NORTON, Mass. — Russell Henley doesn’t get into contention as much as he’d like, though he is tough to beat when he’s anywhere near the lead.
Rory McIlroy seems to be there all the time.
They were among a host of contenders Sunday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, setting up the second straight week in the FedEx Cup playoffs that the final round resembles more like a free-for-all.
The difference at the TPC Boston is the presence of McIlroy so high on the leaderboard.
Henley ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch around the turn on his way to a 6-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead over Billy Horschel going into a Labor Day finish loaded with possibilities.
Ten players were separated by four shots. Six of them already have won on the PGA Tour this season.
And one of them – McIlroy – has won the biggest events.
McIlroy was dialed in with his swing and shot a 7-under 64 to get within two shots of the lead. He played with Chris Kirk, who also shot a 64 with birdies on his last two holes.
“I’ve been in this position quite a lot recently,” McIlroy said. “So I know how it’s going to feel tomorrow.”
Henley was at 12-under 201. He will play in the final group with Horschel, who birdied his last three holes for a 67.
Henley can look as good as anyone, and then he can disappear. He won the Sony Open last year in his first PGA Tour event, then never seriously contended again. He won the Honda Classic in March in a four-man playoff that included McIlroy, but since then he has missed eight cuts and has only two finishes in the top 20.
“I think I’m just still figuring it all out,” Henley said. “I feel like I’ve been working really hard on my ball-striking to keep the ball more in front of me. I always feel pretty good with my putter. The other thing I have to work on is my attitude, and not be so hard on myself.
LPGA: Austin Ernst won the Portland Classic in Oregon with a par on the first hole of a playoff against South Korea’s I.K. Kim.
It was the first professional victory for Ernst, 22. She shot a 5-under 67 to get to 14 under. Kim, the first- and second-round leader, carded a 68 but missed an eight-foot par putt in the playoff.
EUROPEAN TOUR: Hennie Otto of South Africa held on to claim his second Italian Open victory by two shots, closing with a 4-under 68 to finish with a 20-under 268 total at Turin, Italy.
David Howell surged up the leaderboard with a 63 to finish second.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Fred Couples won the Shaw Charity Classic at Calgary, Alberta, chipping in for eagle for a course-record 9-under 61 and beating Billy Andrade with a tap-in birdie on the first hole of a playoff.