Canadian Brooke Henderson birdied six of her final nine holes to take a one-shot lead when darkness halted first-round play Thursday at the Annika tournament.
Henderson, seeking her 14th career LPGA title, shot an eight-under par 62 with nine birdies against a solitary bogey at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida.
“It was really great to make a lot of birdie putts,” Henderson said. “It’s nice to see the ball go in the hole. And especially on my back nine, actually the front nine, I made a lot of birdies.
“It’s fun. I feel like my game has been trending in the right direction for a while now and it’s nice to see a good day happen.”
Henderson thus has a lead over the South Korean Ko Jin-young, the Japanese Minami Katsu, the Thai Patty Tavatanakit and the Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen.
Henderson won her only LPGA title of the year at January’s Tournament of Champions, but was runner-up at the Evian Championship in defending her major title and made an early charge at the penultimate event of the season, reaching the 18 regulation greens.
“It’s amazing to not have to go up and down and give myself a lot of birdie opportunities,” Henderson said.
The 26-year-old Canadian started her round on the back nine and made three consecutive birdies starting at the par-3 12th, but earned her only bogey of the round at the 18th.
Henderson responded with birdies at the par-3 first and third holes, then unleashed another three-birdie run ending at the par-5 seventh and closed with a birdie at the par-3 ninth to take sole lead.
“Bonus for getting the one out of nine,” Henderson said. “It was a long one and I’m really glad I made it to the hole because it was a cruise.”
Pedersen, a five-time Ladies European Tour winner who helped Europe retain the Solheim Cup in September, is seeking her first LPGA triumph. She made seven birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on the par-4 eight.
“A pretty solid tee all the way to the green,” she said. “It went a little hard on the eight hole for eagle but I’ll take it. Lots of chances and lots of birdies.”
World number four Ko closed the front nine with three birdies in a row, made three more in a row from 11 and added another at 17.
“I played really well. It took a while to play really well this year, so I’m really happy with that,” Ko said.
– ‘Good flow’ –
Ko has won 15 LPGA titles, including this year’s Founders Cup and the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.
Patty had her bad round of the year as she seeks her second LPGA victory, the first major at the 2021 ANA Inspiration.
“My score has been really good in the last two tournaments. I feel like I’m making birdies,” she said. “But today I didn’t make any bogeys, so it went well. Overall, it was a good run.”
Katsu, an eight-time Japan Tour winner, opened with back-to-back birdies and birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine to make a late charge.
“Hit the ball very consistently,” she said. “I was doing really well.”
American Nelly Korda, the reigning Olympic champion seeking a third consecutive victory in this event, opened with a 67.
Korda, sixth in the world rankings, could become the first LPGA player since South Korea’s Park In-bee at the 2013-15 Women’s PGA Championships to win the same event three times in a row.
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