The Country Club of Charleston has been described by many as a second shot golf course, but Brooke Henderson still will be looking to find her advantage off the tee this week at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I think it will be key to hit the ball out there a long way so I’ll probably hit driver on the majority of holes,” Henderson told Postmedia on Tuesday from South Carolina.
Henderson’s aggressive style and bombs away attitude has made her a fan favourite, but the 21-year-old says there is plenty of method to her madness.
“I think it’s a mix,” she said. “I like to say that I play smart even though I’m aggressive and when the opportunity’s there, I take it.”
Henderson arrived to brutal heat on Monday and got some practice in without going out on the course. She played nine practice holes on Tuesday and plans to play nine more on Wednesday, before Thursday’s first round. The temperature hit 38 C on Sunday in Charleston, setting a record for May. It’s expected to remain hot all week, but spending her winters in Florida has acclimated the Canadian to hot, humid weather.
Henderson is less familiar with the Country Club of Charleston than most stops on the LPGA, but plans to draw from her experience playing the course in the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“I love this golf course,” she said. “It’s in amazing shape and it’s definitely going to be a challenge. I think at any major championship hitting it long and straight off the tee helps — although the rough isn’t as long as it can be, it definitely is penalizing — so trying to hit the fairways and give yourself the best opportunities to hit your approach shots close.”
The course gets its reputation as a second shot golf course in large part because of the importance of landing your ball on the correct tier of the slopey, undulating greens. Henderson’s length and overall driving ability should allow her to approach the greens with shorter irons than many of her opponents.
With the heat showing no signs of letting up, the USGA will be able to set the course up as hard and fast as they like, and holding the greens could be difficult as the week goes on. Henderson understands that major championships often come down to putting and getting up and down from tough positions. She plans to spend much of her practice time finding the right and wrong places to hit shots around the large, often plateaued, greens on the Seth Raynor designed course.
Having already achieved perhaps her greatest career goal by winning last year’s CP Women’s Open in Regina, the next step for the eight-time LPGA winner is to add to her major total. Henderson won the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship in a playoff against Lydia Ko.
“Major championships are circled on everybody’s calendar,” Henderson said. “Everybody is trying to peak on these weeks but major championships are just different animals and there’s something special about being here. I think they mean a little bit more to everyone. I’ve played pretty well in the majors I’ve played in so far in my career and having won one gives me a lot of confidence coming in this week.”
Henderson is one of the favourites this week according to Las Vegas with 14/1 odds. Only world No. 1 Jin Young Ko (10/1) and No. 2 Minjee Lee (12/1) have shorter odds. Henderson, ranked sixth in the world, has six top-10 finishes and a win through 10 tournaments in 2019.
U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka recently said that when he’s on his game, he doesn’t feel that anyone can beat him. The Canadian Brooke wouldn’t go that far but says she’s not much interested in what anyone else is doing.
“I think it’s really important to just focus on yourself,” she said. “You can’t change what other people do. My game’s in good shape.”
Henderson tees off at 8:17 a.m. Thursday with Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019