Henry remains hopeful about turning around season-long struggles

CROMWELL — The thought crossed his mind before he putted out on the 18th hole at TPC River Highlands on Friday afternoon.

It was 15 years ago that the Fairfield native putted out on that very green to win the 2006 Buick Championship — his first PGA Tour victory in front of a huge crowd surrounding the green.

“Can you believe it? When I was standing on the last hole with a 13-foot (par) putt, I thought, ‘I can’t believe it’s been 15 years ago when I stood on this green and won the tournament,’” Henry said.

That 2006 season was Henry’s best in a professional career that began in 1998: five top-10 finishes, $2.3 million in earnings and a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Henry, now 46, missed the cut this week, shooting a 4-over 74 Friday to finish the two rounds at 5-over 145. His 16-year-old son Connor caddied for him this week — 23 years after J.J.’s dad Ron caddied for him at what was then known as the Canon Greater Hartford Open.

“I’ve played almost 600 tour events,” Henry said. “I’m extremely lucky, but at the end of the day, you are still competitive, I feel like I can compete. When you don’t play well, you’re a little disappointed like I am right now.”

It hasn’t been easy for J.J. Henry of late. He is playing out of the past champion/veteran members category for the second straight year. Henry has had to ask for sponsor’s exemptions from tournament directors. He received one from the Travelers Championship this year.

Henry has played in just seven events this year, missing the cut in five of them.

“In a perfect world, I want to play every week,” Henry said. “It’s what I know and done for 22 straight years.”

Henry has spent more time in Fairfield this year than usual. His mom, Nancy, died on April 1. She had been battling cancer for several years. J.J. said he was holding his mom’s hand when she passed.

“It was not a good situation, I’m lucky to have had a great mom. We are a close family,” Henry said.

Ron Henry is battling Parkinson’s Disease. He would follow J.J. around when he played River Highlands, but he can no longer do so. J.J. said he will remain in the area through the Independence Day holiday and hopes to be able to get into the John Deere Classic in Illinois beginning July 8.

Henry also said he is working with some partners on a development project — a high-end golf course community — near his home in Fort Worth, Texas. There is also the Champions Tour down the road: Henry turns 50 in April of 2025.

But he plans on playing the PGA Tour whenever he gets the chance to get into a field.

“My scores don’t show it, but I still feel like I can compete. I just didn’t putt worth a damn (this week),” Henry said.

joseph.morelli

@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli