Brooke Henderson got her 2019 LPGA season off to a fast start, firing a six-under 65 to share the lead at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
Henderson made an early bogey on the second hole before rolling off seven birdies the rest of the way in the opening round of the season-opening tournament. Playing alongside basketball great Ray Allen in the celebrity pro-am tournament, she admitted the format threw her off a bit and she had to re-group after the slow start.
“I had to remind myself it wasn't Wednesday afternoon,” she told reporters after her round. “It was Thursday, and I had to get a good score together. I think that’s when things kicked in on the front nine. I started getting a couple of birdies to recover from that bogey, and then from there I was ready to go and made a lot of birdies.”
Henderson was a perfect 13 for 13 in hitting fairways and used just 25 putts to get the ball into the hole.
The round leaves her tied for top spot with South Korean Eun-Hee Ji. Just a shot back are New Zealander Lydia Ko and Stacey Lewis of the United States, while Ariya Jutanugarn and Lexi Thompson are at four under.
Henderson has somewhat of an advantage over many in the field having played this tournament before it became an official LPGA event this year. In the past, it was an unofficial event that brought in select LPGA and Champions Tour golfers. This year, in addition to the celebrities, the field is made up of tournament winners from last season.
“I'm more comfortable coming here,” said the Smiths Falls, Ont., product of her past experience. “A lot of people recognize me, and we're saying hello and catching up. I'm just a little more comfortable, and that gives me confidence as well knowing that I have played well here in the past. Last year I hit 67, which I was really happy with. Just knowing the course maybe a little better. It's fun for me. It showed today, but I'll just keep going.”
Henderson has a good record of starting her seasons well. In 2016, she posted eight top-10 finishes in her first nine events. Last year she had top 10s in three of her first four tournaments.
While many of the celebrities, such as Allen, were in their primes before a number of the LPGA players were out of diapers – Lexi Thompson admitted she had to Google her playing partners, baseball hall of famers Greg Maddux and John Smoltz – it still provides a fun day on the course.
“I feel like it’s just a really fun atmosphere,” Henderson stated, “and if you can kind of go with it, stay positive, and have good energy with the rest of your group, then good things can happen.