Brooke Henderson’s mission at Mission Hills this week is to go one step beyond her perfomance of just seven months ago when the ANA Inspiration was played in sweltering September heat instead of its traditional April dates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mirim Lee chipped in for birdie on the sixth and 16 holes, then chipped in for eagle on the final regulation hole to reach 15 under and send her into a playoff against Henderson and American Nelly Korda. Lee’s birdie on the first extra hole clinched the victory and the traditional winner’s leap into Poppie’s Pond.
“Definitely a little disappointed how I finished last year, for sure, but Mirim played great and what a great champion,” said Henderson.
“I just wish I would have maybe performed a little bit better in that playoff, but I played great on that Sunday afternoon, so I think for me, it just gives me maybe a little bit of inspiration and maybe a little bit of momentum coming into this week,” she said.
That inspiration at the Inspiration comes during the 50th anniversary of a tournament that has returned to its normal place on the schedule and comes just a week after a tie for 10th fat the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif.
“I was really happy to get a top-10 finish. That course has never really been great to me, so that was definitely a confidence builder to get top-10 there,” she said.
“I feel like my game is in a really good spot right now, which is really nice, and I feel like (sister and caddie Brittany) and I have been working hard on a few things and it’s nice to see it paying off,” said Henderson.
“ We’re always working on consistency and trying to get a little better every day. For me especially, working on my short game has always been a big thing. I’ve been working with my putting and last week, I had a few days or holes where I was putting really, really well which, again, is a big confidence booster,” said Henderson, who began using a left-hand-low style from inside 10 feet last week in Carlsbad.
Putting is just part of it at Mission Hills, which will play 6,763 yards and par 72.
Henderson reports that the course is in great shape, but was playing firm during practice rounds, which makes it a different golf course than the one she played in the sweltering desert heat last September.
“Last year, it played a lot differently than it does normally just because of the time of year that it was played, but I’m hoping to take some of the things I learned last year and all the things I learned since I started playing this event in 2014 as an amateur and hopefully, I can use all that knowledge and just perform well,” said Henderson.
“Out here it’s really important to hit fairways. I also think that if you can hit it long off the tee, you definitely have an advantage, but with how long the rough is, most importantly, you have to hit fairways and then going into the greens with approach shots, you have to play smart,” she said.
“There’s a lot of different slopes and there’s definitely easier places to putt from for every pin location,” she said.
Henderson begins her quest for her second career major championship after winning the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at 7:32 a.m. local time on Thursday. Alena Sharp tees off at 8:38 a.m.