She came, she saw, she conquered. Canada’s Brooke Henderson braved the elements and walked away from Auckland’s Windross Farm Golf Course with the MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open.
Henderson shot a final round 69 to finish 17-under par and five strokes clear of China’s Jing Yan in the weather-affected tournament that required a Monday finish. Korea’s Hee Young Park was outright third at 11-under with America’s Jennifer Song a further stroke back at 10-under.
Spain’s Belen Mozo, the 54-hole leader, imploded with a final round 78 to tie for fifth alongside Australia’s Su Oh and another Spaniard Beatriz Recari.
Tournament host Lydia Ko endured a scrappy finish to card a 75 for T-22 at five-under, 12 strokes shy of her 20-year-old Canadian rival.
New Zealand-based Korean A-Yean Cho was T-17 and the leading amateur on six-under. Cathryn Bristow was next best of the Kiwi contingent, finishing T-33 at two-under.
Beginning Monday four strokes clear with 12 holes to play, Henderson’s victory was as comprehensive as you would find on the LPGA Tour, the first event held on Kiwi soil.
After opening with a seven-under 65 on Thursday, Henderson was relentless. She notched 20 birdies for the tournament and dropped just three shots over 72 holes. Two of those came today when the fourth round resumed.
After making a bogey at the 17th (her eighth hole) on Thursday, Henderson went 53 holes without dropping another shot. She had an unassailable lead by the time she bogeyed the eighth today.
“This is so amazing to get my first win outside of North America, my fifth win on the LPGA Tour, it is incredible. It is a dream come true and to do it in New Zealand – I am really excited to be here,” Henderson said.
“Brittany (her sister/caddie) and I did an extremely awesome job of adapting to those conditions. All day yesterday I was trying to overcome that one-shot deficit in case the tournament got cut short. That drive and that push to keep making birdies is what got me in this position.
“Normally this type of golf course doesn’t suit my game. But it now gives me a lot of confidence going forward with the British Open and things like that knowing that I can play well on links golf courses and especially in terrible conditions like the last two days.
“I played awesome to shoot 69. I hit a lot of good shots. I knew I had a significant lead with four holes to go and tried not to make any major mistakes. But the shot into 17 sealed it.”
Ko appeared destined for a top-five result when she holed an approach shot for an eagle 2 on the par-4 15th today. But she double-bogeyed the par-3 17th hole and made a triple-bogey 8 at the last.
“I played really solid pretty much apart from the last two holes,” Ko said. “It was a tough finish but overall my game was solid and there were a lot of positives coming from two good finishes to give me the confidence coming into this week.
“I had hoped a few more putts would have dropped but I think I am saying that almost every week. There’s always something left to improve.
“But overall the crowds here this week were really the cool aspect for me. I don’t get to come home very often – but it gave me goosebumps and made me proud to play this event and have it as a LPGA event.”