By Chris Stevenson, Rideau View Golf Insider
OTTAWA — Unfortunately for Ottawa golf fans, “Canada 150” looks like it could be the average score after 36 holes for the Canadian contingent at the CP Canadian Women’s Open.
The Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, with the wind gusting and the greens rolling like the runways at Macdonald-Cartier Airport nearby, tore a piece out of the Canadian competitors in the first round Thursday, including crowd favourite Brooke Henderson from Smiths Falls.
Henderson never looked comfortable on the greens, which were running at 12.7 on the Stimpmeter, knocked one in the water on the par-3 13th, made only one birdie for the day (a rarity for her) and wound up with a 3-over par 74. That put her in a tie for 107th.
It looked like some nervous golf by a 19-year-old playing in the biggest tournament of her life and trying too hard to please the thousands that turned out to support her. By the time she got to the par-5 ninth hole, the gallery stretched 481 yards from tee to green.
“It was a little bit of a mixed day. I hit the ball for the majority extremely well and just the putter kind of let me down at times,” Henderson, who had 32 putts, said. “One birdie. That’s the real problem. You can’t go around this course and only have one birdie every day.”
The lead is held by American Marina Alex who had a 5-under 66, two shots better than England’s Holy Clyburn and In Gee Chun of Korea. Forty-two players broke par, so there were some good scores to be had.
The top Canadians are Maude-Aimee Leblanc, Brittany Marchand, and Augusta James at 2-over 73 which put them in a tie for 80th. The top 70 and ties make the cut after Friday’s round.
There are 82 players at +1 or better so that’s looking like the cut could fall in the +3 or +4 range.
Henderson started with two great drives, but couldn’t turn those into anything. She flared her approach on the first hole to 35 feet. She opted for driver on the second, an aggressive play, and was rewarded with a half wedge approach. As had happened a few times lately, she couldn’t give herself a good look from that apparently awkward distance.
She got up and down on the par-3 fifth, making a six footer. She made a mistake on the seventh, driving into the fairway bunker and was unable to advance to the green, leading to another bogey. She almost made a hole in one on the eighth, but she made a jabby stroke from six feet and it never had a chance.
She had a rough ninth, thinning a 3-wood into the front bunker with her second and taking four to get down for another bogey.
She birdied the par-5 10th and the rinse on 13 led to a double bogey, the result of a mid-swing change of plan when she was caught between clubs.
“The last second on my downswing I kind of changed my swing a little bit, which happens with me sometimes,” she said. “Usually it turns out better than worse, so unfortunately that wasn’t some of my best shot making there.”
After her round and after pleasing dozens of fans with autographs, Henderson said she was going off to the practice green. She’s is going to have to get a better command of the greens if she’s going to make the cut.
“That’s the fastest I’ve seen them at the Hunt,” Henderson said. “I heard this morning they were close to 13 (on the Stimpmeter) and on downhillers that’s really quick. I felt like most of the time I was putting down the hill so I was trying to just really focus on pace and then it’s really difficult to get the line.
“(Friday) hopefully I’ll give myself a little bit more uphill chances at it and see if I can be a little more aggressive.”
Yes, it’s going to be an uphill battle from here.
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