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Henderson hoping to end season on top

Brooke Henderson Brooke Henderson - The Canadian Press

A win at this week’s CME Championship would be the perfect way to close out the LPGA Tour season for Brooke Henderson. It would also bring an end to one of the circuit’s strangest stats.

No player who has won the year’s first tournament has gone on to win a second time that same season.

Henderson won the year’s opening event, the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, and to close things out with another victory would be quite satisfying.

“It's a really weird stat that I don't like very much,” Henderson said with a smile. “I thought I would break it earlier. Maybe got in my head a little bit. But this would be the perfect week to kind of break that. You know, kind of bookends, win the first one, the last one. That would be obviously ideal.”

It has been an unusual year for Henderson, who has played well but not up to her usual lofty standards. She comes into this week’s final event sitting 14th on the CME rankings, not exactly bottom of the barrel. But her season included five missed cuts, more than her last three seasons combined. And she was only able to record two other top-10 finishes aside from her victory, well down from her usual totals.

Much of her play was hampered by ball-striking, usually one of her strengths. Her Strokes Gained: Approach number dropped to .30 from .82, a significant slip.

As well, her scoring average was 70.387, marking the first time since 2016 that it’s been over 70. Henderson has said that a sub-70 average is one of her annual goals.

Henderson made a change in her irons in attempt to fix her woes, moving to the TaylorMade P7MC model, which she found to her liking. The change came during a five-week break in September that allowed her to get dialled in with the clubs.

Since she made the switch, she’s been a combined 35 under par through three events with just one round over par. She’s also hit significantly more greens in regulation, including one at last week’s event where she was a perfect 18 for 18.

“I made that change in September, so the last few tournaments I've definitely been seeing some results,” said Henderson. “I feel like if I can just get the putter matching as well, we'll make a bunch of birdies.”

The Smiths Falls, Ont., product made another more subtle change at the CPKC Women’s Open, choosing to wear glasses for the first time on the course. She said the vision correction has helped her better read the lines on the greens.

“My vision has never been perfect since I've been on tour, and I’ve worn these off the course for a really long time,” she admitted. “I felt like my vision was getting a little bit worse earlier this year. Felt like maybe it was starting to cost me some shots. I said now is the time to make the change. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be.”

Henderson is hoping all these modifications will lead to a big finish this week at Tiburon Golf Club in her winter home of Naples, Fla. She’s played well at this tournament in the past, logging four top-10s in the last five years. There is some added incentive for winning as the first-prize cheque is a hefty $2 million, the richest first prize in women’s golf.

“I love this course,” she stated. “You can be aggressive and make a bunch of birdies, which I feel normally suits my game pretty well. I always you have a lot of support here, a lot of Canadians come down, snowbirds, and friends and family that I've gotten to know really well down in this area since live not too far from here.”

A two-win season would also make her overall year even more successful and, of course, put an end to that unusual first-win-of-the-year streak.