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Henderson ready for change at the Chevron Championship

Brooke Henderson Brooke Henderson - The Canadian Press

A different course. A different name. The same goal.

Brooke Henderson arrived Monday at the newly titled Chevron Championship, the year’s first major, and, as with the rest of the players on the LPGA Tour, immediately began a cram session on learning the course.

For the first time in half a century, the tournament, previously known under names such as the ANA Inspiration and the Nabisco Dinah Shore, is not being held at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Instead, it’s moved to Texas where it will be contested at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at the Club at Carlton Woods, located in the Houston area.

That won’t bother Henderson, who is seeking her third major title. This is one of five weeks where she hopes the best parts of her game are shining.

“I put a lot of emphasis on being prepared for major weeks where you need to be at the top of your game both physically and mentally to have a good week,” Henderson stated. “When we set out the schedule at the beginning of the year, the majors are always the focus as we look to peak in those particular weeks.”

So far, this year has been a mixed bag of results for Henderson. It began with a bang as she won the season opener, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, her 13th career title. After pausing for a month, she added a tie for 44th, a tie for 48th and a missed cut. Last week, in Hawaii, she posted a tie for 11th.

“It was nice to put together a few good rounds in Hawaii and to have a few putts go in, particularly in the windy conditions,” Henderson said while dodging the rain drops that have been falling for much of the week. “Hopefully we can build off of some of that momentum as we get this week started.”

Although it’s a small sample size, Henderson’s iron play has not been as sharp as in past years. She comes into the week siting in 93rd spot in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, a category she finished 13th in last year.

On the positive side, her putting, usually the weakest part of her game, has been steady. She worked hard on the greens during the off-season, hoping to even out the hot and cold performances that have been her trend in recent years.

Henderson isn’t worried about what the stats may say. She’s more of a feel player, trusting her feel instead of the numbers spit out by a Trackman. She knows that how she plays usually begins on the tee.

“For me, things always start with the driver,” she said. “If I can make consistent swings off the tee and hit fairways, the rest of the game can follow suit. Hopefully we can see a few putts drop and get off to a fast start this week.”

Getting out of the gate quickly is vital. In her last 18 majors, the Smiths Falls, Ont., product has only been in the top 10 four times after the opening round, meaning lots of catching up. That’s hard to do at majors, but especially so on an unfamiliar course.

This year’s layout is vastly different from Mission Hills. It’s longer, playing a hefty 6,800 yards, and has tree-lined fairways and plenty of water to grab errant shots. The greens feature some strong slopes and playing at the pin isn’t always the smartest approach.

The hard work of deciphering all 18 holes has been taking place this week – at least it has when it hasn’t been raining. It’s been a soggy start to the week and there is rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for Thursday and Friday.

“It’s a new chapter for this historic event,” said Henderson, “and the venue change will take everyone a bit to get used to. But I’ve enjoyed the week so far and am really looking forward to getting started on Thursday. It’s a great golf course that is going to require accuracy off the tee and hopefully we can do that and make a few putts along the way.”

Maude-Aimee Leblanc and Maddie Szeryk are the other Canadians in the field. Both have put up solid finishes so far this year, with Leblanc finishing tied for 13th at the DIO Implant LA Open, and Szeryk posting a tie for seventh at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain.