by Mark Hayes
Brooke Henderson reared back and cracked another booming drive.
To the naked eye, it looked perfect, flying into the still morning sky at Royal Adelaide with a trajectory that made the mere mortals in the gallery sigh in longing admiration.
But to the young Canadian, it wasn’t quite right.
She leaned awkwardly and urged it to bounce kindly.
In hindsight, admittedly, it did nearly run out of fairway, but only because she’d nearly hit it far enough to run through the dog-leg on the par-five 15th hole.
From that position, her second was her typical combination of accuracy and ferocity, soaring to within a couple of meters of the green and leaving a short bump shot for an eagle try.
Moments later, the 19-year-old made an atypical groan as she caught fat her third stroke.
It was harder to tell which was rarer – the errant blow or that the delightfully polite Henderson had reacted with sufficient dissatisfaction that it even registered with a gallery clearly basking in her warm, engaging demeanor.
Nevertheless, a shot she’d leave short once every six months came up 1.5m shy of its target in the heat of battle in a national championship that she’d love to pocket.
But here’s the rub.
In a match, you wouldn’t have given her the putt, yet she stroked in the birdie putt as if she needed a blindfold to at least render it a challenge.
She’d played a hole with a couple of clear errors in her mind, yet the birdie was almost a fait accompli.
Henderson duly dumped her next blow, to the testing par-three 16th, into a greenside trap in which she was short-sided and facing a severe slope past the pin if she was anything but precise with her explosion.
The expansive gallery needn’t have worried.
Up. Down. No worries. Literally, it seemed.
And the beat went on: a missed green on 17, another birdie; an errant approach earlier on 13, a stunning rescue par putt; a wayward second on the third, another cool eight-footer for par.
All, as she later admitted, in the name of that critical golf commodity, momentum.
“For sure. I made a lot of really good putts early, a couple for birdie and then a couple to save par and those were really important,” Henderson summarized after her round of 69.
“I miss those and my energy loses a little bit and then I might not finish with a four-under round.
“I did miss two at the end that I would have liked to get to six under maybe, but early on I made a lot of putts and I’m really happy about that.”
So while Henderson will begin her second round four adrift of leader Katherine Kirk, it’s something of a stretch to consider a leaderboard without her name present come Sunday afternoon.
Ranked eighth in the world, one could argue that’s a logical conclusion to draw about the 2015 Canadian athlete of the year.
But it’s more the almost boundless potential she seems to have over and above even the most bright-eyed of this field full of young talent.
Henderson was asked after her round to give it a ranking.
“I’d probably say seven or eight,” she said modestly.
“It was a pretty good day today, I had a great group, which was really nice.
“I felt like my goal was to get off to a faster start and four under is a good way to do that this week.
“Four birdies, no bogeys, I’m pretty happy and hopefully will shoot another similar round tomorrow.”
So impressive has this young juggernaut become in two short years on tour that it’s hard to envisage that not happening.