When a player reels off four consecutive birdies on the back nine of a major championship and adds another on the final hole, the logical thing for the runner-up, who finished just one shot back, to do is simply offer a tip of the hat to the victor.
Such was the case for Brooke Henderson, whose quest to become the first Canadian ever to successfully defend a major fell just one shot short of Danielle Kang’s winning score of 13 under at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields on Sunday.
“Danielle played great. She was 13-under pretty early in the back nine and I knew I had a lot of work to do coming down the stretch. Congratulations to her and sitting here a few days ago, I would be really happy with a second-place finish and to have the chances and the opportunities that I did the last few holes, so I’m happy,” said Henderson, admitting she was leaderboard-watching throughout the back nine.
“I was trying to watch it as much as I could. Every opportunity really that there was a scoreboard, trying to take a peek and see where I was at. Yeah, I knew where she was and she was playing great golf,” added Henderson.
“Really, she won this and I was just trying to make it a little bit closer and maybe force a playoff, but like I said, I played great and I wouldn’t really take anything back,” she said.
Henderson concluded her title defence with a bogey-free 66, that began with a birdie on the first and three in total by the time she made the turn in a tie for top spot.
“I got off to a pretty fast start, three birdies on the front nine. I wasn’t really making any mistakes. I had no bogeys and I didn’t really have any holes where I was too panicked I was going to make one, so that’s always a great feeling, especially on Sunday of a major championship,” she said.
That feeling might have peaked when Kang bogeyed 10, but it hardly took the wind out of the sails as she birdied the next four holes to establish a three-shot lead. However, she stumbled slightly with another bogey on 17, which Henderson had birdied a few moments earlier to narrow the lead to one.
With victory suddenly in sight, Henderson struck from the fairway to about 30 feet of the pin, but fell about one ball rotation short of an eagle.
“You know, 17 and 18 were huge. To make that putt on 17, I feel like I had a chance and I hit two great shots on 18 to give myself an opportunity to make eagle and I guess take the lead by one at that point,” she said.
“That putt (on 18), I took some extra time just trying to read it and just trying to get it right. I walked it a couple times trying to get the pace right and unfortunately, I missed it by an inch,” added Henderson.
“I had 236 to the pin,and it was straight into the wind and up the hill, so I was ripping three wood as hard as I could and trying to get it back there. That was a great shot. You know, it gave me the opportunity to hopefully make eagle and, like I said, I left it one inch short and that inch really cost me,” she said.
Henderson, however, remains buoyant with the meat of the season coming up and a victory in Grand Rapids two weeks ago, as well as her runner-up finish at a major on Sunday.
“I’m really excited about our schedule,” said Henderson.
“That new event in Green Bay (this) week, I’m really looking forward to it, getting up there, maybe tonight, but early tomorrow morning and getting a look at the course. I hear great things about it. Then U.S. (Women’s) Open is probably our biggest event coming up. I’m really looking forward for the next couple weeks,” she said.
“I won in Meijer and second place here and I feel like my game is in a great spot and hopefully, I can ride the momentum and keep the confidence and maybe win a few more times this summer,” said Henderson.
For more on Sunday’s finale, click here.
Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Sandra Post offers her final thoughts here.