Just like her eagle putt on the 72nd hole, Brooke Henderson fell just short of her goal on Sunday – winning back-to-back titles at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Starting the day three shots off the lead at Olympia Fields, just outside Chicago, the 19 year-old Canadian pushed herself squarely into the picture with a pure score of 33 (-3) on the opening nine. One hole later, thanks to a stumble by Chella Choi, the 2016 Women’s PGA Champion had a share of the lead.
However, it was short-lived as Californian Danielle Kang seized the lead with a 3-3-3-3 stretch of birdies on holes 11-14.
Never one to give up, despite fighting her swing (she hit just 6 of 14 fairways in the final round), Brooke rallied back with a magnificent birdie on the hardest hole on the course, 17, and followed with another on 18. That one was nearly an eagle as her putt for a three and the outright lead fell just a couple rolls short of finding the cup. If you listened closely you might have heard the collective gasp of her fellow Canadians back home celebrating a National holiday weekend.
Posting a bogey-free final round 66 and -12 overall (68-69-69-66), all that was left for Henderson to do after she completed play was watch and wait for Kang, who was showing some nerves as she pursued her first LPGA victory. The two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, now 24, had no victories to show for her 143 starts on the LPGA TOUR.
The hope of a repeat victory and her 5th LPGA win was lost for Henderson as Kang steeled herself and struck two fine blows into the 72nd hole (a par 5) and, as calmly as she could, took two putts for her birdie and the win at -13 (69-66-68-68).
“She won it – I was just trying to make it close,” Henderson reflected afterward on her title defence, which comes after a win at the Meijer LPGA Classic in her most recent LPGA appearance. “2nd in a major championship isn’t bad. I’m very happy.”
She continued, “I played great all week. Came so close, and it really came down to those last two holes birdieing to make it look really close. I would have liked to make one or two more putts on the back nine, but like you said, it was a great week for me. There was a little bit more pressure coming into this week, and knowing that I won last year, I really wanted to do it again. I gave myself the best opportunity to do that, and unfortunately I just came up a little bit short. And Danielle played great all week, so congratulations to her.”
Henderson is showing that this major championship is one she is very comfortable playing. “This tournament has been really good to me, T-5 two years ago, a win, and a second. So maybe next year I can hold that trophy again.”
Still a teen (she turns 20 on September 10) Brooke is feeling more like a Tour veteran which each passing tournament.
“I feel so much more relaxed in contention,” when asked about her closing round composure. “You know, coming up those final holes, I was chasing birdies and felt like I could get them, which was a little different from a few years ago where I was very nervous and trying to make pars and maybe the odd birdie coming in. But now I really feel like I can trust my game, and it’s good enough to make birdies down the stretch, which I did today.”
Henderson was not left empty-handed for her efforts. The finish boosted her to 4th place in the Race To The CME Globe and earned her just over (USD) $320,000.
Hamilton, Ontario’s Alena Sharp tied for 36th (71-71-69-73).
— LPGA (@LPGA) July 2, 2017