ORLANDO, FL — Brooke Henderson loved the opening day of a brand new LPGA season way more than the powerful, waning days of final season.
Her lopsided again feeling stronger and swinging the membership extra freely than she’s been in a position to since October, Henderson attacked Lake Nona on Thursday with a six-for-5-under 67 to take a one-shot lead at Hilton Grand Holidays. Champions.
Henderson, who completed third within the race to the CME Globe final yr, began rapidly with birdies on three of her first eight holes. She added three extra gamers in opposition to a single bogey in her indoor 9 competitors to take a one-shot lead over Nelly Korda, who’s the second-place finisher and the highest-ranked participant within the winners-only discipline this week.
“It feels actually good, to get off to a scorching begin, that is at all times an amazing feeling,” mentioned Henderson, who gained twice final season — together with her second profession main, on the Evian Championships. “I hope to maintain it going for the following three days, a number of momentum, a number of birdies. You actually need to return down right here if situations are going to remain the identical.”
Full discipline dozens of Hilton Grand Holidays Event of Champions
A yr in the past, gamers had been carrying hats and fleece layers in unseasonably chilly Florida climate. Thursday was a pleasant, sunny day with temperatures within the 80’s.
Though many of the gamers had been out for some time, a couple of confirmed rust. Seventeen gamers have damaged even of the 29 gamers who’re LPGA title winners in 2021 and 2022.
Korda, who gained the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona in early 2021, virtually matched Henderson, making 5 birdies in opposition to a lone bogey within the opening of 68.
She performed alongside former MLB participant Derek Lowe, the defending champion from the Combined Subject’s Well-known Athletes division. There’s a part for LPGA professionals and a piece for celebrities, and every part has its personal award. She and Louie, collectively for 3 rides within the occasion a yr in the past, spent the day motivating one another to maintain making birdsong.
“I am extra rooting for her,” Lowe mentioned. “It is a blessing to play together with her. I hope she wins.”
England’s Charlie Hull and first-time winners Gemma Dryburgh (Scotland) and Ashleigh Bohai (South Africa) opened with 69 seconds. Defending champion Danielle Kang powered her approach up the leaderboard early on, however bogeys at 12 and 13 left her in 1-under-71, tied for ninth.
Henderson’s 2022 marketing campaign ended with a whimper: She pulled out of her second-to-last begin in November and earned a tie for seventh on the CME Group Tour Championships in Naples, Florida, the place she lives. After that, it is time for some relaxation, then again rehabilitation.
Henderson had a bag full of latest golf equipment Thursday (so did Korda), and he swung onerous. Her solely blemish was a bogey on the par-3 17, the place she fanned a brief 8-iron and did not stand up and down, however instantly recovered with a birdie on the 388-yard 18. She plugged a move drive (she solely missed two passes), then hit the pitcher’s wedge to fifteen toes, Which led to the blow being diverted to a different chicken.
As for the again? no ache.
“As we speak it was fantastic, yeah, nothing, not even fascinated by it,” she mentioned. “I am simply ensuring I am doing the precise issues tonight (getting remedy) and tomorrow and hopefully the identical going ahead.
“It is nice to be aggressive and to have the ability to hit once more.”
Main the superstar division was a family identify for all — 72-time LPGA Champion Annika Sorenstam, a Lake Nona native. Sorenstam, who completed second in 2022, earned 39 factors within the modified Stapleford scoring system, two factors forward of 2021 champion Mardy Fish, a former tennis participant.
Her husband and caddy, Mike McGee, advised her when the tour was over that it was the primary ghost-free tour in fairly a while.
“It wasn’t on my thoughts,” Sorenstam mentioned, “however I am clearly very joyful to play right here with out a bogey.”