Henderson strong in France
EVIAN-LES-BAI NS, France — Canada’s Brooke Henderson is two shots back of the lead after the first round of the Evian Championship.
The 21-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., shot a 4-under 67 on Thursday. Maria Torres of Puerto Rico and Carlota Ciganda of Spain lead the way at 6 under in the final major of the LPGA Tour season.
“Played really well today,” Henderson said. “Hit the ball in really good spots and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities, which is really exciting.
“I didn’t capitalize as much on my back nine as I would’ve liked to, but overall to shoot minus-4 on this course golf course, I’m really happy with it.”
Henderson is coming off a win at the CP Women’s Open last month in Regina, her second victory of the season.
She took a week off at home last week and said that’s paying off.
“I feel like I’m back in playing form,” Henderson said. “I tried to play the next week (in Portland) but kind of lost some energy. I feel like the energy is back and I’m hitting the ball well.”
Torres is aiming to stylishly cap a rookie season that hurricane Maria almost denied her.
Torres, the first Puerto Rican player to get an LPGA Tour card, went birdie-birdie-eagle from the 13th to 15th holes.
“I just want to come here and play, and whatever happens, happens,” Torres said.
Carefree laughs flowed from the 184th-ranked Torres, who last September was on her home island when the hurricane struck.
In the aftermath, the University of Florida graduate struggled to register for the second part of tour qualifying school. Finally, at Daytona Beach in December, Torres won a three-way playoff to claim the last tour card on offer.
Nine months later, the 2016 Southeastern Conference college player of the year is relishing her first competition in France.
“It’s awesome to be here,” Torres said. “I love it, I’m like almost rolling down the par-3s with all I’ve been eating here.”
Torres matched a target set by the 21st-ranked Ciganda, who had six birdies and no bogeys on the 6,523-yard Evian Resort Golf Club course.
Both excelled on the par-5s. Torres played the four long holes in 5 under, including her eagle at No. 15, against three birdies for the 28-year-old Ciganda, who previously helped Arizona State win a college title.
One shot back, Austin Ernst of the U.S. made eagle-3 at the 13th in a 5-under 66 to stand alone in third place.
A three-player group on 67 included Nasa Hataoka of Japan, who won the qualifying school tournament, Henderson, and twotime major winner So Yeon Ryu of South Korea.
Georgia Hall, a homegrown British Open champion last month, had a bogey-free 68 to stand in a big group on 3 under which included seven-time major winner Inbee Park of South Korea.
Top-ranked Sung Hyun Park had a tough day, shooting a 6-over 77 playing in the same afternoon group as Hall. The South Korean player, who won the PGA Championship in July, dropped shots at four of the first five holes.
“Nothing went well,” Park said through a translator. “It was a very disappointing day.”
Defending champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and fifthranked Lexi Thompson of the U.S. shot even-par 71s among the early starters, who enjoyed the best of 27 C heat.
Forecast stormy rain held off just until the last groups completed play, including 16-year-old American Rachel Heck who had a 1-under 70 in her second major.
“I was looking around thinking I can’t believe I am actually here,” said Heck, a native of Memphis, Tenn., who got a wild-card entry.
Brooke Henderson plays a shot from the fairway during day one of the Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France. Henderson shot a 4-under 67 on Thursday to sit two shots back of the leader, Maria Torres.