ORLANDO, FL — Brooke Henderson loved the opening day of a brand new LPGA season far more than the powerful, waning days of final season.
Her lopsided again feeling stronger and swinging the membership extra freely than she’s been in a position to since October, Henderson attacked Lake Nona on Thursday with a six-for-5-under 67 to take a one-shot lead at Hilton Grand Holidays. Champions.
Henderson, who completed third within the race to the CME Globe final yr, began rapidly with birdies on three of her first eight holes. She added three extra gamers in opposition to a single bogey in her indoor 9 competitors to take a one-shot lead over Nelly Korda, who’s the second-place finisher and the highest-ranked participant within the winners-only discipline this week.
“It feels actually good, to get off to a scorching begin, that is all the time an important feeling,” mentioned Henderson, who gained twice final season — together with her second profession main, on the Evian Championships. “I hope to maintain it going for the subsequent three days, a whole lot of momentum, a whole lot of birdies. You actually need to come back down right here if situations are going to remain the identical.”
A yr in the past, gamers have been sporting hats and fleece layers in unseasonably chilly Florida climate. Thursday was a pleasant, sunny day with temperatures within the 80’s.
Though many of the gamers had been out for some time, just a few confirmed rust. Seventeen gamers have damaged even of the 29 gamers who’re LPGA title winners in 2021 and 2022.
Korda, who gained the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona in early 2021, nearly matched Henderson, making 5 birdies in opposition to a lone bogey within the opening of 68.
She performed alongside former MLB participant Derek Lowe, the defending champion from the Combined Discipline’s Well-known Athletes division. There’s a part for LPGA professionals and a piece for celebrities, and every part has its personal award. She and Louie, collectively for 3 rides within the occasion a yr in the past, spent the day motivating one another to maintain making birdsong.
“I am extra rooting for her,” Lowe mentioned. “It is a blessing to play together with her. I hope she wins.”
England’s Charlie Hull and first-time winners Gemma Dryburgh (Scotland) and Ashleigh Bohai (South Africa) opened with 69 seconds. Defending champion Danielle Kang powered her means up the leaderboard early on, however bogeys at 12 and 13 left her in 1-under-71, tied for ninth.
Henderson’s 2022 marketing campaign ended with a whimper: She pulled out of her second-to-last begin in November and earned a tie for seventh on the CME Group Tour Championships in Naples, Florida, the place she lives. After that, it is time for some relaxation, then again rehabilitation.
Henderson had a bag full of recent golf equipment Thursday (so did Korda), and he swung laborious. Her solely blemish was a bogey on the par-3 17, the place she fanned a brief 8-iron and did not stand up and down, however instantly recovered with a birdie on the 388-yard 18. She plugged a cross drive (she solely missed two passes), then hit the pitcher’s wedge to fifteen toes, Which led to the blow being diverted to a different chicken.
As for the again? no ache.
“Right this moment it was effective, yeah, nothing, not even fascinated with it,” she mentioned. “I am simply ensuring I am doing the appropriate issues tonight (getting remedy) and tomorrow and hopefully the identical going ahead.
“It is nice to be aggressive and to have the ability to hit once more.”
Main the celeb division was a family title for all — 72-time LPGA Champion Annika Sorenstam, a Lake Nona native. Sorenstam, who completed second in 2022, earned 39 factors within the modified Stapleford scoring system, two factors forward of 2021 champion Mardy Fish, a former tennis participant.
Her husband and caddy, Mike McGee, instructed her when the tour was over that it was the primary ghost-free tour in fairly a while.
“It wasn’t on my thoughts,” Sorenstam mentioned, “however I am clearly very blissful to play right here with no bogey.”