Photo courtesy of Photosport
Canadian star Brooke Henderson battled gale force winds and bitterly cold conditions to claim the MCKAYSON New Zealand Women's Open title today at Windross Farms Golf Course in Auckland.
When the final round resumed this morning at 8:30am local time, after play late yesterday was suspended due to the horrendous weather conditions, Henderson was 4 shots clear of the chasing pack at 17 under par with 12 holes of her final round remaining.
As many of those around Henderson struggled to battle the 60 kph wind gusts, the 20-year-old was as solid as a rock playing superbly from tee to green.
A dropped shot at the long par 4 8th hole, and another late in the round at the 16th hole were just Henderson's 3rd and 4th bogeys of the week and were the only mistakes the world number 12 would make in the testing conditions.
The talented youngster cruised home with a celebratory birdie at the 18th hole, her fifth birdie of the day, to shoot a final round 69 and secure a 5 shot victory over Chinese youngster Jing Yan, who shot a final round 71 to secure a career-best LPGA finish of 2nd place at 12 under par.
The victory was Henderson's 5th LPGA title and her second in 2017 after capturing the Meijer LPGA Classic earlier this year, and she was clearly delighted with the victory,
"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. Now I can look forward to going to Queenstown and to celebrate."
When asked about the course and the conditions the past two days Henderson revealed that she did not have high expectations heading into the tournament,
"The weather has been unbelievable with high winds and rain. Brittany (sister and caddy) 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"
"That is the toughest conditions I have played in terms of winds, rain and delays – and how long it took to play a round of golf. I feel mentally drained by it but running on adrenalin to know this trophy is mine."
Henderson also heaped praise on her older sibling Brittany, also her caddy.
"I really depended on her today and she was awesome today. On 17 she called me off, and then I was able to hit it to 20 feet – that hardest hole on the golf course today. She was awesome with wind direction, how hard I had to hit it."
Henderson's victory was clearly well deserved with her almost flawless play from tee to green this week,
"I feel I played awesome to shoot 69 – for it to run over two days and in those conditions. I feel like I played awesome. 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."
Hugging her trophy Henderson said that she will encourage more players to come down to New Zealand next time,
"This is a great event for a first year it was really successful; and I am really happy to be the champion and that we get a lot of girls back out here in the years to come"
Korean Hee Young Park finished alone in 4th place at 11 under par after a final round 69, while American Jennifer Song shot a superb closing 68 to finish in 4th place.
Local star and tournament host Lydia Ko finished at 5 under par in a tie for 22nd place after a disappointing double-bogey, triple bogey finish, after the Kiwi had thrilled the galleries earlier in the afternoon with a hole out for eagle at the par 4 15th hole which saw her move into the top 5 on the leaderboard.
Su Oh was the best the Australians after shooting a final round 71, marred only by a double bogey on her final hole to finish at 9 under par, in a tie for 5th place with American Brittany Lincicome and Spanish duo Belen Mozo and Beatriz Recari, while Sarah Kemp also had a disappointing back nine shooting a 5 over par 77 for a share of 41st position.
The leading amateur was New Zealand's A-Yean Cho who finished tied for 17th place.
In addition to the first place cheque of US$195,000 Brooke Henderson also claimed the coveted Bessie Fullerton-Smith Trophy presented to the winner.
Final results and prizemoney can be found at nzwomensopen.com
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