IRVING -- The power of purple seemed to be ruling the day.
J.J. Henry, Fort Worth resident and fan favorite in Sunday's final group at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, spent 16 holes burying clutch putts and avoiding disaster at the Four Seasons Resort. Henry, a former TCU standout, even mixed in an ace at No. 5 that caused him to unleash a huge, uppercut first pump and triggered impromptu celebrations among the purple-clad followers in his group.
Things were unfolding so smoothly that Henry, 37, even allowed himself to surmise that the tournament's namesake -- another notable golfer with Fort Worth connections who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2012 -- might have been intervening in Sunday's proceedings.
"It was Byron Nelson's 100th birthday," Henry said. "When I made that hole-in-one, I thought he was definitely looking down on me this week."
Instead, the good vibes disappeared within a span of five shots at the 17th hole, a par-3 where Henry took his only double bogey of the tournament. Jason Dufner, Henry's playing partner, seized the moment and a lead he would not relinquish.
History will record Dufner's clutch, 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole as the stroke that sealed the 2012 Nelson title. But there is no denying Henry's 7-iron that airmailed the 17th green was the stroke that opened the door for that comeback.
And, in the cruelest of ironies, Henry said there is little he would have changed about the shot if given a mulligan. Pete Jordan, Henry's caddie, said they discussed the possibility of 8-iron on the tee but Henry liked his decision, even after watching the ball wind up in a nasty chipping area behind a green with extreme undulation.
"I thought I hit a pretty good shot on 17. The golf gods, I guess, thought otherwise," Henry said after being consoled by friends and family members who gathered near the 18th green for a victory celebration that never unfolded. "The wind was a little into me. I was trying to hit it exactly where I did ... and it just carried about six or seven yards too far. It's disappointing, but that's golf. You take the good with the bad. To play so well for so long... it's a little bittersweet, having a chance to win and not quite finishing it off."
Golf tournaments, especially those on the PGA Tour, tend to be decided by the narrowest of margins. For Henry, Sunday's margin of error proved to be an extra surge of adrenaline and, perhaps, a wind gust that subsided at the wrong moment.
"I can't be upset with that," Henry said. "I played great. I just didn't pull off that shot."
It left him in a difficult chipping area behind the 17th green, with a 50-50 chance to land the ball on the proper side of a swale that would feed the ball toward the hole. Henry hit the wrong part of the undulation, setting up a 27-foot par putt. He tried to bury it, burned the left lip and missed the 4-footer coming back.
Hello, double bogey. Goodbye, trophy.
In retrospect, Henry said he "kind of compounded a mistake" with his three-putt, paving the way to finish in a tie for third, at 9 under par for the tournament. But he went down with aggression, trying to make something magical happen when he had an opportunity to win in front of his wife, his sons and countless other purple-clad folks who frequently yelled "Go, Frogs" during various stages of Sunday's round.
The upside? Henry gets another chance this week at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, a course he knows as well as any golfer on the PGA Tour. And he's playing well enough to take advantage of it.
Henry, who last won a tour event in 2006, finished 12th among Nelson competitors in putting, 13th in greens in regulation (70.8 pct.) and first in sand saves (100 pct.). After holing a 154-yard pitching wedge for his ace at No. 5, Henry reeled off nine consecutive pars Sunday before dropping consecutive birdie putts of 32 feet (No. 15) and 2 feet (No. 16) to put him in position to win.
But the 17th hole got in the way, spoiling the celebration. Or, perhaps, simply delaying it by one week, where even more people in purple shirts could share in the moment. At least that is Henry's takeaway after a gut-wrenching conclusion to an otherwise stellar week of golf.
"To be that close to winning in your own back yard, and to have it within your grasp with two holes to go, it's tough," Henry said. "But there's a lot of positives. I've got a lot to be proud of. We'll have to take the positives and go and, hopefully, carry it over next week at Colonial."
Jordan, a former TCU golfer, said Henry played better this week than at any time since the two began working together in February.
"He's playing good, thinking good. Everything he's doing is good," Jordan said. "To have a one-shot lead with two to go, it kind of hurts. Hopefully, I'll learn from it and he'll learn from it."
Jordan paused, then smiled.
"Maybe we'll take it home next week," Jordan said. "There'll be even more purple shirts over there."
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760