There are thirteen Canadians in the field this week at the Manulife Classic in Cambridge, Ontario. But the spotlight shines brightest on one in particular.
Brooke Henderson was one of the two players scheduled to speak with the media at Whistle Bear Golf Club on Tuesday. The other was defending champion Carolina Masson.
Like it or not (and she likes it), Henderson, 19, has become the face of Canadian women’s golf. At #15 in the World Rankings there are high expectations of her this week. None greater than the ones she puts on herself.
After two wins in 2016, including a major championship, she is 0-for-12 this year. She’s hoping a return to familiar soil will be the cure.
“It’s always great to be back home in Ontario, back in Canada. I think the fans always really look forward to it every year, to see me back here,” she shared in the warm confines of the media centre.
“I’m really excited to have family, friends, and people and fans I’ve grown over the last couple years come up and watch this week. It’s such a great feeling knowing that the whole country is definitely behind me this week and every week that I’m out on the LPGA Tour.”
That said, the Manulife Classic has not been a friendly arena for the teen star. Her best finish to date in five tries has been a tie for 35th.
“I haven’t had a great finish here yet at the ManuLife Classic, especially since it’s moved to Whistle Bear, but I really like the course and I think it’s going to set up well for my game this week.”
That set-up? One impacted greatly by a cool and wet Spring that will put pressure on the long games of the players as they tour the Doug Carrick design. Things should improve for tournament days as a warm front is expected to move in, but likely not enough to get the course very firm.
“The course will play long this week. It’s quite wet,” Henderson noted. “The greens are maybe a little bit slower than they normally are here, but they’re in great shape. I feel like somebody that makes a lot of putts this week is definitely going to climb up the leaderboard.”
Putts Need To Drop
The Smiths Falls, Ontario native is hoping that will be her but at 67th in putting average right now (to be fair she’s also 36th in putts per green in regulation) she will need the flat stick to cooperate. She’s well aware that getting the ball in the hole more efficiently could have made a big difference in a year where two top 10’s have been her best finishes.
“Coming off such a great high last year it’s been a little bit disappointing, but I feel like any game is extremely close. You know, I make one more putt on Thursday and the momentum changes for the entire week. You know, instead of being close to the cut line, I’m in the top 10 or the final groups. So I go off that adrenaline, the rush of the fans, and maybe I make a few more and I win the tournament.”
Putting aside, Brooke is content with her game right now. There are things to tighten up in the weeks ahead during some off-time but she is confident that more success is close at hand.
“I feel like my ball striking has been the best maybe it’s ever been the last few weeks. I’m really excited. When everything comes together I can get a Top 5, Top 3, and maybe that win here in a few weeks. My game is extremely close. Sports are such a fine line, and I’m just hoping I can cross that line and perform a little bit better.”
As for her goal this week, she’s coy in her response when asked about it, but you know what is on her mind.
“Playing in front of the hometown crowd I definitely want to put on a good show. Hopefully get off to a fast start Thursday, Friday and get into the final groups on the weekend and cause some excitement in this Waterloo area.”
There would be no bigger excitement than a home soil golfer holding the trophy on Sunday. There are thirteen chances for the Canadian contingent.
That pressure might feel like a burden for some, but it’s one Brooke Henderson welcomes. She’s used to lifting trophies, and she’s more than ready for her next one.
She’s hoping it’s just days away.