spent Friday night on FaceTime with Teil and got to watch her feed Robert.
“It was great to see them lying on our bed, seeing him home,” said Henley, 28. “It’s amazing that when you go through something like this, you don’t sleep for two days, [that] you get a lot more emotional. Well, you get emotional over more things, I guess. But, yeah, it’s been a pretty trying time even beyond this past week.”
Henley seemed buoyed at the start of the day, converting birdies at Nos. 2 and 3. But he suffered three bogeys in four holes starting at the ninth before making a late rally.
The University of Georgia alum will begin Sunday’s final round T-21 at even-par 216 but with a chance to improve his final standing for the fourth straight year after missing the cut in his debut in 2013. Since then he’s finished T-31, T-21 and T-11.
“My game feels so good, I feel so confident,” he said outside the Augusta National clubhouse as rain began to fall again. “I haven’t capitalized throughout the week like I know I can, but I’m still in position to have a really nice tournament, so I’m going to keep hanging in there.”