AURORA, Ont. — Brooke Henderson was hungry. She wanted to eat.
And rightly so. She had just built up an appetite putting in a full day’s work at Magna Golf Club. And it was a great day of work.
The 21-year-old darling of Canadian golf started her CP Women’s Open title defence with a sizzling 6-under-par 66, good for a share of second place on Thursday, one shot behind leader Annie Park of Levittown, N.Y.
“You know, right now, I’m excited to go have some lunch,” the world No. 8 said after being asked during her media scrum if she had any post-round cool-down rituals.
Henderson’s game was anything but cool during her opening round at the 6,709-yard Doug Carrick-designed course north of Toronto. In fact, it was pretty hot.
The Smiths Falls, Ont., native had seven birdies, including one from out of the rough on the 18th hole that drew hoots and hollers from the large gallery following her, and one bogey.
“I was actually really happy. (The ball) was sitting up. When I hit it (left) over there (off the tee), I was secretly praying that it would be sitting up and I would have a good lie, and it was,” she said of her birdie on the par-4 18th.
Equally hungry to Henderson, on the golf course at least, was fellow Canadian Anne-Catherine Tanguay, who hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation en route to a bogey-free 66.
Tanguay, who hasn’t played competitive golf in four weeks and whose best finish so far this season was at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June, seemed as surprised as anyone that she was just a stroke off the leader.
“It’s been a busy week so my preparation, I don’t want to say less than ideal, but I really had no expectations,” the native of Quebec City said.
Tanguay started her day on the back nine, where she carded a 1-under 35. Then she really got rolling when she dropped a 25-foot uphill bomb for birdie on her 10th hole and followed it up with four more birdies before signing for the 66.
“I wasn’t trying to hole it or anything, I was just trying to make par out there,” she said of the birdie at No. 10.
Tanguay’s putter was, indeed, working well — she needed just 29 putts on the day — and she said afterward that she felt as if she couldn’t miss.
“The greens, I felt like I was having a hard time picking up the speed early in my round, but then the back nine just felt like I couldn’t miss with my putter,” Tanguay said with a laugh. “When I was over the ball, I just had this feeling like it might go in. I had a bunch of 20-, 25-footers that fell.”
Tanguay had a chance of getting to 7-under on her final hole, the par-5 ninth, but her third shot checked up a little more quickly on the upslope than she expected, leaving her with a 12-footer for birdie, which came up inches short.
“I was happy with my shot because I hit it exactly the way I wanted,” Tanguay said. “It was an uphill lie and I was hoping it would release a few more yards there, but I was still really happy with the shot.”
Park, meanwhile, had an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys for a 65, which now stands as the competitive low round for the course. The 65 was also the lowest opening round in relation to par on the LPGA Tour this season.
“I was just trying to break my own personal record, I wanted to get to 9-under,” Park said. “Had a tough 17th hole, picked up a bogey, so I fell a little short. Hopefully, one day I can break my own record.”
The American, who has three top-10s this season, led the field in putting, needing just 25 to get around, and also tied for first in birdies and eagles.
Jin Young Ko, who has won three times on the tour this year, including two majors, is in a group with Henderson, Tanguay, Pajaree Anannarukarn and Nicole Brock Larsen at 6-under.
“I felt like it was really a long time to play on the LPGA Tour because I played two weeks ago in the Jeju Island Korean tournament, and then I rested for a week, so feel really fresh,” said Ko.
A group of four players is a further stroke back at 5-under.
Three-time CP Women’s Open champion Lydia Ko of New Zealand is tied for 82nd at 1-over par.
EYE ON SUCCESS
Tanguay was lucky she was even golfing on Thursday. She woke up in the morning with a puffy eye and had to call the doctor.
“I was a little worried there, but it was good to get some extra rest,” said Tanguay, who didn’t tee off until 12:52 p.m. “The doctor just told me to take allergy medicine and put some ice on it. I think it didn’t even cross my mind today so it’s fine now.”
Some work with Canadian women’s national team coach Tristan Mullally this week helped Tanguay get her game on track.
“I knew I was hitting it well, but yesterday (Tuesday) I did some work with Tristan and we tweaked a few little things and it just kind of paid off today.”
Tanguay’s expectations for the second round on Friday seem tempered.
“I’m going to be nervous and I know it’s not going to be easy. I just want to keep making aggressive swings and give myself some chances, that’s it.”
Henderson’s driver was working for her Thursday, as it usually does, and as a result she hit nine of nine greens in regulation on the back side and 16 of 18 overall. She also used her length to take advantage of the par-5s, birdieing three of the four.
“I just tried to hit a lot of fairways, give myself good looks at birdies and made a few on the front nine. That kind of calmed my nerves a little bit,” said Henderson, who naturally had some jitters coming in as defending champion. “Then everything just sort of went right.”
Even her putting, which doesn’t always.
Henderson needed just 28 putts on her round, none of them three putts.
“My putter was really hot, especially for me,” said Henderson, who ranks 32nd on the LPGA Tour in putts per greens hit in regulation. “When I needed to save par, like on the second hole, that was sort of a testy five- or six-footer. To get that and make par and keep my round alive, to start the day like that was really key.”
Henderson, who teed off at 7:59 a.m. with American Stacy Lewis and Minjee Lee of South Korea, said at her Tuesday news conference that defending the title she won last year at Wascana Country Club in Regina to become the first Canadian to claim our national championship since 1973 was going to be “extremely hard. It’s just facts, I think.”
But after her opening round, that task looks like it might be within reach.
“There’s still lots of golf to be played. It’s one round of four,” she said. “It’s nice to be in a position where I had a good round. Hopefully, I can continue to stick to my game plan, make a lot of birdies, and I would love to be in this position on Sunday.”
A little inside knowledge may have gone a long way for Henderson during her opening round at Magna. Head pro Mike McMahon took her for a tour of the course during media day in July and gave her some inside info.
“Mike is great,” she said. “We didn’t play, but he gave us some hints and tips. And during both my practice rounds (this week), he was out on the course and kind of helped me find my way around. I think that was really helpful and it gave me a little bit of extra confidence knowing that was the line off the tee and not just kind of guessing.”
Never hurts to know people in high places.
The next best Canadian behind Henderson and Tanguay was Megan Osland of Kelowna, B.C. She shot an even-par 72, good for a T65. Veteran Alena Sharp is a further shot back and tied for 82nd … Park has some Canadian connections. Her coach and trainer are from Toronto and she has a friend who lives in Richmond Hill. “I was downtown on Sunday,” Park said. “They had a lot of festivals going on. I love Toronto, there is a lot of good food.”
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