Brooke Henderson relished winning twice last year, but she was frustrated that she somehow still managed to slip out of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
With five players taking turns holding the No. 1 ranking in 2017, Henderson watched the door to the top spot open more widely than it ever has in the women’s game, and it motivated her this offseason to work to get in the mix for it.
She didn’t have to wait long for a reward.
With a 5-under-par 68 in heavy winds Thursday, Henderson took the first-round lead at the LPGA’s season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic. Sarah Jane Smith and rookie Luna Sobron Galmes were in the clubhouse one shot back when play was halted because of darkness with 12 players still on the course. Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and Danielle Kang were among six players two shots back.
Lexi Thompson opened with a 72 and sits tied for 13th.
Henderson, who climbed as high as world No. 2 after winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2016, opens this year at No. 14. She slipped out of the top 10 last year despite winning the Meijer Classic and McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open.
“I was a little disappointed with that,” Henderson told GolfChannel.com during the offseason. “But I know if I get a few wins early and some great finishes, I can start to move up back up. I want to get back in the top 10 and hopefully fight for that No. 1 spot in the near future.”
Henderson, 20, is in early position to win her sixth LPGA title.
“I just got off to a slow start in 2017, which is the complete opposite of 2016,” Henderson said.
Henderson was bogey free Thursday in tough conditions. She worked to polish up her short game in the off season, and there were early rewards. She kept her scorecard clean getting up and down six times in the first round.
“Putting was extremely difficult,” Henderson said. “My hat felt like it was falling off all the time, and it was just hard to have good balance and be over the ball for that long, and have a good stroke on it. I think by Sunday, we will all be pretty good wind players.”