There is a passion to the way Brooke Henderson plays golf that makes her a ton of fun to watch. She attacks the course boldly, lashing at the ball and overpowering holes, not fearing the danger that may be out there. On Saturday, she dominated Ko Olina Golf Club in Honolulu with a 69 in a difficult wind to take the LOTTE Championship by four strokes over Azahara Munoz at 12-under-par 276.
Time after time, Henderson blasted a drive, quickly plucked her tee from the ground then walked to a ball well down the fairway, often 60 yards past her playing partner, Mo Martin, who began the day one stroke back. When the dust settled, Ariya Jutanugarn, Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng, who maintained her No. 1 position in the Rolex Ranking, were tied for third, five strokes behind Henderson. Martin was 10 back after a 78.
At just the age of 20, Henderson now has six LPGA victories including a major championship at the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Even more impressively, this is the fourth consecutive year in which she has won an LPGA event – a remarkable feat when you consider her age.
The Canadian started the final round with a one-stroke lead over Martin and two clear of Park and Nasa Hataoka, a 19-year-old from Japan. None of them were able to keep up with Henderson on a blustery day in which birdies were hard to come by.
The key hole for Henderson may have been No. 16, a par-3 where she made a four-putt double bogey in the third round. In this final round, she hit her tee shot from 191 yards with a 5-iron to 10 feet and rolled in the birdie to extend her lead to four strokes after Park made a three-putt bogey on the hole in front of her.
“I just had to overcome that,” she said about the Friday four-putt. “I just remembered all the good putts I made the first two days. I stayed confident and positive. All year, my ball-striking has been awesome It’s just been my putting. I hope to win a few more times this year.”
Henderson was also motivated by the recent bus crash in which 16 members of the Humbolt Broncos junior hockey team were killed. “I dedicate this win to what happened in Saskatchewan,” said Henderson, who wore a ribbon honoring the team.
Feng remains a relentless No. 1 in the Rolex Ranking. Even though she has such stars as Lexi Thompson, Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu chasing here, she keeps finishing high enough each week to earn ranking points and maintain her lead in an incredibly close race.
“I’m really happy with what I was doing all week,” Feng said as she maintained her No. 1 position for the 23rdconsecutive week. “If I can keep playing well, I can stay up there, “ she said. “The longer the better.”
But to stay No. 1 Feng will have to hold off a very talented crew of challengers. At the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open this coming week, Feng will have not only Henderson, but Inbee Park, Sung Hyun Park, Ryu and Thompson in the field. It seems like a very competitive LPGA season is about to get even more competitive.