AURORA, Ont. – Making the turn at Magna Golf Club, one of Brooke Henderson’s many supporters turned to the group she was with and said, “I hope she leaves the haters on the front nine.”
There were some doubts. A couple of rumblings about what the day was going to look like.
Henderson made two bogeys in her first six holes and fell a long way back of the lead. She was eight back at one point. It looked like it might be one of those weekends where hope alone couldn’t carry her to the winner’s circle.
But this is Brooke Henderson we’re talking about. It was game on before we knew it.
The haters were left in the dust.
Henderson found a young boy in the crowd to give a high five. She did it a few times, she said, and something about that connection helped turned her day around.
The 21-year-old made a birdie on the Par-3 8th after knocking her tee-shot stiff. She birdied the Par-5 9th, too. Add another on 10, an eagle on 12, another on 13, 14, 16, and 17.
The focus was there.
Fans were out in force on another beautiful day in Aurora. They drank a few more beers and got a little louder – because it’s Saturday afternoon – but Henderson ignored that.
She engaged only with the youngsters against the ropes, many of whom were dressed like her. Otherwise, she had that look.
Lorie Kane called it in 2018 the ‘goalie eyes’ – since Henderson was a former hockey goalie growing up in Smiths Falls, Ont. The mouth was pinched together. Her walking pace is steady. She knows exactly what the task-at-hand is. A laser-like focus.
It was all about executing on this day, until it wasn’t.
Henderson had a game plan she had been trying to follow all week, and she was doing her best to stick to it early. She said she thought the wind was going to be coming from a different direction which threw her and her sister off their plan a little bit.
“I think we still stuck to our strategy that we had all week going into every hole with and what we talked about last night. I think we were maybe a little bit wiser with where the wind was coming from,” she said after getting more into the round.
She admitted she was struggling but still playing decent golf. Things, she said, weren’t going her way, until she high-fived the little boy.
“I think starting at the time he kind of cheered me up a little bit. I think I tried to get back to even on the front nine. Going to the eighth tee I was trying to just make two birdies, get it back to even, and then see if I could go really low on the back, which I did,” she said.
Henderson’s putter has long run hot-and-cold, but it was arguably the hottest it’s ever been on Saturday afternoon. Henderson said the greens were more receptive than the prior two days, and she needed only 26 putts – tied for second best on the day.
“It was nice to have my putter on my side. To be honest, my putter has been bailing me out a lot this week. Today I made a lot of putts. I felt really confident with it. Felt like my speed was good. As long as I was seeing the line they seemed to be falling,” she said. “It was just a lot of fun out there.”
Henderson heads into Sunday two shots back of the lead held by two golfers who couldn’t have different resumes.
Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark has shot three straight rounds of 66 this week, but has never won on the LPGA Tour. She has a win on the Ladies European Tour, but that was three years ago. It’ll be her first time in the final group on Sunday on the LPGA Tour.
Rounding out the final group Sunday will be South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, who is No. 1 in the world. She’s won two majors this year alone. She’s looking for her fourth win in 2019.
Ko said she heard from the crowd on “every hole” since Henderson was playing ahead of her Saturday.
“I know. I know she’s Canadian and here is Canada,” she said. “Every shot. Brooke.”
Henderson, who has come from behind on Sunday in three of her nine wins, knows she’ll need a special final round to take down the best player in the world. She said she was disappointed with how far back she got early Saturday, and she got motivated to make more birdies and climb up the leaderboard as fast as she could.
“I’m still behind,” she said, “but hopefully I can get off to a faster start tomorrow and just see what happens.”
There’s no room for haters. Brooke Henderson has a chance at glory on Sunday, and sometimes all you need is a chance.