Defending champion Brooke Henderson stays in rivalry at Match of Champions

Exterior of a terrific honeymoon to begin 2023, Lydia Ko had a yr she’d just about prefer to neglect. She struggled mightily on the golf course after successful thrice the earlier season, and on a number of events left the 18th inexperienced at a match in tears.

Ko, a 19-time LPGA Tour winner, two-time main champion and nonetheless solely 26, could have a terrific probability to bounce again this weekend on the Hilton Grand Holidays Match of Champions on the Lake Nona course she now calls dwelling.

Ko performed bogey-free for a 5-under 67 as temperatures started to chill within the LPGA’s season opener, and he or she heads into the weekend alongside Japan’s Ayaka Furue (71) in a share of the 36-hole lead.

They had been at 8-under 136. Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh (68) and Mexico’s Gaby Lopez, a former TOC champion who shot 71, are two pictures again. Defending champion Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., and Alexa Pano — at 19, the youngest participant on this week’s area — will start the weekend three pictures out of the lead. Each shot 70 on Friday.

WATCH l Henderson sits at 5-under after capturing 70:

Henderson in rivalry at Match of Champions LPGA occasion in Orlando

Smiths Falls, Ont., native Brooke Henderson performed her second spherical on the LPGA Match of Championships Thursday and sits at 5-under capturing a 70, three strokes again of the leaders.

Ko tasted success elsewhere in 2023, successful an occasion on the Girls European Tour (the Saudi Girls Worldwide) and an unofficial mixed-team match alongside the PGA Tour’s Jason Day late within the yr. That gave her the arrogance she was trying to find.

Her outcomes on the LPGA had been a large number. After a tie for sixth to start her season in Thailand final February, Ko teed it up in 19 different LPGA occasions, with just one different top-10 end. She didn’t qualify for the year-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which was one thing of a shock to her system.

Two days into the TOC — which options LPGA winners from the previous two years — Ko’s recreation seems sturdy, and really regular. She ripped a 3-wood into the par-5 ninth gap to arrange an eagle from 9 ft and completed strongly with a 4-hybrid to fifteen ft to run in a single final birdie on the 18th gap. She missed just one inexperienced on a difficult day.

Ko and her fellow LPGA professionals will probably be examined this weekend with a chilly entrance anticipated to drop temperatures into the low 40s Fahrenheit. On Friday, she and some different late finishers, together with Furue, handled rain on the finish of the spherical.

“It wasn’t simple, particularly the wind choosing up after 9 holes,” Ko mentioned. “In order that’s going to be the mindset for the subsequent couple days … however positively glad that I am achieved and it is nonetheless raining outdoors.”

WATCH l Henderson opens title defence in Orlando:

Brooke Henderson kicks off LPGA season in Orlando

Smiths Falls, Ont., native Brooke Henderson began her LPGA season making an attempt to defend her title she gained final yr on the Match of Championships capturing a gap spherical a 3-under 69, 4 strokes again of the chief.

One season after main the LPGA in whole strokes gained on the sector, Ko slipped to 56th final season. Ko is shut sufficient to be desirous about the World Golf Corridor of Fame — she is 2 factors away, with victories counting as one level and majors two — and he or she enters a brand new season refreshed, with a brand new coach (Si Woo Lee) and boosted confidence.

Furue, a 23-year-old who’s a powerful putter and owns one LPGA victory on the 2022 Scottish Open, didn’t play in addition to she did a day earlier, when she opened with a tournament-record 65. However she managed to hold in there in harder situations. Furue didn’t make her first birdie till the twelfth gap, and yet one more birdie on the shortened par-5 fifteenth carried her to an under-par spherical.

The LPGA members play 72 holes of stroke play of their season opener, doing so alongside a area of fifty athletes and celebrities who compete in a separate division utilizing a Modified Stableford factors system.

Annika Sorenstam, a 72-time winner on the LPGA and a Lake Nona resident, is tied with former NHL participant Jeremy Roenick for first among the many celebrities, with 75 factors. Former MLB pitcher Derek Lowe, who clipped Sorenstam in a playoff two years in the past, had certainly one of his greatest rounds, capturing the equal of 70 on Friday. He trails Sorenstam and Roenick by 4 factors.

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