Henderson on the brink of history
A little more than three years ago, 17-year-old Brooke Henderson Monday-qualified for the Cambia Portland Classic, a regular tour stop in the LPGA Tour season.
Big things were expected of this young Canadian who had set the 36-hole scoring record at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic earlier in the year and had won for the first time on the Symetra Tour in June.
What happened that week at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland was quite remarkable, though. Henderson won the tournament by an unprecedented eight shots, becoming the Tour’s third youngest winner and only the second Monday-qualifier to go on and win on the LPGA.
Fast-forward to now, and Henderson enters the week of the 2018 Cambia Portland Classic on the verge of making Canadian golf history. The Ontario-born Henderson became the first Canadian winner of the CP Women’s Open in 45 years last week at Wascana Country Club, and she is now just one top-flight win away from joining Mike Weir, George Knudson and Sandra Post as the most successful golfers Canada has ever produced.
She’s still only 20 years old.
Indeed, ever since Henderson broke through in Portland with a record 21-under-par score, she’s gone on to win a further six times on the LPGA, including a major championship at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2016 when defeating Lydia Ko at the height of her powers in a sudden-death play-off.
But what makes Henderson so good?
Being one of the best drivers of the ball in the women’s game might go a good way to explaining it.
The 5-foot-4 former goaltender of the Canadian national girls’ junior hockey team uses a 48-inch driver, three inches longer than standard – and she uses it to devastating effect.
While she isn’t the longest, or even the straightest off the tee, it’s the combination of both that sets her apart. Tune in to the next LPGA broadcast and you’ll quickly find out that she spends more time looking for her tee to pick up than she does actually watching the ball she’s just obliterated inevitably find the middle of the fairway.
It’s not just her driving though. So far this year, Henderson ranks third in greens in regulation, 10th in putts per GIR, fourth in scoring average and second in sub-par holes.
Clearly Henderson possesses an all-round game, but it’s her mentality that is more important than anything else.
Five of her wins have come by beating the field by four shots or more, and in her other two triumphs – the aforementioned KPMG and the Meijer LPGA Classic – she held off challenges from Ko, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie, three of the game’s truly elite players.
It’s Henderson’s ability to close out tournaments and keep her foot to the gas that will see her become Canada’s greatest ever golfer.
Take last week at the CP Women’s Open, for example. When Angel Yin – Henderson’s closest competitor in the final round at Wascana – was making a back-nine charge after making three birdies in a row, Henderson, who was playing in the final group alongside the American, matched her shot-for-shot, making four consecutive birdies of her own and sealed the win with a stunning wedge into the 18th to set up a birdie and topple Yin by four.
Henderson has won four of the last five times she’s held the lead going into a final round, and it’s that ability – to look forward and continue to make birdies rather than to look behind and bring the field back into play – which will see her continue to smash records and break history.
And as she returns to Portland this week to the very site of her first LPGA win, don’t be at all surprised to see her triumph yet again, perhaps even in the same dominant style as she did in 2015 as she aims to continue to fulfil her mind-boggling potential.