Royal Troon may be a new venue on the AIG Women’s Open rota, but Brooke Henderson will not be totally unfamiliar with the course when she goes in search of a second major title.
Henderson got to hear all about the South Ayrshire links five years ago when she played with two Troon members in a pro-am event.
In addition, the Canadian can call upon a somewhat unusual experience relating to the venue’s famous par-3 eighth hole.
“In a pro-am in 2015, I played with two members at Royal Troon, so that was really fun for me,” said Henderson in a conference call to preview the AIG Women’s Open. “Just learning how beautiful and tough a golf course it was.
“I’ve been trying to learn about the course, study it a little bit, and I’ve really enjoyed going over some of the holes and hearing some of the past stories.
“I think one of the really cool things is, a few years ago, I played a replica course where the Postage Stamp was one of the holes (at the Golden Ocala Club in Florida). So I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to go over and play the real Postage Stamp.”
Although the AIG Women’s Open will take place during the British summer, nobody would be surprised if inclement weather makes life difficult at some point in the week.
Henderson, who has not played competitively since January due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, certainly had the potential conditions in mind during a practice session on the day she addressed the media.
“It was raining this morning when I was out playing,” said the winner of the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship.
“Normally, I’d think, I’ll stop and take a break. This time I was like, no, I’d better stay out here just in case and get prepared!”
Following a lengthy absence from the LPGA Tour, Henderson now faces the challenge of quickly getting up to speed in the opening rounds at Troon.
“It’s been a very long break for me,” she acknowledged. “I was thinking a few weeks ago, it’s the longest break since I was in elementary school. The rest has been nice, I’ve just been trying to practice and work hard.
“When you’re not competing it’s hard to kind of judge where your game is at, but hopefully I’ll be ready to compete.
“Mentally, I think, will probably be the biggest challenge. Physically I feel like I’m hitting it well and playing under par, which is always great. I’m just trying to get the right mindset, and hopefully I can get it in the right spot and when I tee it up on Thursday I’ll be ready to go.”
In her sixth appearance at the AIG Women’s Open, Henderson will be looking to improve on her best finish in the event to date, a tie for 11th at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2018.
“I feel like every year I go over and play links courses, I learn a little bit more” Brooke Henderson
That result represented something of a breakthrough for Henderson on a links course, and she is confident of building on it at Troon.
“I feel like every year I go over and play links courses, I learn a little bit more and feel a little bit more experienced, and I think just getting more comfortable is the key thing,” she added.
“That was exciting, to get that finish there (at Lytham), because before that I was really struggling every year just to make the cut really. That T11 gave me a lot of confidence going forward.
“I think another thing, too, is in New Zealand a couple of years ago, I was able to win on a links course (in the 2017 New Zealand Women’s Open at Windross Farm Golf Club), so since then I feel a lot more comfortable, and I think I understand how to play the game a little more on links courses.
“One thing is conditions, just always being prepared, being patient, and realising that you’re not always going to be on the right side of the draw. Bad things are most likely going to happen out there during the four days, and just kind of dealing with it.
“Also, different types of shots that I didn’t grow up playing in Canada. In the last few years I’ve developed a little bit of a lower wind shot. I’m looking forward to it this year. I’m very excited and looking forward to competing.”