If there was ever a year that Brooke Henderson upped her eagerness for the ANA Inspiration, this is it. Canada’s winningest professional golfer has historically struggled at the Kia Classic, which has been the final tune-up event for golf’s first major since 2010. This year is a different story.
She missed the cut at Aviara Golf Club in 2017 and 2019, but played the weekend in 2016 and 2018 with a top-10 finish her first year in Carlsbad. Henderson also earned a top-10 at Mission Hills Country Club that same season. Now she comes to Riverside County fresh off another Kia Classic top-10 performance with visions of keeping her confidence rolling.
“I was really happy to get a top-10 finish. That course has never been great to me, so it was definitely a confidence builder,” said Henderson, a major champion at the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and nine-time LPGA Tour winner. “My game is in a really good spot right now. [My caddie and sister] Brit and I have worked hard on a few [putting] things and it’s nice to see it paying off.
“Just trusting what we’re doing. It has been successful for a really long time, and sometimes you see great results and sometimes not as good as you would like. We’re always trying to improve every single day and trying to get a little bit better. Belief and trust are probably the two No. 1 things.”
This week marks Henderson’s seventh start at the ANA Inspiration, dating back to her amateur career. Despite a tie for second last September after coming up short in a three-way playoff with Nelly Korda and eventual winner Mirim Lee, Henderson feels the major championship magic and has a gameplan ready for round one.
“When you arrive here, it’s just a different atmosphere. You see Poppie’s Pond and the Dinah [Shore] statue, Wall of Champions. It’s just incredible and the golf course is in amazing shape,” Henderson said. “Growing up, this is the tournament as a little girl that you dream of playing in, watching and hopefully winning. For the men, it’s the green jacket. For us, it’s the jump into Poppie’s Pond.
“Hopefully I can start Thursday with a great round and put myself in contention on the weekend. I think having won a major championship, it makes the nerves a little bit better but they are always there. You just want the opportunity. It’s the best feeling to be in contention at a major championship on Sunday afternoon, playing against the best in the world on a great golf course.”
Henderson will begin chasing that exact opportunity off No. 10 tee on Thursday at 7:32 a.m. PT alongside a pair of major champions in Hinako Shibuno (2019 AIG Women’s Open) and Hannah Green (2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship).