Brooke Henderson calls this his “hockey mentality”.
The 25-year-old Canadian arrived in Naples, Florida for the CME Group Tour championship this week, battling an upper back injury and playing just one competitive round in six weeks. She pulled out after 18 holes in the Pelican Championship last week and then canceled her pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday based on the recommendation to “get as much rest as possible.”
But Henderson, still in the race for the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year award, wasn’t going to let her season end without firing a single shot and giving herself a shot at the $2 million first-place prize.
She might not win on Sunday either, but she at least made things interesting with Saturday’s under-65 7-man matchup, which saw Henderson in fifth place, five shots behind the lead and staying in one round.
“Just trying to be tough,” Henderson said. “This is the final event of the year – I just really wanted to end this year on a strong note. I know I have a month and a half to rest, recover and do whatever I need to do to be ready for next year, so yeah, just holding on.”
Henderson travels around the Tiburon Golf Club on a makeshift swing. Her usual actions put too much pressure on her back, so she made some changes.
“It’s not how I want to swing,” Henderson said, “but it works just fine. … It’s hard not to reach my full potential this week, but I definitely did it and that’s all I can really ask for.”
The day after Henderson took out only one bird with three scarecrows, on Saturday Henderson left without a scarecrow, catching three birds and a pair of eagles. She didn’t like that she parried seven par-5s in a row after the first par to start her third round, so she went and scored two of the next three, batting from 30 yards at No. 6 and rolling for 20 yards. footer number 17.
“It really gives you a little extra bonus and a bit of momentum,” Henderson said.
Henderson will use all the momentum she can get given her preparation for this event. She last completed a 72-hole tournament in late September at The Ascendant LPGA, where she tied for 29th. Her last top 10 was the week before in Portland. She did not participate in the three events leading up to the Pelican.
However, thanks in large part to summer victories at the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Amundi Evian Championship, Henderson remained on the LPGA Points Player of the Year shortlist. She started the week looking to win and hoping the two players ahead of her, Lydia Ko and Minji Lee, would finish third or worse.
Full CME Group Tour Championship Results
Lee has nine shots from a two-way tie and leads at 15, but Ko is among the two co-leaders, tied for first with Leona Maguire, who shot 63 times on Saturday.
Henderson knows that leaving Naples on Sunday with whatever equipment is required will require something special. But in a sense, she had already accomplished what she was going to do this week.
“Honestly, after a week, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to play, so I was just grateful to be on the field and to be able to play,” Henderson said. “I was just hoping to last four days. Now, standing here for the third day, you know, I feel pretty good. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game and the end of the tournament. It was the most important event this week.”