AUGUSTA — Russell Henley’s first trip to play in the Masters Tournament will end with him watching.
The former University of Georgia golfer struggled driving the ball and shot a 9-over 81 in Friday’s second round for a 36-hole 9-over 153.
Fred Couples leads the group finished with the second round at 5 under, and other golfers still on the course Friday afternoon are capable of going lower, all but guaranteeing Henley will miss the cut. Only the top 50, including ties, and those within 10 strokes of the leader will play on the weekend.
Henley, who turned 24 on Friday, said he was disappointed with a round that featured nine bogeys and a double on No. 5 but believed he would have other opportunities in the tournament.
“I’m going to be back,” Henley said. “I’m not in it for next year, but I believe very firmly that I’ll be back here competing for the championship, for sure. That’s something I dream about and think about every day, and I believe it’s going to happen.”
Even before the round started, Henley said he knew something was wrong with his swing, and he went on to hit seven of 14 fairways and reach four of 18 greens in regulation with an average drive of 255.5 yards — 54 yards shorter than his first-round average.
“I didn’t feel very comfortable with the driver,” Henley said. “Obviously, it cost me a bunch of shots today. You have to do everything great out there, but you definitely have to drive well.
“My swing didn’t feel very good on the range to start the day, and I might have cured it a little bit, but I definitely didn’t expect to play as bad as I did.”
By the time he fell to 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 No. 5, Henley said he knew something was wrong but couldn’t put his finger on exactly what he needed to correct.
“If I would have figured it out, I wouldn’t have shot 81,” he said.
Henley also bogeyed Nos. 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 16. He birdied Nos. 10 and 16.
The week wasn’t wasted, though. Henley said he enjoyed the experience and found some things to work on heading into next week’s RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C.
“It’s incredible,” Henley said. “I got to play two rounds of golf with Tom Watson and in the par-3 tournament. Just spending time with him is something I’ll never forget. It was definitely a great learning experience for me, and I’m going to be a lot better because of this week for sure.”