FIRST TIME IN BAMA
World No. 17 Brooke Henderson is visiting the state of Alabama for the first time this week, playing in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. Despite the Canadian native not knowing what to expect when making the trek to Alabama, she has been pleasantly surprised.
“It’s been really cool,” Henderson said. “When I got my membership, I was really excited to come to Alabama. It’s my first time and I didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s beautiful here and I’m really looking forward to the week.”
Henderson is coming off a whirlwind last few weeks. Between winning the Cambia Portland Classic, accepting LPGA membership, and playing in her home country, the time has flown by.
“It was extremely busy but it was an amazing week,” Henderson said. “The crowds were unbelievable. I don’t think I ever had that many people following me and cheering me on...And the attention, it was not really something that I was used to. The first couple days coming off the win and then the membership, had a lot of media around me. But it was a great learning experience and hopefully
I’ll have more of it and I’ll know how to react.”
The newest LPGA member has received a lot of attention recently, but it is something she can back up. Henderson has had five top-10s, including a win just two weeks ago in Portland. Henderson also went low on Sunday last week, shooting a 67 to finish T23 at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.
Playing conditions will be a change up for Henderson this week at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic here in Alabama, but the course seems to suit her eye. The Senator Course’ layout is open and tends to aid long hitters. For a player that averaged 270 yards last week in Vancouver, Henderson seems to be at an advantage.
“It is a very unique course and there’s a couple little things you have to be careful,” Henderson said. “But I think around the greens you can use the slopes. If you can get the ball out far, you have short wedges in, and it’s definitely going to be to my benefit so hopefully I’m hitting it long and straight this week.”
Henderson won her first LPGA event with a total score of 21-under par; the same score that M.J. Hur shot last year to clinch the 2014 Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. Henderson knows that it’s important to go low here and get into contention this weekend.
“Definitely the greens,” Henderson said. “If you get in the wrong places, it can be very challenging. I was trying some long putts today and you’ve really got to watch the grain and some of the slopes. I think if you can use the slopes to your advantage and make it so you get closer to the hole, just play smart around the golf course, I think you can really go low.”
FINDING THE TOUR’S BEST PUTTER
M.J Hur found a stretch of golf in 2014 – from late August through Mid-September – that was better than anyone in the game. Over those three weeks a year ago, she posted a tie for ninth in Portland, a tie for third – her best career finish in a major – at the Evian Championship and then came to Alabama and won the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. Although she posted four top-30 finishes in her next four starts, she failed to bring that momentum and level of play into 2015.
In 21 events so far, she’s posted 14 made cuts but doesn’t have a top-10 finish. She’s thinking that changes this week though as she’s hoping to find another late season surge. Despite hitting the ball better than she feels like this year than a year prior, her putter has let her down. Although she’s still in the top five in putting average per round, her putts per green in regulation is up from 5th on Tour a year ago to 36th this year (1.800). In comparison at this event a year ago, Hur averaged 1.63 putt per green in regulation, which is more than a tenth of a stroke better than Stacy Lewis’ tour-leading 1.738 average.
However, in her tie for 12th finish last week at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, her second best finish of 2015, Hur, annually one of the Tour’s premier putters, felt like she might have found the mode she found a year ago where she simply makes everything she looks at.
“I think my putting is getting working like last year starting in August,” Hur said.
If so, watch out!
HENDERSON EYEING WORLD TRAVEL
Brooke Henderson’s got dollar signs in her eyes. And visions of an Asian exploration with her sister, too.
To get both this fall, though, she’ll need to play well both here and at the Evian Championship - her last two chances to improve her standing on the money list before the commitment deadline for the Asian Swing. Henderson made $22,816 for her T23 last week at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, but will need far more earnings over the next two events to play her way into Asia. It’s why Henderson decided to accept LPGA membership immediately rather than defer until the start of 2016.
Sime Darby Malaysia LPGA (62), LPGA KEB HanaBank (58), Fubon Taiwan LPGA Championship (61), Blue Bay LPGA (61), and TOTO Japan Classic (43) all require players to be inside at least the top 62 on the money list to be guaranteed entry into the field. Each field’s threshold is in parentheses above with the alternate list being filled as they go down the money list. However, with only one event under her belt of official money, Henderson is only 132nd on the money list currently and to get into the five Asian events she’ll need a substantial jump.
“Well, it’s something that would be really exciting and something that I would love to go over and do,” Henderson said. “One thing that Brit and I have always wanted to do is travel the world and we would get to do it together if I make the Asian swing. However, I know it’s going to be very difficult this week and at Evian, which is a bigger purse, which is to my benefit. If I don’t make it, it’s not a huge, huge blow, it’s just I’ll get ready for next year. This way, it gives me the chance to play a really competitive fall season.”
Before her eight-shot win at the Cambia Portland Classic, Henderson was playing to make an amount equal to the top 40 on the money list to earn membership for the 2016 season. However, her win nullified that need, but she’s still eyeing the money list and her standing on it.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool how so many opportunities and so many doors have opened up for me,” Henderson said. “I’ve sort of just changed my goals along the way, and after the win things did get readjusted. I think if I can make enough money, it would be a lot of fun to go over to Asia. I would need at least two Top 10s or pretty close to that.”
NEW PUP JUST IN TIME
Defending Champion M.J. Hur might not have her dad on her bag this year, but she has another good luck charm to work with - her new puppy, Peach, who she brought to the driving range Wednesday on National Dog Day.
Hur took a detour coming back from her T12 finish at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open Monday. Instead of flying straight from Vancouver to Montgomery, Hur flew to Dallas to pick up her family’s newest addition. Peach, a two- month old maltie-poo, hopped in the car with Hur and played co-pilot as she drove nine hours from Dallas to Montgomery Monday night.
“Actually, I brought my puppy from Dallas, so I have to play with him. He’s only two months old,” Hur said. “He’s at the hotel by himself, barking.”
In addition to enjoying returning to the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic as defending champ, Hur and the other players enjoyed playing with the newest furball on Tour on the range Wednesday afternoon.
THE SELF-TAUGHT TEACHER
Kelly Shon, a self taught rookie that hasn’t had an instructor in over five years, led a Junior Clinic Wednesday afternoon on the driving range to help local girls golfers work on their game. The participants’ ages ranged from three years old up to 16 years.
Shon, a Princeton grad and current rookie on the Tour, answered an array of questions from grip and alignment to her experience with collegiate golf. This is the second-time that the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic has hosted the girl golfers in Alabama. Yokohoma Tires donated a bag full of golf gear for the participants in the clinic, as well over an hour of instruction from Shon.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1 - M.J. Hur’s 1.63 putts per green in regulation a year ago here at this event would rate 1st on the LPGA Tour by more than a full tenth of a stroke.
3 - M.J. Hur’s win here a year ago came at the back end of three top-10s in a row.
8 - This is the eighth time the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic has been held here at the Robert Trent Jones Trail
17 - Brooke Henderson opened the season at No. 223 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and enters this week No. 17.
21 - M.J. Hur’s record setting week here a year ago ended at 21-under-par for the tournament.
23 - Brooke Henderson finished in a tie for 23rd at her national championship a week ago in her first start as an LPGA member. After making the cut on the number, Henderson thrilled the patrons - and fellow Canadians - with a final round 67.