Brooke Henderson looking to overcome strange LPGA curse at Tour Championship
Brooke Henderson hits a shot during The Annika.
NAPLES, Fla. — Brooke Henderson is very aware of the unfortunate streak she is in danger of continuing. Since 2016, the player who has won the LPGA's first event of the season did not win again that year. Henderson, who captured the 2023 season-opening Tournament of Champions in January, immediately became aware of the streak following her victory. In what has been an up-and-down season without a second win for the Canadian, this week's CME Group Tour Championship is her last chance to break the first-event winner's curse.
"It's a really weird stat that I don't like very much," Henderson said. "I thought I would break it earlier. Maybe got in my head a little bit."
The streak started at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic with Hyo Joo Kim in 2016 and continued with Brittany Lincicome at the same event in 2017 and 2018. Not even changing the first event of the season to the Tournament of Champions could reset the mojo, as Eun-Hee Ji (2019), Gaby Lopez (2020), Jessica Korda (2021) and Danielle Kang (2022) all fell victim to the curse.
If you were to pick a player to snap the streak, however, Henderson would be a top candidate. Since her rookie season in 2015, the Canadian has had four multiple-win seasons, including two victories last year.
However, Henderson's results at the start of the season felt like she was destined to join the unfortunate list. Henderson missed four cuts over 14 starts and posted no top-10s until September, where she had a runner-up in her title defense at the Amundi Evian Championship.
After missing the cut in her next event at the AIG Women's Open, Henderson made the first of two late-season changes that have put the 13-time winner's season back on track.
The most striking difference is the glasses she now wears, which Henderson debuted at the CPKC Women's Open. Then, after taking a six-week break from September to October, Henderson put TaylorMade's P7MC irons into her bag starting at the BMW Ladies Open to improve her ball striking. Over the three events she's played the new irons, Henderson is reaching 85.7 percent of greens in regulation, a 13.4 percent leap from her season average. She shot a season-low 62 at the first round last week’s The Annika, where she hit all 18 greens, and eventually tied for 19th.
Now Henderson brings more confidence to Tiburon Golf Club, one of the courses she plays best on the LPGA. She's posted four top-10s in her last five appearances at the CME, including a T-7 last year, which she credited to a setup that demands aggressive play to make plenty of birdies, as well as love from friends and family from the Canadian snowbirds who trek down to Naples. It all sets up a final bid to end the seven-year-old first-event winner's curse, which would also net Henderson a crisp $2 million first-place check.
"This would be the perfect week to kind of break that," Henderson said. "You know, kind of bookends, win the first one, the last one. That would be obviously ideal."