SAMMAMISH, Wa. – Playing close to home seems to agree with Brooke Henderson. Being with family is rather soothing as well.
Whether it was the cool weather on Thursday morning that reminded Henderson of her Canadian roots, or the calming force provided by her older sister and caddie, the 18-year-old LPGA rookie got off to a solid start in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club.
Henderson, who won her first LPGA event — the Cambia Portland Classic — last year as a non-member, is seeking victory No. 1 as an official professional. She hit only 10 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens, but needed just 23 putts to shoot a 4-under-67.
The round was ignited big-time by a hole-in-one on her 15th shot of the day. Back-to-back birdies on the final two holes of the round put a superb finishing touch on an overcast day.
“Yeah, it was a pretty good day,” said Henderson.
The two-shot lead she held when she walked off the course before noon held up the remainder of the day. The best anyone else in the 156-player field could do was a 2-under-68 by a couple of Kims – Christina and In-Young.
Seven others, including Aiya Jutanugarn, winner of her past three events, were within three shots of the leader. That group did not include either Lydia Ko, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, nor Inbee Park, the newest member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. Ko settled for an even-par 71 while Park, winner of three consecutive Women’s PGA titles, shot a 1-over-72.
Ko took her deficit with a grain of salt.
“I’m not really thinking about it,” she said when asked about being three behind. “I’m trying to think about that shot I have in front of me. There’s still too many things to focus on than to think about what could happen at the end of Sunday.”
The 17-year-old Ko, from New Zealand, already has 12 career victories and is well on her way to Hall of Fame stardom. Henderson is another young gun on the tour that has star-power. She also is smart enough to know that one round does not win a golf tournament, especially with one as difficult as Sahalee.
“I was just trying to get under par,” she said when asked about her first-round game plan. “But it’s tough to say how hard this course is going to be going into today and the rest of the weekend.”
Intermittent showers occurred during the late morning – just as Henderson was ending her round – and early afternoon.
“This rain will definitely help with the firmness and slow the greens down a little bit, which I think will help the scoring the rest of the week. It’s hard to say, but 4-under is definitely a good start.”
Besides showing that she can play some stellar golf in the Northwest, Henderson also has demonstrated a penchant for playing her best on the weekends. “A lot of my top-10s have come on Saturday and Sunday, so to start off with a good start today with a good round…”
Lexi Thompson, the highest-ranked U.S. player (No. 3) opened with a 4-over-75 while Stacy Lewis (No. 6) was 2-over.