The Edgewater Columbia Country Club in Portland, Oregon is taking a beating from LPGA players this week. That could be a blessing and a curse for leader Brooke Henderson. She has a big lead after 54 holes but her ascent to the winner’s circle is not guaranteed on a course that has already given up a 63 (-9).
That said, Henderson she likes where she is sitting with one round to play at the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic. And her competitors know the chase is on if they are to prevent the 17 year-old from securing her first LPGA Victory.
Henderson, a Symetra Tour member from Smiths Falls, Ontario, open qualified on Monday to get into the field and established the 54-hole tournament scoring record at -18 (198) on Saturday after posting a bogey free 65 (-7). It puts her five shots clear of her nearest pursuer, and acknowledged hero, Morgan Pressel, who is -13 after a 65 of her own on Saturday.
The two will play together in the final round, the same situation as earlier this year at the Swinging Skirts Classic, where both eventually gave way to Lydio Ko.
This time though, Henderson has a considerable lead, but given the scoring that has taken place this week, it may not altogether be safe unless she continues the pattern (66-67-65) and posts another low score of her own.
Pressel knows she’ll need a big round if she is to catch the teen who looks up to her, a bond established when Henderson watched Pressel give a clinic at Royal Ottawa GC, during the week of the 2008 CP Women’s Open being played at nearby Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club.
“Well, I’ll take another nine birdies tomorrow,” said Pressel who has not won this season but finished in the top five multiple times. “I think I need to just give myself a lot of opportunities and eliminate a couple of the sloppy mistakes that I’ve made the last few days, and I think it’ll put me up there towards the end tomorrow.”
Henderson knew that with low scores on the table she needed to establish as much of a lead as possible during her third round. “The bigger the lead, probably the better for me. I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and I was trying to get it pretty deep under par today, and hopefully, like I said, I can do something tomorrow”, she noted after posting her bogey free 65.
Having been through this scenario just six months ago, leading after 54 with Pressel in pursuit, Brooke says she is a little more prepared this time. At the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic she shot 74 in the final round to drop into third place.
“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable this time around. I have looked up to her since I was a young girl, so I think in San Francisco I was a little bit more nervous, but this time I’m ready to go.”
Henderson has won over $466,000 in 9 starts on the LPGA Tour as a non-member this year and she will add to that tally on Sunday. A win is worth $195,000 but more importantly it would bring Category 7 of the LPGA Priority List into play. That category gives status for non-member winners of the tour. Of course, Henderson is just 17, not meeting the age 18 requirement and thus not eligible to be a member of the tour without special permission from Commissioner Mike Whan.
One has to think, a win, given that it brings an actual priority list category into play, would push him to grant that membership. Throw in the fact that Brooke turns 18 in just 25 days (September 10th) and is already in the field for 2 of the next 3 LPGA Tour events (Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, Evian Championship) you can be assume that LPGA membership is likely not far off for the Canadian.
That will make Brooke Henderson, and a lot of golf fans, very happy.
Brooke Henderson and Morgan Pressel will tee off at 2:10 P.M. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday in the final pairing.
Hamilton, Ontario’s Alena Sharp is tied for 9th.