ORLANDO, Fla. — Brooke Henderson went from full management of her recreation for 2 days to having to scratch out an excellent rating Saturday. The consequence was a 3-under 69 and a three-shot lead within the Hilton Grand Holidays Match of Champions.
Henderson was up for the struggle and moved to 14-under 202 within the LPGA Tour season opener at Lake Nona. The Canadian will take a three-shot lead over Nelly Korda (68) and Nasa Hataoka of Japan (66) into the ultimate spherical.
Maja Stark of Sweden (68) and Charley Hull of England (69) path by 5.
After a pedestrian stretch of golf early on her second 9 that included a bogey on the par-4 twelfth – solely her second bogey of the week – Henderson managed to slip in a 30-foot roller for birdie from the left facet of the sixteenth inexperienced.
It was an enormous bonus, returning a small dose of momentum after her recreation had surprisingly stalled after 2 1/2 rounds of red-hot play.
Henderson missed a brief birdie putt on the 14th gap – a par 4 the place the tee was pushed as much as solely 229 yards – and didn’t rise up and down for birdie on the reachable par-5 fifteenth, the place her strategy shot tugged left of the water-guarded inexperienced however at the least had the great fortune to remain up. She did not benefit from the break, settling for par. Then got here the surprising slider on 16, which offered a pleasant, and wanted, elevate.
“That putt on 16 was an enormous assist,” mentioned Henderson, who’s chasing her thirteenth LPGA victory. Final season she received twice, together with her second main, the Evian Championship in France, however ended the 12 months battling a nasty again. “It wasn’t fairly as clean at the moment, however huge putts like that in huge moments positively assist.”
Henderson began the day with a four-shot benefit and stretched the result in 5 by the point she made the flip. Then got here the bogey at 12, and with Hataoka and Korda closing quick over the ultimate holes, the match was again on once more.
Henderson was up for the problem, embracing it, the truth is. Having ended 2022 slowed by harm that required relaxation and rehab, and carrying 14 new golf equipment within the bag to begin 2023, she is correct the place she desires to be for the primary Sunday of the season.
“It is simply a lot enjoyable to be in competition and within the ultimate teams on the weekend and proper within the combine,” Henderson mentioned. “That is one of the best feeling that there’s.”
Hataoka, a six-time winner on tour, was the most well liked participant on the course, making birdies on seven of her ultimate 10 holes, posting a back-nine 30 and signing for a 66 that left her in place to attempt to chase down Henderson on Sunday.
“Yeah, I used to be dialed in,” Hataoka mentioned. She mentioned when she made a birdie on the par-5 ninth to climb again to stage par for the day, every thing about her recreation modified. “So glad I used to be capable of change that.”
Likewise, Korda, sidelined 4 months in early 2022 after a blood clot was faraway from her left arm, took some time to get going. Her putter wasn’t very cooperative on the opening 9, and hasn’t been all week. All of a sudden she ran off 4 birdies in a five-hole stretch beginning on the eleventh to guarantee that Henderson’s final-round should be strong to prevail.
Korda’s key for Sunday? For one, she must get off to a greater begin. In all three rounds she struggled to make birdies on the entrance 9.
“I believe you’ve got simply received to search out the underside of the outlet,” Korda mentioned. “That is the important thing out right here. I do not know what the climate is meant to be like, however they’re projecting it to be fairly windy, so simply hitting some constant pictures and getting the ball within the cup.”
Retired tennis participant Mardy Fish continued to dominate the 56-player celeb division, stretching his lead within the Modified Stableford factors format to 14 factors.
Probably the most attention-grabbing race on Sunday in that division needs to be for second. Fish (117 factors), the 2021 champion, opened an enormous lead over army veteran Chad Pfeifer (103), former NHL standout Jeremy Roenick (103) and Lake Nona resident and LPGA nice Annika Sorenstam (102).