All Russell Henley has ever done is win. He won as an amateur. He won in college. He won his first start as a PGA Tour member. He won for the third time on Sunday at the Shell Houston Open.
Does he believe it?
That’s an odd question considering the pedigree of the player. Henley is a premier ball striker. When his putter is on, he can go crazy low. Winning shouldn’t be unexpected.
“I’m starting to believe in myself a little bit more and starting to feel there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to win some golf tournaments out here,” he said.
This from a two-, now three-time PGA Tour winner. Strange, no?
Confidence is a fickle thing. Somebody who can run away from a field, or beat Rory McIlroy in a playoff, needs validation on being a PGA Tour player. On the outside, that appears hard to believe. On the inside, it shows the mental block that affects players.
It also explains how the top three consecutive cuts streaks on the PGA Tour can end in one week. If you don’t think Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and (to a lesser extent) Patrick Reed were peaking ahead at the weather forecast, you don’t know psychology. They didn’t want to play on Monday. They didn’t try to miss the cut, but was their brain committed to playing winning golf?
As golf turns to the first major of the season, this teeter-totter of mental confidence gets cranked to the ultimate degree. If a golfer doesn’t trust something this week, Augusta National will make him pay.
If Jordan Spieth doesn’t believe he can find dry land at hole No. 12, he will find water.
If Dustin Johnson doesn’t think he can stroke a downhill, 5-footer, he will decelerate.
If Rory McIlroy isn’t convinced his time is now, his time will still be waiting in the future.
You can enter the week with confidence. You can discover confidence early on Thursday. It doesn’t matter when it arrives, but if it leaves, your week is over.
Henley won’t win the Masters, but he will believe he belongs there. So will many others. Will they believe they belong snug in a green jacket on Sunday afternoon? That’s a question yet to be answered.
The Other Winner
Each week during the season, I will offer up one player who, while not winning, escaped unnoticed with a big finish.
Rafael Campos: Finishing in the top 10 on the PGA Tour is hard. Doing it in back-to-back weeks should be applauded. Doing it with no status, not even on the Web.com Tour should be written about. And so it is.
Campos, a native son of Puerto Rico has made the most of the exemption he was given last week. He will be playing at the RBC Heritage in two weeks. Track his story. If he earns his way onto the PGA Tour, it is worth cheering for.