Brooke Henderson retains Meijer LPGA lead as chase intensifies

Brooke Henderson produced some late birdies to retain a two-stroke advantage over Annie Park in the Meijer LPGA Classic. Aditi Ashok shot 74 to slip back to T38

76
Brooke Henderson - LPGA Images

LPGA Release, 16 June 2019: Brooke Henderson started the day with a three-stroke lead and despite a few mid-round bobbles, she maintained her spot atop the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. The Canadian star was even on the round through her first 15 holes but closed with birdies at 16, 17 and 18 hold the lead at -19.

“I was able to get a pretty easy birdie on 16, and then I was just trying to birdie in to see if I could jump up to the top of the leaderboard again,” said Henderson, who tasted victory at Blythefield Country Club in 2017. “It was definitely fun and hopefully I can kind of just keep this momentum going tomorrow.”

Annie Park - LPGA Images
Annie Park – LPGA Images

Annie Park trails Henderson by two strokes after a bogey-free 65 on Saturday, her lowest round of the season. Park’s fellow Americans Lexi Thompson and Brittany Altomare are tied for third at -16. Thompson ended the day with a 2-foot eagle putt on No. 18 for a 10-under 62, the second-lowest round of her LPGA Tour career.

“I had a great number into No. 18 today, I had a perfect 8 iron,” said Thompson. “It was a good number so I knew I could just fire at that pin. If not, keep it on the left side and two-putt birdie. I just aimed at it, just trusted my golf swing and ended up being just a few feet. It was good to end on an eagle in front of all the fans.”

LPGA rookie Jennifer Kupcho carded her third consecutive 67 on Saturday and is solo fifth in her third start as an LPGA Tour professional.

HISTORY ON THE LINE FOR BROOKE HENDERSON

Brooke Henderson started the third round of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give with a three-stroke lead over her nearest competitor and with only two players within six strokes of her lead. By the time she stepped to the 16th tee, it had all evaporated, as Henderson found herself in a four-way tie for the lead at -16 with Lexi ThompsonAnnie Park and Brittany Altomare. At even-par on her round through 15 holes, Henderson wasn’t necessarily playing poorly. She’d just plain been caught, with Thompson having finished a lights-out 10-under 62 six groups ahead and her fellow competitors Park and Altomare both sitting several strokes under par.

“I kind of found it hard to find my rhythm during the middle part of the round,” said Henderson. “I kind of got started batting third and that’s never a good sign.”

On that 16th hole, everything changed for Henderson. A 5-foot birdie got her started on No. 16 and she followed that up with another birdie at No. 17. A third birdie, this one from inside 3 feet, at No. 18 capped a remarkable final three holes for the 21-year-old Canadian, who pulled two strokes clear of the field heading into Sunday’s final round.

“It was a little bit up and down, but to finish with those three birdies was really nice,” said Henderson, who won the 2019 LOTTE Championship in April. “Kind of made my round feel a little bit better. Just happy. I feel like I’m hitting the ball well and giving myself a lot of great looks, which is exciting.”

If Henderson takes the win tomorrow, she could rewrite the Canadian golf history books. A win would be her ninth, moving her one clear of Sandra Post, Mike Weir and George Knudson as the winningest Canadian golfer on the LPGA or PGA Tours. But as to be expected, Henderson is not looking past the task ahead of her.

“Of course that’s in the back of your mind, but it’s long from over,” said Henderson. “There’s so many great players close to the top of the leaderboard. And this course, you know there’s a lot of birdies out there, so it’s going to take a low score. So hopefully I can just continue to hit good shots and give myself a chance for the win.”

LEXI THOMPSON’S JUST GETTING WARMED UP

Just one week after her win at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, Lexi Thompson finds herself again in contention heading into the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. The 2015 champion at Blythefield Country Club started the round 10 strokes behind Brooke Henderson in a tie for 19th but Thompson took advantage of the many birdie opportunities today in her third-round 62.

“There’s a lot of birdies out there,” said Thompson, who had 10 birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on the day. “You can fire at a lot more pins just because of how soft it is playing. But the rough is up pretty thick, so you just have to keep it in the fairways and you know you can have birdie chances.”

It’s been feast or famine in Thompson’s last six starts, with a win, three other top-three finishes and two missed cuts in that stretch. Today’s success? It all started with a good warm-up routine.

“I had a good warm up on the range, felt good about my game,” said Thompson. “You know, the last two days I haven’t struck it to my capability and what I’ve been working on in my game, but today, it kind of all fell together. I had a good warm up and just felt good and came out relaxed and started off with a birdie and from there it just kind of went.”

ANNIE PARKS HOPES TO BE CHASED IN FINAL ROUND

Annie Park has missed five cuts in her last six starts, even failing to defend her title at last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, where she became a Rolex First-Time winner in 2018. This week, she enters the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic just two strokes behind Brooke Henderson’s lead.

“I woke up early this morning just to finish the last hole. Made a birdie and it was a great start,” said Park, who arrived early on Saturday morning to finish the final hole of her second round. “Our group did try to finish [on Friday], but it was getting dark and we were like, ‘We’ll just come back tomorrow.’  I already made my eagle putt on 17 and I was like, ‘maybe I should play in the dark more often’ because I went birdie, eagle, birdie,”

Starting the day off with that closing second-round birdie on No. 9, Park continued play on Saturday carding seven birdies en route to her third-round 65.  

“Overall it’s been good with shots, short game, putting,” said Park, who made 25 putts on Saturday. “Hopefully I can keep that momentum going on for tomorrow and maybe some more birdies would be great. Can’t wait. I like the position of chasing the leader, but hopefully tomorrow at one point, I could end up with maybe being chased, so we’ll see.”