HENDERSON SEPARATES HERSELF FROM FIELD
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Through two rounds in the inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, Brooke Henderson is tearing up Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando as she holds a two-stroke lead at 10-under par overall.
A former Epson Tour champion at the 2015 Four Winds Invitational, Henderson fired a bogey-free 4-under par 67 this afternoon to separate herself from her 25 fellow LPGA Tour competitors.
“My ball striking has been pretty good this week and I’m really happy about that,” said the 21-year-old Canadian and seven-time LPGA Tour winner. “I felt like I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities, but didn’t really make them most of the time. Sometimes I was hitting really good putts and they just didn’t break at the last second.”
With the rest of the field giving chase, Henderson had potential to really stretch her advantage as she hit all 13 fairways and 15 greens in regulation. However, 30 putts on the day kept her from going extra low.
Nonetheless, with her sister and Epson Tour alumna Brittany on the bag, they’ll continue to chip away.
“Working with Brit on the greens, I feel like overall we’re reading them really well and they will fall, we just have to stay patient,” said Henderson, who will head off No. 1 tee at 11:20 a.m. ET tomorrow in the final pairing. “It’s always fun to be in the final group and in contention. It’s what we play for pretty much every single week.”
BIG NAMES LOOMING
Not far behind Henderson is a pair of LPGA Tour veterans in Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn—a former No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and the current No. 1, respectively.
Both players sit tied for second at 8-under par overall after 36 holes and are also joined at that mark by first round co-leader Eun-Hee Ji.
“I think shooting 5-under yesterday was a good confidence boost to kind of say, ‘Hey, I did some good work during the offseason,’” said Ko, who went 3-under par today with five birdies and two bogeys. “I think this tournament is a great start to our season. At first I was a little worried because it is quite early in the year, but I would love every opportunity to play this event again.”
Meanwhile, Jutanugarn is picking up right where she left off at the end of last season when she was named the 2018 Rolex Player of the Year and won the Race to the CME Globe. A day after turning in a bogey-free 4-under par 67, Jutanugarn recorded the same score only with six birdies and two bogeys.
“I didn’t expect to finish 4-under today at all because I hit it everywhere,” said Jutanugarn, who will join Henderson in the final group tomorrow. “I kept missing fairways and greens. I have to work on everything and a lot. My short game did help me a lot today.”
KORDA JUMPS INTO TOP-10
A strong day two at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions by 2016 Epson Tour graduate Nelly Korda has her inside the top-10 and poised for a weekend run at a second career LPGA Tour title.
The 2018 Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship winner carded a 4-under par this afternoon, highlighted by seven birdies. She entered the second round tied for 15th.
“Every year the play out here gets better and better,” said Korda, who is tied for eighth at 5-under par overall. “Finally saw some putts go in and birdied my first two holes, so it was a really good start. Just stayed solid out there. Had a couple of bogeys, but I always bounced back.”
ALEX NEAR TOP OF LEADERBOARD ENTERING WEEKEND
This week’s unique format for the LPGA Tour season opener is a big hit among many, especially 2013 Epson Tour graduate Marina Alex as she continues to find success around Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando.
“I think this atmosphere has actually been pretty helpful,” Alex said after a 4-under par 67 in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions second round. “All these guys are just having a good time and I think it kind of takes a little of the edge off. It has been a ton of fun.”
After going out at 1-over par in the first round, Alex has recorded nine birdies and only two bogeys since. The trend of her game in a positive direction has the Vanderbilt University alumna eager to keep the consistency rolling.
“The first nine I played yesterday I was like, ‘Whoa, maybe I needed to practice more in the offseason,’” said Alex. “After that I got into a really good rhythm, made a lot of birdies on the back nine and it was really good to get that feeling again, get in the zone a bit. Today was definitely more of a steady round. I’m still in the thick of things.”
FISH REMAINS OUT OF WATER
At the top of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions leaderboard in the celebrity portion of the event is former American professional tennis player Mardy Fish with 78 points, also the 18-hole leader.
It’s no secret that Fish enjoys competing at Tranquilo Golf Course as he was a two-time winner of the Diamond Resorts Invitational, what the tournament was before it became a LPGA Tour event. This time around, he leads 2015 Major League Baseball (MLB) Hall of Fame inductee John Smoltz by one point and former two-time MLB All-Star Mark Mulder by six points.
“It’s just mental, just the mental side of playing an individual game and then playing out here,” said six-time ATP Tour champion Fish, who is in the final pairing tomorrow with Henderson and Jutanugarn. “We don’t do this very often, so we take it seriously. But, deep down we know that it’s just a celebrity golf tournament and we’re trying to raise a lot of money for kids so it is fun to be a part of.”
The 49 celebrities are playing a Modified Stableford scoring system. A double eagle earns 10 points, an ace earns eight points, an eagle earns five points, a birdie earns three points, a par earns two points, a bogey earns one point and a double bogey or higher earns zero points.