w/ Chris Stevenson, The Rideau View Golf Insider
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — One of the keys to Brooke Henderson’s third round 69 at the ANA Inspiration on Saturday was a better performance with her driver.
After making the cut on the number after the weather delayed second round was concluded Saturday morning and with some pressure off, Henderson drove the ball beautifully Saturday afternoon in the third round.
She hit 10/14 fairways and averaged 286 yards off the tee. She hit two of the par-5s in two, the second and 11th holes, which led to tap-in birdies.
She said at the beginning the week the driver would be key and she was right.
It came alive on Saturday and set up her round. She’ll need it to be as effective on Sunday if she’s going to move up the leaderboard.
Henderson played her best golf in a while Saturday afternoon on her way to that 3-under par 69, but her clutch shot of the week came Saturday morning.
With two holes to go in her weather delayed second round, she was a shot outside the cut line with not much going on. Faced with the uphill 153-yard par-3 eight hole, with the hole protected by a ridge, it wasn’t looking likely Henderson would make birdie there and it might come down to the par-5 ninth, the last hole of her round.
Instead she hit a 7-iron that caught the ridge and fed down to about three feet from the hole. She made the putt to get to 2-over for the tournament and sit right on the cut line.
Good thing she birdied that one because she missed a six-foot putt for birdie on nine.
Henderson shot 67 in the final round here last year and wound up in a tie for 10th, her sixth top 10 in a row at this time last year.
She enters Sunday’s final round in a tie for 43rd place. What would a 67 do for her this year? Looking at the leaderboard, each stroke is worth about 10 places. Safe to say another 67, which isn’t out of the question given her strong driving Saturday and improved putting after switching flatsticks, would give her a shot at the top 10.
Why not aim high?
Small world, the golf world.
Especially the Canadian golf world.
The support Henderson gets here is strong. There are a lot of snowbirds down from Canada in the Palm Springs area and you’ll see a lot of Canadian sports gear in her gallery: Team Canada, Toronto Maple Leafs, even Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.
There’s a tall fellow who has a resemblance to the actor James Cromwell (though a much younger version), who can usually be seen walking with Henderson’s dad, Dave.
He’s Chris Aubin, who grew up with Dave Henderson in Smiths Falls. Aubin and the Hendersons have continued to have a strong connection through golf. Life took Aubin to Calgary where he is the manager at River Spirit Golf Club.
He caddied for Brooke at the Canadian Amateur when it was held at Lethbridge in 2012 (and won by Ariya Jutanugarn with her sister, Moriya, the runner-up. Funny how things turn out: Brooke is tied with Moriya after three rounds here).
“We schedule our holiday every year at this time so we can reconnect,” said Aubin. “We make it an annual trip. Now we’re hoping for a Sens-Flames (Stanley Cup) final.”
Easy there, Chris.
The Senators have to make the playoffs first.
Follow Chris Stevenson on Twitter @CJ_Stevenson for live Henderson updates from the ANA Inspiration