One day the game can seem so easy, and the next it’s as if you’ve never picked up a club.
Brooke Henderson’s first two rounds at the U.S. Women’s Open fit perfectly into that category. First a glorious 68, then an inexplicable 78. On Thursday the swing seemed silky and effortless, the ball soared high and landed softly. Many of the putts seemed to find the bottom of the cup and those that didn’t rested on the edge.
Cut to Friday and it was as if she was a different player. Everything that worked on Thursday came unraveled on Friday. After two holes of her second round, Henderson was tied for the lead. Sixteen holes later, she was sitting on the cut line at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
There’s no way to explain what happened from Thursday evening to Friday morning. But every golfer has been there. The harder you try to correct things, the deeper the hole seems to get.
Friday’s troubles for Henderson started off tee. Shot after shot seemed to peel off to the right. The balls didn’t react differently than Thursday, they just started farther right, indicating a possible alignment problem.
Only seven of her tee shots, which she played with a variety of clubs, found the fairway. On two occasions, her ball nestled so deep into the rough that all she could do was hack it out.
All that meant it was tough to be aggressive into the greens. She was second in proximity to the hole in her first round, averaging 24 feet, one inch but a day later, she was 112th at 45 feet, two inches.
The putter didn’t help her out either. She never made a putt longer than 10 feet and, if you include the putts from off the green, had a trio of three-putts.
It also didn’t help that Henderson’s threesome, that included Lexi Thompson and Patty Tavatanakit, was put on the clock on two differently occasions and told to pick up the pace. The Smiths Falls, Ont., product isn’t known as one of the speediest players in women’s golf and being forced to go faster undoubtedly added to the discomfort.
Henderson didn’t stop after her round to talk to the media, which is probably a good thing. There’s no need to pile on after an already punishing day. Adding quotes to a miserable outing serves no really good purpose. At the very least the 23-year-old was still smiling when she pumped fists with the rest of her group at the end. What’s over is over.
The only thing left is to try and find the answer to the problem, perhaps on the range post-round, or maybe over dinner after the smoke has cleared.
Would anyone be surprised if Henderson returned on Saturday and shot 68 again? No, and that’s why golf is so hard to figure out. It can be one shot or one thought that turns things around. Henderson knows that. So does anyone who plays this crazy game. The chance to be better tomorrow is what keeps us coming back and, for some reason, keeps us sane.