Henderson gives crowd lots to cheer for in first round at CP Women’s Open

AURORA, Ont. – Canadian golf fans have had the opportunity to see Brooke Henderson make some history over the last three years, but no one has had a better seat to the action than her sister — and caddy — Brittany.

On Thursday at the CP Women’s Open Brittany had another up-close-and-personal look to some serious golf, as Brooke shot a 6-under-par 66 in the morning wave and take the early clubhouse lead.

Her 66 matched the opening round she shot last year at the CP Women’s Open, which, of course, she went on to win.

The elder Henderson sibling told Sportsnet that they had a game plan in place to take advantage of the par fives – all of which Brooke could get to in two shots – but had to pace themselves in terms of attacking flags, since they teed off into a brisk wind.

Brooke saved par on two after nailing a lengthy putt which kept the round’s early momentum going. She putted well, Brittany said, and that will be the key for the rest of the tournament.

“It’s really exciting when she starts to make putts,” said Brittany, “because anything is possible.”

Brooke said after her round that although the plan that was in place – thanks to their early-week conversations with Magna Golf Club head professional Mike McMahon – to just bomb it out there and try to make as many birdies, the cooler temperatures in the morning forced them to adjust on the fly.

She bogeyed the par-4 fourth but would go on to make six birdies from holes 5-18. Her birdie on the final hole came after she knocked her drive into the rough. No matter, however, as she hit her approach to mere feet.

“I felt like I could have maybe chased a few more pins out there today,” Brooke admitted. “But I was kind of playing a little bit more conservative because it was so windy.”

Indeed, the wind forced the Henderson sisters to have a few more conversations than they normally do on a golf course. Still, Henderson finished strong and now gets to sit back and wait to see where she ends up at day’s end.

She said she credited the advice McMahon gave her prior to the tournament getting under way, and McMahon was noticeably fired up after Henderson finished.

“It looks like they’ve stuck to their game plan. It’s awesome to see,” he said.

McMahon said he spent a lot of time with Henderson explaining about the landing areas at Magna and kept making sure she was aware of how much of a factor the wind would play. It was a matter of picking good lines and sticking to them, and knowing where to miss.

“That was really helpful,” Henderson said of the conversations she had with McMahon. “It gave me that little bit of extra confidence knowing those lines off the tee and not just kind of guessing.”

It was a complete round for Henderson Thursday, who hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, 12 of 14 fairways and took 28 putts. Putting has long been the part of Henderson’s game that was critiqued. She sits 66th on the LPGA Tour in Putting Average this year.

But she bucked the trend on this day.

“My putter was really hot, especially for me today,” she said with a smile, “which was really exciting.”

Henderson gave the bustling crowds lots to cheer about Thursday, which were out in force early. With her putter rolling already boosting her confidence, she said seeing the big crowds helped out even more.

Although one of her playing partners, American Stacy Lewis, seemed to disagree (“I don’t know if she’s quite ready for it yet,” Lewis said when asked about what it was like to play in front of such a big gallery Thursday morning), Henderson was thriving on the opportunity to put on a show for the Canadian fans.

When asked if she felt butterflies this year as the defending champion, she said she actually felt the opposite.

“I think I was a lot more relaxed and more confident than I have been other years stepping on the first tee just knowing I have done this before. I have handled the pressure,” she said. “To get a solid round like this in in front of (the crowd) I think is really a confidence booster for me; gives me a lot of momentum going into the next three days.”

So one day down, three to go. But tournament organizers and fans couldn’t have asked for a better start to the CP Women’s Open.

And neither could Brooke Henderson, while sister Brittany looked on. Again.