Freewheeling – With The Cut In The Rearview Mirror, Brooke Henderson Accelerates Her Game

Brooke Henderson (Photo: Joe McLean)

By Chris Stevenson, Rideau View Golf Insider

OTTAWA — Caddy Brittany Henderson knows her sister as well as anybody.

In the crush after Brooke Henderson’s 8-under par course record 63 on Saturday at the CP Women’s Open, vaulting her from making the cut to a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead, Brittany surveyed the scene at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.

Brooke stood for an interview with the Golf Channel and then was swallowed up in a scrum of reporters before walking over with her security detail to sign autographs for the fans that hung over the metal barricades.

After two rounds of tentative, nervous play brought on by the suffocating expectations of playing her national championship close to their home town of Smiths Falls, Team Henderson made the cut on the number with a clutch birdie on the last hole Friday.

The pressure off, Brooke Henderson was back to being the star that she is on Saturday, let her talent free and put on a show for the thousands that followed her every step of the way.

What a difference in 24 hours: for much of Friday, the CP Women’s Open was looking like the weekend would be a Canuck free zone.

Now Sunday has the potential of being an historic day in Canadian golf. Imagine Brooke Henderson making the cut on the number Friday and having a chance to walk up the 18th fairway Sunday with a chance to win. She’s three shots behind Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark (140th in the world) and American veteran Mo Martin. Larsen had a 66 Saturday and Martin a 67 to sit at 10-under par.

“She played like herself today,” Brittany said. “She was aggressive and mentally tough. The first two days it was ‘come on, go in,’ and today she just let it go. That’s how it felt to me. You wanted it so badly, you’re trying to hope it in. There was a lot of tension.

“Today, she was able to relax, enjoy it more, ride the momentum and just go.”

“Today is moving day,” Brooke said. “I moved, that’s for sure.”

Henderson tied her career low round (also 8-under par in the first round of the Meijer LPGA Classic which she won in June).

Henderson had eight birdies and a couple of good par saves.

A clutch par save with an 18-foot putt on the 16th hole kept her momentum going and set up a pair of birdies on 17 and 18. Her approach on 16, one of a couple that wasn’t a pin-seeking laser, was weak and short to the right and finished 70 feet away. It was an intimidating flag just five paces from the back edge into a swirling wind.

“I was really disappointed with that second shot,” Henderson said. “I kind of mentally got in my way there and then that two-putt, when I went up to it, I was hoping for a two-putt and I was able to get it.”

Henderson then stuck her tee shot on the par-3 17th in to four feet and made that and was treated to a walk up an 18th hole that was choked with people.

“Coming up 18, I just kind of just took a peek around and I didn’t see any green grass outside the ropes,” she said. “Everybody was everywhere.”

Everybody exploded with sound when Henderson’s nine foot birdie putt dropped and the scoreboard immediately behind her showed she had moved into solo second place at 7-under par for the tournament as the leaders were teeing of.

A Different Player

Henderson was a different player on Saturday, the burden of making the cut out of the way and her mind free.

She birdied the second and third holes from inside four feet. She got up and down on the fourth and birdied the sixth from nine feet and the eighth from 12 feet. After her approach on the par-5 ninth spun back down the hill, she got up and down and made the turn in 32, including just 12 putts.

She went to 5-under for the day with a 12-footer from the front of the green on 12. After parring the par-3 13th for the first time this week, she hit it inside three feet on 14 to go to 6-under and finished strongly.

She needed only 25 putts on the day.

“I felt like I could make something happen,” she said, “and I made putts I didn’t even know I could make.”

In the aftermath of making the cut on Friday, Henderson was nine shots off the lead and said it might take a miracle for her to have a chance to win and become the first Canadian since Jocelyn Bourassa in 1973 to win Canada’s national championship.

She is off at 12:53 p.m. with Cristie Kerr and Mirim Lee.

“Hopefully I can have another solid round and kind of give myself a chance (Sunday),” she said. “Maybe that miracle will happen.”

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