In the end, Brooke Henderson finished well back of her good friend Jin Young Ko at the LPGA Tour’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship – but Brooke still ended her 2020 with a bang.
After she struggled to a 3-over total in the first nine holes Sunday, Brooke made the turn in Naples, Fla. and notched four-straight birdies to get back into red figures for the day. She nailed a long birdie try on her final hole of the season and ended up at 10-under for the week.
Brooke finished T7, her sixth top-10 finish of the season. It was her 54th top-10 as a member of the LPGA Tour.
Ko, the winner of the 2019 CP Women’s Open and who has long been a friend to Brooke (she doused Ko with water on the 18th green Sunday after her win was confirmed), captured the LPGA Tour’s money list thanks to her $1.1-million payday at the CME Group Tour Championship. With the big cheque, Ko said she would be buying her first home in the U.S. – just outside Dallas, Texas.
Ko, who is also ranked No.1 in the Rolex Rankings, won the final event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season by five shots over Australian Hannah Green and Sei Young Kim, who captured Rolex Player of the Year honours.
Ko shot a 6-under 66 Sunday to put a bow on the victory. She was tied for the lead with seven holes left, but birded five of those holes to turn on the after-burners and win the tournament. Ironically, after the tournament was completed, Ko said she wasn’t feeling 100 percent with her swing.
“I think my swing is not perfect, but after (the Pelican Women’s Championship) I wanted to just really try on the course, said Ko. “Just don’t think about mechanics on the course. I wanted to focus on my body and my muscles. I don’t know what happened to my swing right now, but I’ll take the win.”
Ko played only four tournaments in 2020 on the LPGA Tour after spending a significant amount of time at her home in South Korea due to COVID-19 concerns. Still, she said she didn’t think her competitors would have an advantage over her having only played three tournaments prior to the season finale.
Brooke, meanwhile, took her time to return to the LPGA Tour as well with uncertainty around COVID-19 and the golf world’s response top-of-mind. She spent a good chunk of time in her hometown of Smiths Falls before mixing in a return to her home in Naples and the final stretch of the LPGA Tour schedule.
Brooke started the season with a T4 at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions before backing that up with a T15 at the second event of the season, the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.
After that, Brooke did not play again until the AIG Women’s Open in the UK in August, where she missed the cut. She returned to the United States for the Wal-Mart NW Arkansas Championship where she finished T49.
From there she had a multi-week break but then teed it up at the ANA Inspiration and finished tied for second, losing in a playoff to Mirim Lee as she was looking for her second-career major championship title. Brooke then had three straight sixth-place finishes in the month following, including one at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
She struggled on the weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open, finishing T44, but rallied impressively from making a triple-bogey on her second hole of the tournament at the CME Group Tour Championship to get into double-figures under par.
Although Brooke did not win this season, she had a run of consistency that will make for a good building block for 2021. This season also saw Brooke pass Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Lorie Kane as Canada’s top money-earner in LPGA Tour history.
“I’m definitely excited for 2021,” Brooke said. “Looks like we’re going to have a great schedule ahead of us. Hopefully with all the vaccines coming out and everybody being a little bit more familiar with protocols I think we’ll have a fuller season, which is really exciting.”
“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to play a lot more than we did this year and hopefully get back on my winning streak!”
Fellow Canadian Alena Sharp finished 2020 with a fabulous 8-under-par 64 Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.
Sharp, who married her longtime partner – both on the course and off – Sarah in a ceremony just a few weeks ago (attended virtually by Brooke), was well back starting Sunday but her 8-under was the round of the day. It was Sharp’s lowest round on the LPGA Tour since June 2019, and it was the round of the week at the CME Group Tour Championship, to boot.
“I came into today and just thinking, ‘Okay, it’s the last round of the year. I get to go home tonight. Going to get our Christmas tree tomorrow. I just played with no fear, no worries, and made a few birdies early,” said Sharp. “Just like that everything went in. So, a nice way to finish the year off.”
The 2021 LPGA Tour season gets underway on January 21st, where the Brooke Brigade can cheer Brooke Henderson on once again!