Russell Henley with another 63 opens Mayakoba 3 shot lead

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PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico — Russell Henley plays so well that even some of his conservative shots have ended up close enough for easy birdies. He had another 8-under 63 and opened up a three-stroke lead Friday in the World Tech Championship in Mayakoba.

Henley birdied three straight early in his round at El Camaleon, and he capped another three-birdie streak with a daring tee shot off a backpin on the par-3 eighth.

This one could have been an accident.

“I wasn’t trying to hit it there on No. 8. It just went a little deeper than I wanted to,” Henley said. “But obviously very happy with the result.”

Henley was 16-under 126, one shy of his career best for the first 36 holes of the PGA Tour. He shot 125 (62-63) at the Sony Open in Honolulu to start the year, a tournament that ended with Hideki Matsuyama beating him in the playoffs.

Henley also had a three-stroke lead at the Sony Open. This time, Henley is ahead of Will Gordon (67) and Sam Ryder (65), each looking for their first PGA Tour title.

Henley is a three-time winner, with his last win coming more than five years ago at the 2017 Houston Open.

Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa finally staged a big round with a 63 and was eight behind, while Masters champion Scottie Scheffler had to settle for a 71 that left him 10 shots behind.

The cut was at 4 under 138, a 12-stroke differential up and down, which was more about the quality of Henley’s game.

El Camaleon sits just over 7,000 meters at sea level (Gulf of Mexico). The Tropical Breeze is something players have never seen before. The greens are smooth and relatively flat. The challenge lies in the mangroves that line the fairways and make them even more difficult to reach.

“Mentally, I felt confident and believed in what I was doing,” Henley said. “It starts with the tee. There are intimidating tee shots for me and I just try to commit to what I’m doing and commit to trying to hit a good shot. Being in good headspace for those tee shots is a great start.

A reliable putter never hurts, and it’s long been the best club in Henley’s bag. He rolled in a 25-footer on the No. 3, and he also landed a few momentum-saving par putts.

Gordon opened with a 62 and followed with a 67, although he still felt like he was going in the right direction.

“I didn’t watch myself closely today and didn’t convert a few putts, but I mean, it was a good day,” Gordon said. “A long way to go and two solid days under me.”

Viktor Hovland, who was aiming for a third straight win at Mayakoba, could only birdie three times in his round of 69, which left him eight shots behind.

Only two other players were within five shots of Henley heading into the weekend. Patton Kizzire had a second straight 65 and was four behind, while David Lingmerth (66) was another shot behind.

It’s the eighth time Henley has had at least a share of a 36-hole lead on tour, and he’s converted just one to victory – his first start of his rookie year in 2013 when he won the Sony Open against fellow rookie Scott Langley.

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