Brooke M. Henderson tees off on the sixth hole during the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic golf tournament Sunday, June 4, 2017, in Galloway Township, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Henderson still looking for first win of year

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. — This is unfamiliar territory for Canadian golfer Brooke Henderson.

She was a phenom during her formative years in the sport and continued to post strong results when she arrived on the LPGA Tour. However, Henderson’s second full-time season on the Tour has not been as successful.

It’s not quite a sophomore slump, but more of a quiet start to the campaign.

“My game is extremely close,” Henderson said. “Sports are such a fine line and I’m just hoping I can cross that line and perform a little bit better.”

Her next opportunity will come in her home country at this week’s Manulife LPGA Classic. Henderson begins play Thursday at Whistle Bear Golf Club in a powerhouse group with world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand and sixth-ranked Shanshan Feng of China.

It hasn’t been easy for Henderson to follow up on one of the greatest seasons by a Canadian player in golf history.

She reached No. 2 in the world rankings last year, won her first major, and successfully defended her title at the Cambia Portland Classic.

Not bad for someone who was barely old enough to vote.

Expectations were high again this year but the 19-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., has posted middling results. Henderson admits it’s been a “little bit disappointing.”

“I make one more putt on (a) Thursday and the momentum changes for the entire week,” she said at a pre-tournament availability. “Instead of being close to the cut line, I’m in the top 10 or the final groups. So I go off that adrenalin, the rush of the fans, and maybe I make a few more and I win the tournament.

“Or I miss that putt on Thursday and all of a sudden it looks shaky to even make the weekend.”

Henderson is one of seven players to have started all 13 LPGA events this season. She has only missed one cut, but has just one top-10 finish in stroke-play competition.

Her ranking has slipped to No. 15. Henderson finished third on the money list last year but currently holds the No. 25 position.

Canadian women’s team coach Tristan Mullally said when a player comes off a strong season, it’s important to try to maintain focus on personal performance rather than the leaderboard.

“If you’re bettering yourself and you’re winning by five or losing by five, it doesn’t matter — you always feel like you’re improving,” he said during Wednesday’s pro-am event. ”But if you’re relying on the results to let you know if you’re doing well or not, then sometimes it can be tough.

“Results are a little bit fleeting, but your own performance and your own improvements are the biggest things.”

Henderson is still driving the ball well and her scoring statistics are similar to last season. However, her short game is a little off and her putting numbers have slipped.

Mullally, who worked with Henderson as a junior and through the Rio Olympics last summer, said even though she’s still a teenager, she has plenty of experience to draw from.

“She’s been around for a long time and has had lots of good performances,” he said. “I think she’s got a lot of resources to rely on: past memories and good play. The crowds and the support that she has behind her, I think she feels everybody wants her to do well.

“So I think she’ll find her way. I’m not sure what way that will be yet, but she’ll find it.”

Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Americans Brittany Lang and Lexi Thompson are some of the other big names in the field. Germany’s Caroline Masson is back to defend her title on the par-72, 6,613-yard course.

The 13-player Canadian contingent includes Hamilton’s Alena Sharp and Charlottetown’s Lorie Kane.

The top 72 players will qualify for weekend play at the US$1.7-million tournament. The winner will earn $255,000.

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