By Chris Stevenson, The Rideau View Golf Insider
ORLANDO, Fla. — For the front nine of the final round of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions on Sunday, it didn’t look like Brooke Henderson was going to be in contention.
Then, all of a sudden on the back nine, she was.
The 22-year-old star from Smiths Falls, who started the day five off the pace, birdied five of the last 12 holes to pull within a shot of the lead, but that was as close as she would get. She had a 4-under par 67 which elevated her to a tie for fourth, her 50th top 10 finish since she turned pro for the 2015 season.
A playoff between Nasa Hataoka and Gaby Lopez was suspended because of darkness after five holes and will resume at 8 a.m. ET. Hataoka (68), Lopez (66) and veteran Inbee Park (71) were tied at 13-under par after 72 holes. Park was eliminated on the third hole.
Henderson bounced back with a solid round after a sketchy 72 on Saturday, giving her a solid start to the 2020 season.
“It was sort of a slow front nine, I wasn’t really getting anything rolling too much, but the back nine I’m really pleased with,” she said. “To shoot 4-under, I guess, and a lot of them came in the last few holes. I was trying to make something happen there on the back nine. I’m happy with how I finished. I would have liked to maybe made a few more putts, but overall it was a great start to the year.”
Park, who was chasing her 20th LPGA victory, started the day with a two-shot lead at 12-under par, but backed up with a 1-over 35 on the front.
“I saw Inbee had fallen back to 11 (under) early and I was like, ‘wow, the door is sort of wide open,’” Henderson said. Nothing really seemed to fall right away. I just tried to keep pushing and keep fighting to make some putts, to make some birdies and luckily the par-5s were really good to me today. I was able to capitalize on those.”
Henderson, relying on her strong driving game (which she feels is even more consistent after getting stronger in the off-season) birdied all the par-5s on Sunday. She had great chances on 15 and 16, for birdie and eagle, to pull into a tie for the lead, but missed a birdie putt on the 15th, and after driving the green on the 330-yard 16th, two-putted for birdie from 25 feet.
Another birdie at the par-5 17th got her to within one.
She said she feels good going into the inaugural Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio in Boca Raton this week.
“I had three really solid rounds and one not so good, but overall a lot of good things to take away,” she said. “A lot of momentum going into next week, as well. I feel like my game is in a really good spot. I feel like my ball striking was really good this week for me. If it wasn’t for a few mental errors and a few putts it could have been a different story, for sure.”
Henderson has played 131 events as a pro.
That gives her a pretty impressive .381 average when it comes to finishing in the top 10.