The American finished four shots behind the champion, Takumi Kanaya from Japan, for one of the finest performances of his 20-year professional career, which also saw him earn his biggest ever cheque, US$173,000. The end result though disguised a testing tournament and build up that required him to draw upon all his experience and patience.
“I posted something on social media on Saturday, about kind of falling in love with the process,” the 43 year old said ahead of this week’s International Series Qatar at Doha Golf Club, which features an eye-catching field that includes former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel from South Africa, reigning Asian Tour number one Sihwan Kim from the United States, and Sadom Kaewkanjana from Thailand, who tied with Henson in Oman.
“I knew my game wasn’t sharp and I know if I can control the controllables, which is getting into my process and my routine, then I can still play a high level of golf and that’s kind of what I did.
“I didn’t let the bad shots affect me, which I hit a lot, but the mishits worked out ok, I didn’t lose any balls for the week. And I just wasn’t very sharp, I had eight three putts.”
Henson made adjustments to his swing in the second half of last year which he has struggled to implement, including through the off season, which meant he started this season low on confidence, an unusual occurrence for a player who normally has heaps of it.
“I got into some positions that were detrimental and so we spent six weeks over the break trying to get back to where I was and I never quite got there during the trip back home,” said the American, who missed the cut in the season opening PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers the week before Oman, also a rarity for a player known for regularly making it through to the weekend.
“I also wasn’t able to do the strength training that I normally do, and I feel that beat me up a little. It also affected my mental aura, so I wasn’t prepared for Saudi and it was a stressful week.”
A four-under-par front-nine score of 32 in the third round played a big part in helping him to find his confidence in Oman. It was the start of an impressive weekend that saw him shoot fine back-to-back two-under-par 70s in extremely challenging, windy conditions on the impressive but testing golf course, Al Mouj Golf.
He adds: “The tournament was a massive momentum shift, I can feel it this week. Everything mentally seems a lot clearer. The momentum has shifted back 180 to where I needed to be. I feel like the pressure is completely off now.
“Last week I wasn’t in my comfort zone but then Saturday morning I came out and boom, that front nine!” Considering he was not playing up to his optimum level he feels it was the best tournament he has ever played.
“It was great the way I handled it and stayed in the moment and didn’t let the mishits affect me, like they would normally. I made so many mistakes, but I didn’t allow them to affect me,” said Henson.
“I tried to set goals on the plane to Saudi but with the way my game was I could not get my goals right because I was so off for me. So I set one goal, and that was to finish in the top 30 so I can get into the LIV qualifiers and I did that in one week. Now we are working on goals for the remainder of the year.”
Henson has won once before on the Asian Tour, at the Philippine Open in 2011, the year he joined the Tour. He’ll be looking to capitalise on last week’s result to achieve more success this season, starting with this week’s US$2.5 million event that also boasts Scott Vincent from Zimbabwe, last year’s winner of the International Series Order of Merit, Korean Bio Kim, second on the 2022 Asian Tour Order of Merit, and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, a seven-time Asian Tour winner, the most recent being last year’s International Series Morocco.
South Africans Justin Harding and Darren Fichardt, both winners on this week’s course before, are also competing. Nine players from the top-10 of last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit are playing and 18 from the top 20.