MIAMI (AFP) — Canada’s Brooke Henderson opened up a four stroke lead at the LPGA’s season-opening Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando after shooting a bogey-free six under-par round of 66 on Friday.
Henderson leads from American Nelly Korda who shot a three under-par round of 69 just hours after her tennis-playing younger brother Sebastian had enjoyed a surprise three set win over Russian Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Yuka Saso dropped to a share of 16th place after carding a one-over par 73.
The 20-year-old Filipino-Japanese made two birdies against a bogey and a double bogey to slip to 1-under 143, 10 shots behind Henderson.
After shooting a five-under opening round, Henderson wasted no time building upon her positive start making four birdies in a row from the second hole on.
Birdies on the 12th and 15th made sure that she ended they day comfortably on top of the leaderboard.
“It was a lot of fun to get four consecutive birdies on the front nine. Really kept the momentum going. To finish the back nine with two birdies too felt well nice,” said Henderson, who had played with ten-times major winner Annika Sorenstam and former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, both playing in the celebrity tournament.
“It was just really exciting day. Having an opportunity to play with Annika and John again was just really cool. I think everyone on tour, we all look up to Annika, so to have an opportunity to play alongside her, same group, was pretty special,” Henderson said.
Swede Sorenstam, who retired in 2008 after winning 90 tournaments as a professional, was impressed with what she had seen close-up from Henderson, particularly the Canadian’s long swing.
“I know she has this little drop kick, but she hits it out there. She gets some good distance, some good carry.”
“A lot of times when we look at people and people say, hey, give me swing advice, if she wasn’t a professional we probably would tell somebody, hey, shorten your swing a little bit,” she said.
“But somebody like that, you just don’t want to touch it. She’s got good feel and good touch and she hits it a long ways, so it works perfectly for her,” she said.
Korda was disappointed with her performance even with a positive scorecard.
“I was actually a little frustrated with my round today. I don’t think I was hitting or putting that good, especially on the front. I had a lot of opportunities,” she said.
“I’m going to go to the putting green and kind of figure it out. Overall, even if I didn’t have my A game, I still shot 3-under par and I’m happy with that,” she said.
Korda had said on Thursday that she was not going to get up in the middle of the night to watch her brother but was able to capture the final stages of his shock win.
“I saw him win in dining, so that was cool. I did actually wake up 30 minutes before my alarm just naturally knowing that he was playing.”
“Honestly, he’s put in a bunch of work. He has an amazing support system behind him, and it’s really cool and special to see him do what he’s doing. Hopefully he can continue making this run,” she said.
Korda’s Czech father Petr won the Australian Open in 1998 and her mother Regina was also a professional tennis player.
Completing the sporting family her older sister Jessica also plays on the LPGA Tour.