A long birdie putt on the last hole of her round put Brooke Henderson into a one-shot lead following the opening day of The ANNIKA Driven By Gainbridge At Pelican; coverage continues on Sky Sports Golf from 3pm on Friday
Last Updated: 09/11/23 11:57pm
Brooke Henderson opened with an eight-under-par 62 to established a one-shot lead after the first round of The ANNIKA Driven By Gainbridge At Pelican.
The Canadian made a long birdie putt on her final hole, the par-three ninth, for a 29 on the front nine to move past a group which included Jin Young Ko and Patty Tavatanakit.
Henderson won the LPGA season opener in Florida and has not won since, falling to No 13 in the women’s world ranking and coming in at No 14 in the Race to CME Globe.
“Up until this year, ball-striking has definitely been a strength of mine, and hasn’t been as sharp as I would like the last couple months,” Henderson, who switched irons recently and felt she was headed in the right direction, said.
“To hit all 18 greens is more what I used to be used to a little while ago. It feels amazing not to have to get up and down and give myself a lot of birdie opportunities.”
This is the last tournament for the top 60 players to reach the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship down the coast in Naples. That is not an issue for Henderson or Ko, who is No 5 on the strength of two LPGA victories.
It is a different story for the others who were at 63, however. Tavatanakit, a former major champion, is at No 61 and got off to the ideal start.
“Obviously, I knew what I had to do,” Tavatanakit said. “I’m pretty stressed, but at the same time, I feel like I did everything under my control.
“I did everything with no regrets. I’m just going to be out here and know at the back of my mind that I did everything I could.”
Emily Kristine Pedersen is at No 80 and Minami Katsu of Japan is at No 78, and they also shot 63. Katsu rallied late on a beautiful day at Pelican Golf Club, starting the back nine with five birdies in six holes to get near the top of the leaderboard.
Lexi Thompson, playing for the first time since missing the cut by three shots in Las Vegas on the PGA Tour, opened with a 64 and was in a five-way tie for sixth. She has gone more than four years without winning, and she’ll likely need to finish third or better to make it to the season finale in Naples.
Thompson started on the back nine, made the turn and ran off four birdies in five holes.
“I just went into the day knowing I had to make birdies,” Thompson said. “It was perfect weather – maybe five miles per hour when it gusted – so ideal weather for us.
“I knew I had to make birdies, but I just tried to stick to my game plan with my swing shots and fire at the pins and give myself as many birdie opportunities.”
Defending champion Nelly Korda opened with a 70, while Lydia Ko had to settle for a 67, and at No 101 in the Race to CME Globe, she likely would have to be alone in second to reach the Tour Championship and defend her title.
Coverage of The ANNIKA Driven By Gainbridge At Pelican continues live on Sky Sports Golf from 3pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 4.30pm on Friday. Also stream with NOW.
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