Brooke Henderson has the opportunity to put an exclamation mark on her first full season as a member of the LPGA Tour.
Henderson and Hamilton’s Alena Sharp are at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., for the CME Group Tour Championship, which will award $500,000 to the winner and gets underway on Thursday.
The field was determined by the top 72 players and ties in the Race to the CME Globe Points standings, a race that will conclude with a $1-million bonus paid to the winner of the race. Henderson is currently third behind Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko and can decide her own destiny.
A victory at the Tour Championship would also leave her No. 1 in the standings. Henderson will tee off at 10:41 local time on Thursday along with Jutanugarn and Ko.
“Going into this year it was a big goal mine to be in the top three and give myself a great opportunity in the final event of the year,” said Henderson.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I know it’ll be a tough week, a tough four rounds, but I know if I get off to a fast start and able to play my game, maybe good things will happen,” she said.
This week’s event is the finale of a season that has included her first major championship at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, that coming in a playoff against Ko, a successful defence of the Cambia Portland Classic which she first won in 2015, representing Canada at the Olympics along with Sharp, and 15 top-10 finishes.
She will play her 31st event of the season this week in Naples, making her the No. 1 workhorse on the LPGA Tour, and causing some to speculate whether she should be pacing herself better for long term success.
After posting three top-10s in five events on the recent Asian swing, Henderson raised eyebrows when she decided not to play the Toto Japan Classic and took a week off before playing last week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico City.
Taking a breather was understandable, but the reason it was a surprise was due her reputation as a week-to-week grinder.
“Actually, I heard that the jet lag and the time change coming from Japan to Mexico was really difficult. Some girls, they weren’t recommending it,” said Henderson.
“I figured it had been a pretty busy schedule and that time change, I wasn’t really looking forward to. I really struggled earlier in the year coming back from Australia. I slept for almost a week with that time change,” she added.
“I thought I would give myself a little bit of rest and prepare for the final two weeks, last week in Mexico and this week’s CME,” she said.
However, there are no regrets on her part about keeping such a busy schedule.
“In January when the schedule first came out, I definitely looked at it and realized it was very full and busy and hearing some of the other players and Commissioner (Michael) Whan say it’s a very full schedule, but I’m young. I saw it kind of as a challenge,” she said.
“I really enjoyed being able to travel all over the place and see new golf courses, meet new people, so it was fun for me,” added Henderson.
“I think it being my first year, it was really important for me to go to most of the events and experience what the golf courses were like, the atmosphere,” she said.
“Maybe, in years to come, I can pick and choose a little bit more where I play well or something like that, but I had a lot of fun,” said Henderson.
“I got to see and travel the world and around the United States and Canada. I gained so many new relationships with fans and different sponsors, different communities, which also is very important,” she said.
“You know, my whole life thus far has been wanting to play on the LPGA Tour. Now that I finally have a chance to do it, I want to make the most of it,” said Henderson.
Sharp will tee off at 9:02 a.m. with Catriona Matthew and Morgan Pressel.