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TSN Senior Reporter

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After withdrawing part way through last week’s Lotte Championship, Brooke Henderson pronounced herself healthy and ready to defend her title at the DIO Implant LA Open starting Thursday.

“(I’m) feeling a lot better, and just grateful to be back here with such special memories,” said Henderson, in a press conference on Wednesday. “Looking forward to hopefully having a great week over the next four days.”

So far this season, being sick is about the only thing that’s slowed down the Canadian star. She’s finished inside the top 13 in six starts prior to last week, with four of those inside the top 10. A win is about the only thing that has eluded her.

Last year at this event, held at the Wilshire Country Club, Henderson played the final round with Jin Young Ko and Jessica Korda, and made a run to start the back nine with birdies on 11, 12 and 14. She seemed to be in control until the 17th where a bogey reduced her lead to two strokes over Korda.

Despite missing the green on the par-3 18th, Henderson managed a nervy up-and-down to hold on and win by a shot.

“A lot of nerves,” said Henderson, who has never been known for her short game, “but happy I was able to get job done.”

The win was the 10th in Smiths Falls, Ont.,-product’s career, increasing her record for the most by a Canadian on a major tour. While winning that many still leaves her shaking her head, she’s not done yet.

“You know, looking back on my career I never thought I would be here so quickly,” she stated, “but I'm excited to just keep pushing forward and hopefully getting a bunch more.”

If she does manage to top the leaderboard at the end of the week, it would mark the third time Henderson has defended a title successfully. She did it at the Cambia Portland Classic in 2015 and ’16, and again at the Lotte Championship in 2018 and ’19.

Much of Henderson’s improved play this year is coming from improvement in her putting and wedge play. She is ranked third in putts per greens in regulation, and eighth in putting average at 28.54. That’s more than two strokes better than a year ago when she wound up 111th in that category.

Much of the attention lately has been on her driver, which she had to alter to conform to the new rules of golf. She was required to drop the length from 48 inches to 46 and so far has made a smooth transition in the five rounds she’s used it. There’s been no noticeable drop in her accuracy or distance. However she admitted she is still trying to get comfortable with the shorter club.

She’ll need her driver and short game if she wants to repeat this week. Wilshire Country Club, a century-old course located south of Hollywood, is known for a deep barranca which makes an appearance on half the holes, and an overall demanding layout.

“This course is a challenge,” she said. “You can never take a break. You have to think your whole way around and you have to play smart. Even when you have a good plan you have to execute the shots.

“It's definitely going to challenge all parts of everybody's game physically and mentally. I think that's what makes this week fun, is just you know it's going to be a fight from everybody.”

Henderson got a late surprise on Wednesday when Korda withdrew from the tournament. Her spot in the field will be taken by Canadian Maddie Szeryk, who will play with Henderson the first two rounds. The two played together as amateurs on Canada’s national team.