The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Ferd's Words column
Jan 12, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
For two days now Russell Henley and Scott Langley have been at each other's heels, back and forth over 36 holes, contending for the spot atop the leaderboard at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
But for all that is riding on this weekend's finish -- a first PGA Tour win and the biggest check either of them has ever seen -- forget any notions of them being at each other's throats.
"We're really good friends," Langley said.
So good that they give each other playing tips. So tight that they have nicknames for one other. They were so happy to find out they'd be paired together for the first two days at Waialae Country Club that they fired off excited texts to each other.
When Henley shot a 7-under-par 63 Friday for the second-round lead, Langley, who was two strokes back, was his biggest booster. Just as Henley was the No. 1 fan Thursday when Langley's 62 made him the first-round pacesetter.
The 23-year-olds stand one-two over the field, with Langley tied for second with Scott Piercy, and are having a blast. "If we play together (in Sunday's final pairing), it would be awesome," Langley said. "I love playing with Rex."
You'd be tempted to say they are like brothers, except that siblings at least fight once in a while, and there's no evidence to suggest these two have exchanged so much as a discouraging word without tongue in cheek.
Well, once as seatmates on flights from California to Ireland, Langley turned down Henley's request to borrow his iPad. Politely, probably.
So don't look for any pained grimaces from one when the other nails a long putt or muffled snickers when they blow an easy one. You won't hear either of them muttering under his breath if the other dawdles over a shot.
Partly because "we're kinda the same person on the golf course," Langley said. "He's one of my best buddies, so it's easy to have fun with him."
Born two weeks apart in 1989, they have known each other since college golf, Langley at Illinois and Henley at Georgia. They've been friends since 2010, when they tied for low amateur honors at the U. S. Open. Their friendship bloomed on a 20-hour trip to Northern Ireland for the Palmer Cup.
"When you're together that long, you get to know them pretty well," Langley said. "We just became fast friends."
So much so that they can joke around amid the pressure of their debut as PGA Tour members this week. "On that eagle putt he had on 18, when he missed it by a couple of feet and tapped in, I turned to to him and said, 'nice two-putt,' and gave him a hard time," Langley said. "My 3-wood stingers I hit kind of low (Friday) and he came up to me and said, 'You hit that one a little thin.' And, I was like, 'No, I hit it good.'
And, so it goes. Maybe, as young, debuting rookies on tour, they don't know any better. Or perhaps they are ahead of their years in grasping that a good laugh deflates pressure when it can be measured in tons per square inch.
Either way, it is almost a novel concept being the best of friends even as they try to cling to the leaderboard and make names for themselves.
As Henley put it, "You'd never see (Roger) Federer help (Rafael) Nadal with his backhand ... I don't think."
Maybe, as he said, "it's good to be different."
For sure, it is refreshing.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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