ORLANDO, Fla. – Brooke Henderson enjoyed the first day of the new season on the LPGA Tour much more than the final weeks of the 2022 campaign.
His back stronger than ever and able to swing without holding back for the first time since last October, Henderson attacked the course at Lake Nona on Thursday, scoring six birdies to put up a 67 card, five under par at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.
Henderson, third in the CME Globe Race last year, kicked off his round with three birdies on his first eight holes. She added three more against a bogey on her back nine to take a one-stroke lead past Nelly Korda.
“It’s always a nice feeling to get off to a good start,” admitted Henderson, who won two tournaments last season, including his second major title, at the Évian Championship. I hope to be able to maintain this rhythm for the next three days, to achieve several birdies. You must have a low score here in these conditions, which are superb. »
While jackets and even toques were in order last year in unusually cold weather for Florida, the weather was very mild on Thursday, when the mercury approached 30 degrees Celsius.
Although most golfers only enjoyed a short off-season, few looked rusty. No less than 17 golfers out of 29 – the tournament is reserved for those who have been crowned in 2021 and 2022 – have played under par.
Earlier 2021 Gainbridge winner Korda played a similar round to Henderson: five birdies and a bogey for 68.
She played alongside MLB pitcher Derek Lowe, defending pro-am champion of the mixed tournament. There is a division for professionals and another for celebrities, each with separate scholarships.
“It’s such a great opportunity to play with her,” Lowe said. I want her to win. »
England’s Charley Hull, Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh and South Africa’s cards were 69. Defending champion Danielle Kang, however, couldn’t do better than 71, giving her tied for ninth place. .
Henderson’s 2022 season didn’t end on a high note. She had to drop out of her penultimate tournament, in November, before settling for a tied seventh place at the Tour Championship in Naples, Florida, before beginning a period of rehabilitation for her back.
“I didn’t need to worry about that today,” Henderson said. I make sure I do the right things. I will undergo treatments (Thursday) evening and (Friday) morning. (…) It’s good to be able to be aggressive again and to be able to play the shots that need to be. »
On the celebrity side, it’s a household name that finds itself at the top of the rankings: Annika Sorenstam, champion of 72 tournaments on the circuit. A runner-up in 2022, Sorenstam amassed 39 points in the modified Stableford format, two better than 2021 champion, ex-tennis player Mardy Fish.