ORLANDO, Fla. – Brooke Henderson enjoyed the opening day of the new LPGA season more than the rough and tumble days of last season.
Feeling stronger and swinging the club more freely since October, Henderson attacked Lake Nona with six birdies on Thursday for a 5-under 67 to lead the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament by one. lead the shots. Champions.
Henderson, who finished third in last year’s CME Globe Tournament, got off to an early start with birdies on three of his first eight holes. She added three more against one bogey on her inward nine to move one shot ahead of Nelly Korda, the top-ranked player at No. 2 in this week’s only winner’s field.
Henderson, who won twice last season – including his second career major at the Evian Championship – said: “It feels really good, to get off to a hot start, it’s always a great feeling. ” “Hopefully I can keep it going for the next three days, pretty fast. If the conditions stay this good, you’re going to have to be really low down here.”
Full field scores from the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions
A year ago, players were bundled up in fur coats and woolen coats in Florida’s unseasonable weather. Thursday was nicer, a sunny day with temperatures climbing into the 80s.
Although most of the players were coming off a short season, there were a few who showed their pride. In 2021 and 2022, 17 players left the 29-player field of LPGA winners.
Korda, who won the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona in early 2021, nearly matched Henderson, making five birdies to just one bogey in an opening 68.
She played alongside former MLB shortstop Derek Lowe, the defending champion of the celebrity-athlete division in the mixed field. There is a division for LPGA professionals and one for celebrities, each with its own prize fund. He and Lowe, who matched three rounds in the event a year ago, encouraged each other one day to continue making birdies.
“I stand up to her more,” Lowe said. “It’s such a privilege to play with her. I hope she succeeds.”
Charley Hull of England and the first winners Gemma Dryburgh (Scotland) and Ashleigh Buhai (South Africa) opened with 69. Defending champion Danielle Kang played into the lead early, but the boys at 12 and 13 left her at 1-under 71, tied for ninth.
Henderson’s 2022 campaign ended with a bang: She withdrew from her second-to-last start in November and tied for seventh at the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida, where she lives. After that, it was time for some much needed rest, followed by rehabilitation for the back.
Henderson had a bag full of new clubs on Thursday (as did Korda), and swung hard. Her only disappointment was a bogey at the par-3 17th, where she hit a short 8-iron and couldn’t get up and down, but she got that shot right back with a birdie at the 388-yard 18th. She holed a driver into the hole (she missed just two fairways), then hit the putt to 15 feet, and replaced the putt for the final birdie.
For the back? Without pain.
“Today was good, yes, nothing, didn’t even think about it,” she said. “I’m just making sure I’m doing the right things tonight (treatment) and tomorrow and hopefully the same goes forward.
“It’s great to be aggressive and be able to do it again after shots.”
Headlining the prestigious division was a familiar name to all – 72-time LPGA champion Annika Sorenstam, a resident of Lake Nona. In 2022, Sorenstam accumulated 39 points in the Modified Stableford scoring system, two points better than 2021 champion Mardy Fish, who already holds the title in tennis.
Her husband and caddy, Mike McGee, told her when the round was over that it was her first bogey-free round in a while.
“That wasn’t what I had in mind, but obviously I’m very happy to be here without a bogey,” Sorenstam said.