By Chris Stevenson
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – There were some mixed results for the Canadians at the first round of the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the year, and not maybe what you would expect.
Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, the seventh-ranked player in the world, had a rollercoaster 1-over-par 73 in the calm morning conditions which included an all-world par on the 18th hole, and is tied for 60th.
Hamilton’s Alena Sharp was a model of ball striking and consistency in the afternoon when the wind kicked up and she was rewarded with a fine 2-under-par 70 and a tie for 14th despite bogeying her last hole (the ninth).
“I started off really not knowing what kind of shot I was going to hit today because I was hitting it left and right on the range. I just settled in and calmed down,” said Sharp, who entered the week 126th in the world rankings.
“I just calmed down and hit a lot of really good shots. They didn’t really leave the flag much so I had a lot of putts inside 20 feet that really didn’t go in. They were right along the edge all day. It was an easy round. It’s nice to have tap in pars at a major.”
Sharp was unlucky not to have a better result. She had a few good looks coming in in the blustery conditions, but couldn’t get the putts to drop.
That included about a 15-footer on the seventh hole, which came after a heroic recovery after she sprayed her tee shot to the right.
She had 205 yards to the flag into the wind and hit a hybrid over a tree.
“I got lucky. My ball was 15 feet from the pin and I didn’t even think I’d be on the green. That was a nice surprise,” she said.
She bogeyed the par-5 ninth – her only bogey of the day – when her drive went down the right side and was pushed farther right by the wind. She had to pitch out.
All in all, it was a good day for the 35-year-old who has been working on some swing changes, mostly with her takeaway.
She missed the cut last week at the Kia Classic and had her best finish of the season two weeks ago, a tie for 28th at the JTBC Founders Cup.
“It’s been tough. Some weeks I feel good about it and other weeks it’s off,” she said. “I know every day is going to get a little better. If I can just settle down and settle my nerves, relax my arms and hands I’ll hit better shots. I know that for sure. It’s not that far off and that’s exciting. I feel like that is going to help me on days like today where my ball didn’t move much in the wind. My irons shots were right on it.”
Henderson and Sharp are expected to team up to represent Canada when golf returns to the Olympics in Rio in August.
Henderson said she thought her par on 18 was “the best one I ever made in my life” after she clipped a tree and went in the water with her tee shot (her second rinse of the day).
She caught a flier with her fourth and went over the green and then chipped it into the hole.
/ Chris Stevenson @CJ_Stevenson