The good news for Brooke Henderson at the third major of the season is that she’ll have her sister Brittany back on the bag for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
A work visa issue prevented Brittany from working in her traditional role as her sister’s caddie at last week’s Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich,, where Brooke missed the cut at an event she’d won two of the previous years.
Evertte Nini was on the bag, the first time Brooke had been without Brittany since 2016.
“We’ve worked together for five years and she just knows me so well, so things are very easy. Evertte was great. He did a great job. I didn’t play that well, but he was right there for me and helped me out a lot,” said Brooke, who shot 75-67 in her first two rounds in Grand Rapids.
“I think just explaining what I wanted to happen and speaking my mind, where normally Brit kind of knows what I’m thinking already, so that was probably the biggest challenge. Somewhere down the road when I do have another caddie, I just have to remember to speak clearly and really explain what I’m trying to do,” added Henderson, who withdrew from the LPGA Mediheal Championship near San Francisco a week earlier due to a non-COVID illness.
“I think I was just still on the recovery last week, but I’m feeling much better now. I feel like the confidence may have shifted a little bit, but I still have played really well this season,” she said.
“I feel like over the last few days, I flew home back to Florida after the missed cut last week and just kind of got a couple days to myself to rest and to regroup and practice. I feel like I’m in a much better place,” she added.
“This championship has always meant so much to me, so it’s been very special. I’m just excited to tee it up on Thursday and hopefully get four solid rounds together,” said Henderson.
It’s no surprise that the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is special for Henderson, who won her first major championship at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., in a playoff with Lydia Ko in 2016.
A 90-foot eagle putt from off the green at a major championship?
— LPGA (@LPGA) June 22, 2021
The following year, she finished second to Danielle Kang, falling just one shot short of a playoff. Last year, Henderson finished sixth.
“It always comes down to short game on the weekend, but to put myself in good positions, it will be ball striking. That’s definitely my strength, so I’d like to take advantage of that,” said Henderson, who will play the first two rounds this week with Anna Nordqvist and Michelle Wie West.
“Hopefully, my ball striking is right where it needs to be, where I can hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens, and when the birdie putts are there, hopefully I can capitalize,” she said.
“With any major championship, you hit a tough shot, you’re going to be in a tough position and you’re going to struggle to make par. Yeah, just like any major, you’ve got to hit it well to succeed, but here if you get short-sided, if you try to cut corners, it could end badly. You have to stick to the high side and the correct sides of each fairway and greens as well,” she added,
The Atlanta Athletic Club will play at 6,831 and par 72 and Henderson expects it to test her ball-striking.
“On the front nine, lots of times, the bunkers are up the right-hand side and as long as you’re left of them, you’re good and then, on the back nine, there’s bunkers on both sides and you kind of have to hit a little bit straighter in between them,” she said.
“The two nines play very differently, actually. Off the tee, it’s two very different styles of play. That will definitely be interesting and hopefully get a good strategy together to play it well,” said Henderson.
“I’m excited that it’s playing long. Hopefully, the length comes in as a bit of an advantage for me. I feel like my ball striking is trending in the right direction right now and that’s always very key to give yourself lots of good birdie looks, especially on a hard golf course. The better you hit the ball, a little easier you put it on yourself, so hopefully that will be the case,” she said.