By Chris Stevenson, The Rideau View Golf Insider
AURORA, Ont. — An opening round 6-under-par 66 in defence of her CP Women’s Open title on Thursday at Magna Golf Club doesn’t guarantee Brooke Henderson anything.
But if we go by history, it’s a big step towards what would be career win No. 10 come Sunday. Henderson hasn’t won without kicking off a tournament with a sub-69 round, so she’s checked that box. Henderson had a two-shot lead over Su Oh, Amy Yang and Georgia Hall as the afternoon wave was heading out onto the course. By the time the day ended she trailed only Annie Park of the United States, who topped her with a 65 (-7).
At -6, Henderson is also joined by fellow Canadian Anne-Catherine Tanguay, as well as Jin Young Ko, Nicole Broch Larsen, and Pajaree Anannarukarn.
In her short but spectacular LPGA career, Henderson has won nine times. In each of those nine victories, she started with a round of 68 or better. There’s a pattern there (her best finish after opening with a 69 or higher is a second at the Coates Championship in 2016.)
She is the definition of a front runner and well, here she is near the top after 18 holes.
Her first round scores in each of her victories:
66 — 2015 Cambia Portland Classic
67 — 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
65 — 2016 Cambia Portland Classic
63 — 2017 Meijer LPGA Classic
65 — 2017 McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open
68 — 2018 Lotte Championship
66 — 2018 CP Women’s Open
65 — 2019 Lotte Championship
64 — 2019 Meijer LPGA Classic
It’s interesting, too, that she has success in tournaments she has won before. She’s won the same tournament three times, including a pair of title defences.
It’s an interesting coincidence she also started last year’s CP Women’s Open at the Wascana Golf and Country Club with a 66, isn’t it?
Henderson pointed out the conditions Thursday morning at Magna were a lot like the brisk conditions as Wascana last year for the final round.
“When I showed up this morning (8 a.m. tee time) it was really cold and windy and I was like, ‘uh oh.’ But in the back of my head it was also sort of like Sunday last year, so I figured it might not be a bad thing,” she said.
It wasn’t. After she and sister/caddie Brittany made some adjustments to the lines off the tee to account for the cold and wind, Henderson went around Magna with just one bogey and seven birdies and put on a ball striking clinic. She hit 16 of 18 greens and missed two fairways.
“The wind was just howling and it felt like it was going to be a really tough day,” Brittany said. “But I think we did a really good job of calculating all the variables and Brooke is such a great wind player. She’s able to adjust the flight of the ball well. She doesn’t care if it’s windy.”
One of those missed fairways led to her only bogey of the day on the fourth hole. She drove into a bunker, came up short in another bunker and didn’t get up and down.
She birdied the third, fifth, seventh and ninth holes on the front and 12th, 15th and 18th holes on the back. She dominated the par-5s. The only one she didn’t birdie was the 14th when she failed to get up and down from 30 yards.
She missed the fairway left on 18, but caught a good lie and hit to three feet. She made the putt to the loud delight of the big gallery which had grown in size (six deep on some parts of the course) during her round.
“To have this many people out on Thursday morning is pretty special,” Henderson said. “They’re cheering for me bright and early, so that’s pretty cool. To get a solid round like this in front of them I think is really a confidence booster for me, gives me a lot of momentum going into the next three days.”
Henderson had 28 putts Thursday and just as important as the birdie putts were a couple of par saves. After just missing the green on the tough par-3 second hole (199 yards over water, cross wind), Henderson was 75 feet from the flag. She made a six-footer to save par there.
“To get that and make par and keep my round alive, to start the day like that was really key,” she said.
“That was huge,” Brittany said. “That was a key to some positive momentum.”
Henderson made one of similar length to save par on the 181-yard eighth hole.
“There is still lots of golf to be played,” Henderson said. “Half the field still has to go out and compete, so I feel like it’s early. It’s one round out of four.
“It’s nice to be in a position where I had a good round. Everything seemed to go right for me. Hopefully I can continue to stick to my game plan, make a lot of birdies and I would love to be in this position on Sunday.”
The following are opening-round scores for the 15 Canadians competing in the 2019 CP Women’s Open:
Brooke Henderson 66 (-6)
Anne-Catherine Tanguay 66 (-6)
Megan Osland 72 (E)
Alena Sharp 73 (+1)
Valérie Tanguay 76 (+4)
Brittany Marchand 77 (+5)
Céleste Dao * 77 (+5)
Maude-Aimee Leblanc 77 (+5)
Brigitte Thibault * 78 (+6)
Mary Parsons * 78 (+6)
Maddie Szeryk 78 (+6)
Emily Zhu * 79 (+7)
Casey Ward 80 (+8)
Michelle Liu * 81 (+9)
Lorie Kane 87 (+15)
* denotes amateur
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This article appears courtesy of Rideau View Golf Club, where Chris Stevenson is a regular contributor to their social media – worth following!