w/ Chris Stevenson, The Rideau View Golf Insider
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif — After the first round of the ANA Inspiration, it’s clear Brooke Henderson still isn’t near where she was a year ago.
Henderson had a 1-over par 73 on Thursday and will have to do some playing, probably in the tougher conditions in the afternoon on Friday, to have a shot at making the cut and avoid doing something she hasn’t done in her professional career: miss two cuts in a row.
Last year in this tournament, she started with a 73 as well, shot 69 on Friday to make the cut and rallied with a final round 67 at Mission Hills for her sixth top-10 finish in a row to start last season.
So far this season, she had one top 10 and is coming off a missed cut at the Kia Classic last week, just the third missed cut of her professional career.
After watching her round on Thursday, she’s not off by that much.
Thursday’s round pretty much summed up the way things have been going for Henderson. A couple of loose drives and a couple of missed putts and that was the difference between a decent round and being over par.
A double bogey on the third hole really put her on her heels. She missed her drive right, had a crappy lie and left her second in the rough. She knocked it on and 3-putted from about 50 feet, leaving her first putt about seven feet short.
After putting a new putter in her bag this week, you could count the putts Henderson made on Thursday on one hand: from 10 feet for par on the first hole, four feet on the second for birdie, six feet for birdie on the sixth and her best when she needed it most, a 20-footer on the tough par-3 17th.
But she also three putted the third hole, missed from five feet for par on the eighth, four feet for birdie on the 11th, five feet for par on 13 and 10 feet for birdie on 16.
It added up to 33 putts by my reckoning.
“I think if I made one or two five-footers, it could have been a different story,” she said. “I kind of saw them run away and then I lost a little bit of confidence in my putting.”
Putting is such a hot and cold thing. Henderson’s putting stats overall this season are almost the same as during her outstanding season last year, so sooner or later you’d expect things to even out.
It would be a big help if it started Friday afternoon to give her a chance to rally on the weekend here like she did last year.
Follow Chris Stevenson on Twitter @CJ_Stevenson for live Henderson updates from the ANA Inspiration