w/ Chris Stevenson, The Rideau View Golf Insider
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Brooke Henderson will be chasing the first major title of the golf season with a different big stick.
The 19-year-old from Smiths Falls, ranked 13th in the world, is outfitted with a slightly stiffer shaft on her PING driver to take on the demanding Mission Hills Country Club, site of the ANA Inspiration.
“You’ve got to hit fairways and I think if I can get my driver out there a good distance, there’s a lot of corners and a lot of trouble you need to carry it 250, so if I can do that, I think I can take out a lot of the field that way,” she said. “The rough is very long, so hitting fairways and being consistent is also very important.”
“A little longer, a little straighter,” Dave Henderson, Brooke’s father and coach, said. “Just a little stiffer Fujikura shaft, maybe seven grams lighter and a little quicker for her. Here this week, we have 250 yard corners. There’s five of them that all have either 250 carries or to hit ridges or corners to get around. It is a longer player’s course. It will be interesting to see if the short baller can still get it done.”
Henderson’s aggressiveness off the tee was a big key to her winning her first major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last June at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash. She threaded her driver through the towering trees there on her way to a playoff win against world No. 1 Lydia Ko.
“I think getting off the tee is probably the most important thing because you can take yourself out of it right away or you can put yourself in great positions where you can make birdies or easy pars,” Brooke said.
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Henderson missed the cut last week at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif., just the third time she didn’t play on the weekend as a pro.
She chose to look at it positively, arriving here on Saturday and gather more intel on the Mission Hills layout.
“You know in 2014 (as an amateur), I finished tied for 25th. Last year I finished tied for 10th, so I’m slowly improving and slowly learning a little bit more about the golf course, where the good misses are and where sometimes you just need to make par and get out and try and make birdie on the next hole,” she said.
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Henderson said being a part of the majors club thanks to her win in the KPMG gives her a boost on this type of stage.
“It definitely gives you confidence going into it,” she said. “You know, it’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have won a tournament of this stature and I think each major is a little different. This one, with Poppy’s Pond and the rich history, is really cool. I think it kind of separates itself from the other majors.
“Hopefully in the near future I can get this one under my belt, too.”
Follow Chris Stevenson on Twitter @CJ_Stevenson for live Henderson updates from the ANA Inspiration