Better golf via guitar for Henley

Charleston's Russell Henley made the cut at the 2014 Masters. Here he takes part in a practice round at Augusta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

If this PGA Tour thing doesn't work out, Russell Henley can always take a shot at "The Voice" or "American Idol."

The singing is coming along.

"I try but I wouldn't do it front of a camera," the 25-year-old Charleston resident said. "But I do it with my friends, and I enjoy it."

Oh, but the guitar? Already stage-ready. Henley, while fine-tuning a career that includes an All-America stint at Georgia and two PGA Tour wins and 29 cuts made in 43 events, found time to get in his acoustic licks.

Favorites include Kid Rock, Foo Fighters, Chris Cornell and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His version of the Dave Matthews Band's <URL destination="">"Jimi Thing" is on YouTube.

</URL>Someday, you watch. Russell Henley - the kind of young cross-over star golf needs - will be idolized by Americans when he brings his favorite six-string into Augusta's Butler Cabin and gets off some Pearl Jam riffs for Jim Nantz.

"The more you play the better you get," Henley said. "I feel like I've gotten pretty good. It's exciting to play."

Still. Barring a sudden bad luck streak of lost golf balls, it's unlikely Henley will opt for music full-time. Too good at golf, he's one of the PGA's rising stars and more than capable of contending at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in two weeks.

Guitar sessions, however, contribute to lower scores from Florida to Hawaii.

"I think it helps," Henley said. "I feel like when you're playing guitar, you can't think about anything else. It's hard to think about something stressful and play guitar at the same time. It's a good release for me."

Henley had his chance to seek some professional advice last week when he played in The NEEDTOBREATHE Classic charity golf tournament sponsored by Commonwealth Cares Foundation. The NEEDTOBREATHE band members, plus Mark Bryan of Hootie & the Blowfish, Christian music stars Steven Curtis Chapman and John Mark McMillan and others were on hand at the Daniel Island Club to raise funds for the Palmetto Medical Initiative.

The musicians asked Henley more questions about golf than he asked about bridges and chords.

"I'm just glad I got invited," said Henley, who skipped the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth. "It means a lot that they would consider me and ask me to come and play. Hopefully, I can do more stuff like this. I'm so busy but when I finally get an off-week to do something like this I try to say yes as much as I can."

Free time between majors also means thinking about the next one.

Henley missed the 2013 cut at Augusta National in his first Masters, but made progress this April with 73 and 70 over the first two days before carding a pair of 75s on the weekend.

The June 12 tee-off at North Carolina's hallowed Pinehurst Resort will mark Henley's fourth U.S. Open appearance.

"It's close by and I like staying close to home," said Henley, a Macon, Ga., native who moved to Charleston after graduating from Georgia. "I think I do better on the East Coast for some reason, and I've never played Pinehurst so I'm excited to see it."

He isn't bad on the West Coast. Four years ago, Henley made his U.S. Open debut at Pebble Beach. While Graeme McDowell won the 2010 championship, a Georgia amateur finished tied for 16th. It wasn't a big surprise for an established winner on his way to College Player of the Year honors.

"I've always tried so hard to be competitive," Henley said. "Hopefully, I can continue that over to some majors. I feel like I'm on the right track; I've taken every step: Every year of college, Nationwide Tour, PGA Tour. And I won a little bigger tournament this year (Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) than last year (Sony Open in Hawaii). Hopefully, I can keep competing and also try and keep it simple."

And if it gets too crazy, there's always a guitar remedy nearby.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.