As Santana (ft. Rob Thomas) once famously said, on Smooth:
“Well, it’s a hot one. Like seven inches from the midday sun.”
That’s how it felt today. I sweat through my shirt within an hour of being on the course. And the leaders hadn’t even teed off yet. Brooke Henderson put it perfectly yesterday when she said, “It’s pretty hot out here for a Canadian!” Amen Brooke, amen.
Speaking of Brooke, here she was being announced on the 1st tee
Brittany Marchand teed off an hour and 20 minutes before Brooke Henderson, so I did my best to follow both of them as much as possible. In a stroke of pure luck for me, Brittany was paired with Lexi Thompson. The downside is the crowds, but the upside of watching a player with Lexi’s talent, far surpassed that small negative.
Both Brittany and Lexi had what you could call, up and down rounds; certainly not their bests. But they each had some great moments. The first one came on the 13th hole, after Brittany Marchand’s tee-shot hit a tree limb about 40 yards in front of the tee box and dropped straight down into some thick rough. Already two-over on her round, it looked as though things might be about to unravel. Brit punched her second shot down the fairway, and then spun a gorgeous wedge shot to inside six feet. She then calmly stepped up and drained the par putt. One of the better pars I’ve witnessed with my own eyes.
On the next hole, it was Lexi’s time to shine. The par-3 14th is, around these parts, referred to as, “The Party Hole.” Watch and listen to the crowds reaction on these two shots, and you’ll see why.
(P.s. Notice the side-camera? I learned my lesson yesterday. You’re welcome.)
Lexi would go on to finish her round one-under for the day, and five-under for the tournament.
As for Brit, she struggled a bit through the middle of her round. With this putt on 18 though, she reeled off three straight birdies to also finish one-under on the day, and five-under for the tournament. The two will once again be paired together tomorrow.
After the round, I asked Brit what it was like to play with Lexi, and she said she loved it; and that Lexi was super nice. The only strange thing, she said, was having an entire crowd rooting for the other person. Comes with the territory though, she admitted.
After that, I was in full Brooke Henderson mode. After getting to 11-under for the tournament at the turn, and holding a two-stroke lead, Brooke struggled a little bit on the back. After a bogey on 14, she found herself in a three-way tie for first, at 10-under. After pars on 15 and 16, she made her way to the par-5 17th hole. After a good drive and solid approach, she found herself with this short chip. (Slideshow below).
Well done, if I do say so myself. The birdie moved her back into the lead, and after two good shots to the 18th, another par-5, she faced this up-and-down to extend her lead to two.
Just wasn’t meant to be.
Still though, a solid round of two-under-par puts her at 11-under for the event, and alone in first place. She will be in the final pairing tomorrow afternoon at 1:05 PM, with Angela Stanford.
Brooke spoke with the media after her round. Below is the transcript, and a few photos from yours truly.
Brooke Henderson Post
Q. I had the pleasure of watching you play today. How are you able to play this type of golf consistently, playing as many events as you do?
BROOKE HENDERSON: Yeah, you know, I love to play a lot of golf. This week things have been clicking for me a little bit better than normal, and I’m just excited to see my name at the top of the leaderboard. I would have liked to play a little better today, but I’m happy to still be in the top spot and hopefully make a lot of birdies tomorrow.
Q. We all talk about your heart when you’re playing tournaments. Where do you feel that comes from, and how does that help you play on Sundays?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I think you need it if you’re going to win championships and you’re going to shoot low scores. Especially when you hit it in spots that I hit it today, you kind of need to bounce back quickly and grind it out as best you can, and just try to do the best you can all the time.
Q. You say you like being the hunted going into the weekend; what about being the hunted going into the final round?
BROOKE HENDERSON: Yeah, I looked at the scores just walking by the leaderboard there, and there are a lot of really awesome scores today. I know I have to make a lot of birdies and shoot an awesome score. I’m excited to be in this position. I was a little disappointed how I played today, but overall, I’m in a good spot.
Q. How would you assess your 18 holes today?
BROOKE HENDERSON: It’s just up-and-down. I made some birdies, but I made some bogies. I didn’t hit it how I normally hit it, so I kind of grinded it out as best I could, and that’s good. That’s a good sign, when you can still shoot under par, and not hit it very well.
So, you know, just going into tomorrow trying to get back to the way I normally strike it, and hopefully make a lot of birdies.
Q. Did the course play more difficult than it did on Thursday and Friday?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I think it’s just adjusting again. You know, it was a very dry-ish afternoon, and today it seemed to be a lot softer. Things weren’t releasing the same, and the greens were holding a little bit better, which I thought was a little weird, but we just tried to adjust with it and just go from there.
Q. What was your mindset with the 1-shot lead and so many players close behind?
BROOKE HENDERSON: Yeah, you know, it’s pretty crazy to look at that leaderboard. It’s all jammed up. But it’s a fun position, and you’ve just got to go out there and play your own game. You can’t really worry about it. There are going to be people that shoot minus-7, minus-8 probably. So I have to go out and match that or better it.
Q. Are you a player that watches the leaderboard throughout the round?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I do a little bit. Just kind of depends on how I’m feeling.
Q. Is it difficult knowing how many birdies you’re probably going to have to make tomorrow?
BROOKE HENDERSON: This course definitely gives it to you. As long as you hit it in good spots and you’re positive, you feel like you can make a lot of birdies. You can usually make them out here. So that’s a good feeling. So like I said, hopefully I’ll hit it a little better tomorrow, and see what happens.
Q. What do you think it’s going to take to win tomorrow?
BROOKE HENDERSON: It’s going to take a really good score. Lots of people shot minus-6, minus-5 today. So I would imagine something close to that tomorrow would do the job.
The leaderboard at the end of Saturday, with tomorrow’s tee times, is as follows:
Check back in tomorrow for full final round coverage! And follow along on both Twitter, and Instagram @RJMcCullough