PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A scowl came across Brooke Henderson’s face when her third shot didn’t find the bottom of the cup on hole 13.
It was a par 3. Henderson earned a bogie on the hole, her third of the day. It dropped her back to -16, leaving her tied with Brittany Altomare. Just one hole later, Annie Park birdied and all three members in the same group were caught in a deadlock.
For the first time in three days at the 2019 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, Henderson had adversity to face.
The lead from round 1 to round 2 for Henderson grew from a stroke to three strokes. It only appeared as if she would run away with it.
Instead, Park and Altomare were closing the gap. They continued to nip at the heels of Henderson throughout the round.
The pressure was mounting and the only thing she could do was try and play herself back into the lead. Henderson said she felt some frustration, but remained patient.
“I thought I was hitting good shots, things just weren’t going my way during the middle round,” Henderson said.
Then, something clicked.
Henderson dug in her white cleats on the tee box of 16. With her white visor scripting “Ping” crossed it in light blue lettering pointed towards the ball, she started her swing.
Right down the fairway. Then, after a nice up on the green, she ended it with a putt she called “a pretty easy birdie” that was roughly 10-12 feet from the hole.
The following hole she birdied as well. Park could only manage two pars while Altomare fell further behind with a par and a bogey on 17.
The Smiths Falls, Canada native was starting to distance herself once again.
On hole 18, a lengthy par 5, Henderson stripped one right down the fairway, approached a shot just off the green, chipped it within three feet of the cup and finished with a putt.
There were cheers for Henderson, people shouting “that’s more like it Brooke!” With the results on those last three holes, she agreed it was the game she had been waiting for all of Saturday at Blythefield Country Club.
“Once you start batting third it’s kind of hard to find your rhythm and your timing,” Henderson said. “I kind of fell off a little bit there but I was just trying to birdie out from there and jump up to the top of the leader board again.
“It was definitely fun and hopefully I can keep this momentum going into tomorrow.”
Henderson will start the day with a two-stroke lead over Park, who had seven total birdies and no bogeys in round 3. It dropped her score from -10 to -17.
Park had to finish her last hole this morning due to darkness suspending the second round Friday night. She had to wait over three hours between the end of round 2 and the start of round 3.
Even with an odd start, Park could find a consistency that has her competing for the top of the leaderboard heading into Sunday.
“I’ve been pretty good with shots, short game, putting, hopefully, I can keep that momentum going into tomorrow,” Park said with a smile. “Maybe some more birdies would be great.”
With the crowd showing a visible difference in size today and the standings being tight towards the top, it is expected to be a course full of energy for the final round.
The groupings will be trimmed to two players. Lexi Thompson and Altomare are teeing off at 12:46 p.m. tied at -16, while Park and Henderson are grouped together for a 12:55 p.m. tee time at -17 and -19.
Henderson said Annie is a lot of fun to play with and it should be fun for both.
“There have been great crowds out here all week and I think with so many players so close to the top of the leaderboard — it will be exciting.”
At the end of every round, the top of that leaderboard has had Henderson’s name pinned on it. The former 2017 Meijer LPGA Champion is 18 holes away from her second title in the event.
When asked about how she feels about playing with the standings so tight at the top or if she’d like them further apart, she let out a light laugh before replying.
“I’m good with either,” Henderson quipped. “I just like to be near the final groups and give myself a chance to win.”