Thanks to her lowest round of 2017, Canadian Brooke Henderson leads the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give by a shot over a myriad of golfers.
Henderson, who made six birdies and an eagle Thursday – with no bogeys – averaged almost 290 yards off the tee while hitting 77 percent of the fairways and 89 percent of the greens at Blythefield Country Club.
The 19-year-old said she ‘felt great’ from the start of her round. She came into this week on the heels of a tie for 11th at the Manulife LPGA Classic, her seventh top-15 finish of 2017.
“I felt like today was going to be a really good day,” she said. “Everything was just kind of going my way. I was hitting the ball really well and some putts were dropping, which is kind of a change from the last few weeks. It’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to the next three days.”
Henderson hasn’t won in 2017, but it just a few weeks away from defending her title at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She said Thursday’s round was a good sign for the rest of the week, and, hopefully, the rest of her year.
“I had a really good feeling today and I made a lot of birdies. I made a lot of putts, which is great, and I feel like my game is in a really good place,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the next three days and hopefully I can continue the strong play.”
Henderson one-shot lead is over six players including Holly Clyburn, Giulia Molinaro, fellow Canadian Jennifer Ha, Stacy Lewis, Shanshan Feng, and Lexi Thompson, who is coming off a playoff loss a week ago at the Manulife LPGA Classic.
Thompson made five birdies in a row at one point Thursday, and said she loves the layout in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as she can hit driver on almost every hole.
“This is definitely a great layout for my game,” she stated.
Ha, who played on Golf Canada’s National Team along with Henderson, had her lowest round of 2017 and held the lead briefly Thursday. Feng, meanwhile, is in contention again this week as she won on the LPGA Tour just a few weeks ago at the LPGA Volvik Championship.
She pointed to her putting as the key to her success Thursday.
“I thought my ball-striking was pretty good today, but my putting… I made most of my chances. I missed the last one on the last hole, but still, seven under is great,” she said.
“I would say putting is very important this week because the greens, some of the greens are pretty hilly so you have to get the right read and the right speed at the same time.”
Lewis shot her 7-under-par 64 in the much tougher afternoon wave, and continues her lead on the LPGA Tour in 2017 in first-round scoring average.
One shot further back is a trio of golfers at 6-under par including Simin Feng, Madelene Sagstrom, and Lydia Ko, who returned from three weeks away from competition on the LPGA Tour.
This week Ko also relinquished her No. 1 spot on the Rolex Rankings for the first time in 85 weeks.
Ko made eight birdies with one bogey, and said to play as solidly as she did was a positive.
“I think the three weeks were really good to just rest both physically and mentally,” she said. “There were a lot of things going on, so it was nice to just get away from it. But I did miss it and it's definitely nice to be able to come back.”
Ariya Jutanugarn, in her first event as World No. 1, struggled to an opening 2-under-par 69, and hit only 13 greens in regulation. But, she’ll tee off in the morning wave Friday in hopes of taking advantage of the more benign conditions.