Excited just to play, injured Brooke Henderson fires 65 at CME

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Brooke Henderson calls it her “hockey mentality.”

The 25-year-old Canadian arrived in Naples, Florida, this week for the CME Group Tour Championship, where he was battling an upper back injury and had only played one round in six weeks. She had pulled out after 18 holes of the previous week’s Pelican Championship, then canceled her pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday on a recommendation that she “rest as much as possible.”

But Henderson, still in contention for the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year Award, had no intention of letting her season end without a shot at giving herself a shot at that $2 million first prize.

She may not win on Sunday either, but at least she made it interesting thanks to a 7-under 65 Saturday that left Henderson tied for fifth place, five shots off the lead with one round to play.

“I’m just trying to be tough,” Henderson said. “It’s the last event of the year – I wanted to finish this year really strong. I know I have a month and a half to rest and recover and do everything I need to be ready for next year, so yeah, just keep going.”

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Henderson navigates Tiburon Golf Club on a makeshift swing. Her normal action puts too much pressure on her back, so she made some adjustments.

“It’s not how I want to swing,” said Henderson, “but it works well. … It’s hard not to go into my full potential this week, but I definitely made it work, and that’s all what can I really ask for.

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A day after carding just one more birdie with three more bogeys, Henderson went bogey-free on Saturday, with three birdies and a pair of eagles. She wasn’t happy parred seven straight par-5s after an opening par to begin her third round, so she went to get two of her next three, throwing from 30 yards at No. 6 and rolling into a 20-footer on no. 17.

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“That really gives you that extra bit of bonus and a bit of momentum,” said Henderson.

Henderson will be taking all the momentum she can get given her lead up to this event. She last completed a 72-hole tournament at The Ascendant LPGA in late September, tying 29 times.e. Her last top-10 was in Portland the week before. She did not play the three events leading up to Pelican.

Still, thanks in large part to summer victories at the ShopRite LPGA Classic and Amundi Evian Championship, Henderson remained shortlisted for LPGA’s points-based player of the year. She started the week with the need to win and hopes that the two players ahead of her, Lydia Ko and Minjee Lee, finish third or worse.

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Full field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Lee is nine shots from a two-way tie for the lead at 15 under, but Ko is one of two co-leaders and shares first with Leona Maguire, who shot 63 on Saturday.

Henderson knows that if you’re leaving Naples on Sunday with any kind of hardware, something special is needed. But in a sense, she’s already accomplished what she set out to do this week.

“Honestly, I just came in the week, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to play, so I was just thankful to be on the field and thankful to get the chance to play,” said Henderson. “I was just hoping to survive four days. Standing here on the third day, you know, I feel pretty good. So I’m excited to play tomorrow and wrap up the event. That was the most important thing coming in this week.