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Henderson cruises to victory

03 OCT 2017

By Peter Mumford

(Photo credit: PHOTOSPORT)

It may have taken an extra day but Brooke Henderson pulled off her second win of the season on Monday at the MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open.

Tournament conditions were brutally tough over the final two days with heavy rain and high winds, causing the last round to be suspended and carried overran extra day.

Henderson began her final round on Sunday one shot back of third round leader Belen Mozo of Spain but got off to a solid start posting three birdies in her first six holes. Mozo went in the other direction with a pair of bogeys over the same stretch. Then play was called for the day and Henderson found herself with a four shot overnight lead.

Picking up her round on Monday, the young Canadian played steady golf in the gusty conditions and at one point stretched her lead to six shots over China’s Jing Yan and Korea’s Hee Young Park who were the only golfers even close. Mozo was still headed in the wrong direction in search of her first LPGA win and finished the tournament with a 78 to tie for 5th.

Henderson birdied her final hole to give herself a five shot margin in her fifth LPGA victory.

“This is so amazing to get my first win outside of North America, my fifth win on the LPGA Tour, it is incredible. It is a dream come true and to do it in New Zealand – I am really excited to be here,” Henderson said.

“Brittany (her sister and caddy) and I did an extremely awesome job of adapting to those conditions. All day yesterday I was trying to overcome that one shot deficit in case the tournament got cut short. That drive and that push to keep making birdies is what got me in this position.

“Normally this type of golf course doesn’t suit my game but it now gives me a lot of confidence going forward with the British Open and things like that knowing that I can play well on Links golf courses and especially in terrible conditions like the last two days.

“I played awesome to shoot 69. I hit a lot of good shots. I knew I had a significant lead with four holes to go and tried not to make any major mistakes. But the shot into 17 sealed it.”

Henderson’s fifth LPGA win by the age of 20 always invites comparisons with the stellar record established by New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who was looking to win her own national championship for the fourth time but just the first as an official LPGA event.

Ko was never really in contention in the tournament but did give her hometown fans something to cheer about when she eagled the par four 15th by holing her approach, however a double bogey at the 17th and a triple bogey on the 18th dropped her into an eventual tie for 22nd.

“I played really solid pretty much apart from the last two holes,” a philosophical Ko said. “It was a tough finish but overall my game was solid and there were a lot of positives coming from two good finishes to give me the confidence coming into this week.

“But overall the crowds here this week were really the cool aspect for me. I don’t get to come home very often – but it gave me goosebumps and made me proud to play this event and have it as a LPGA event.”

Henderson too gets goosebumps when talking about her own national championship. Ironically, Ko has won the CP Canadian Women’s Open three times and now Henderson holds the New Zealand Women’s Open title but neither has won their own national championship as an LPGA event.

The victory moves Brooke to fourth on the LPGA’s money list for the season.

Her five wins are also one more than her idol Lorie Kane, which moves her into second place behind Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Sandra Post for most career victories. Post had eight career titles.

With six events remaining this season Brooke has her sights set on winning the CME Globe, the Tour’s official money list, but will likely need at least one more win and some help from those in front of her. Five of the final six events will be staged in Asia before the Tour returns to North America in mid-November for the Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.

The LPGA is off this week before resuming Oct 12th at the KEB Hanabank Championship in Incheon, South Korea.

Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag