Brooke Henderson will compete this week on the LPGA without sister Brittany on the bag for first time in five years

Brooke Henderson will have to adapt to a new face on the bag and changes to the course as she tries to win another Meijer LPGA Classic. (...)

Brooke Henderson will compete this week on the LPGA without sister Brittany on the bag for first time in five years

Brittany Henderson hasn’t missed a week on younger sister Brooke’s bag since February 2016. That will change this week at the Meijer LPGA Classic after Brittany’s visa expired on June 15.

Brooke, a two-time winner of the Meijer (2017 and 2019), must meet the challenge of a new face on the bag as well as changes to the course as she looks to defend her title. (The Meijer was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

“You know, I’m definitely sad that Brit is not with me on the bag this week,” said Brooke. “Definitely be a big change. I think the main thing this week is to try to keep things simple and have fun on a golf course that I’ve played really well on before.”

Brittany married Zach Sepanik, who hails from Grand Rapids, in September of last year and applied for new immigration status. Sepanik works for the LPGA’s communications team and is back home this week at the Meijer. The couple bought a house in Naples, Florida, after they wed and have been working with Senator Marco Rubio’s office to expedite the paperwork.

“Brooke knows how to play really well at this course,” said Brittany. “It’s tough for me to sit back and not do much, but I think they’ve got it handled.”

Brooke will have veteran looper Everette Nini on the bag this week.

“Everette is a good friend,” said Brooke, “and he’s lots of fun to be around, so I think he will definitely make the change a little bit easier.”

Brooke Henderson wins Meijer LPGA Classic

Brooke Henderson of Canada poses with the championship trophy during the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club on June 18, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The Meijer has been a special tournament for the Hendersons – there’s even a Brooke Henderson Lane – with Brooke having won twice on Father’s Day. Dave Henderson is Brooke’s instructor, but their work together at tournaments has been done remotely since the pandemic. Brittany, a former Symetra Tour player, has stepped in to help, particularly on the greens.

In April, Brooke ended a victory drought that dated back to June 2019 in show-stopping fashion at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open, toppling No. 1-ranked Jin Young Ko, Jessica Korda and Hannah Green at historic Wilshire Country Club with a closing 67 to collect her 10th LPGA title.

Henderson said the feel at Blythefield Country Club reminds her of home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, the trees and weather in particular. This marks the first week on the LPGA that there are no limits when it comes to the number of fans allowed on property and plenty will be out following the winningest Canadian player.

No player on the LPGA has won more than once in 2021. For Henderson to three-peat at the Meijer, she’ll need to adjust her strategy.

“A few tee shots are definitely more challenging with where they placed the bunkers,” she said of the course changes. “(Nos.) 18, 9, and 2 sort of come to mind with the way the bunkers kind of jut in so it bottlenecks the fairway. I used to cut some corners and take sort of aggressive lines on those holes where I can’t really do that anymore. … They’re definitely making it harder on me, but I’m excited for the challenge. I love this place.”

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U.S. Open: Gary Woodland is back in the gym and coming off a swing tune-up, but you won't see him playing instigator this week

Gary Woodland, who's healthy again, says he would have relished a grouping alongside Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

U.S. Open: Gary Woodland is back in the gym and coming off a swing tune-up, but you won't see him playing instigator this week

SAN DIEGO – A year ago, as the defending U.S. Open champion, Gary Woodland didn’t like his chances.

“I wasn’t physically able to play. I just wanted to defend,” he said.

He missed the cut and his injured hip required four cortisone shots to get through the end of last year.

As for now?

“I started working out again two weeks ago, which is amazing, so body is feeling better and definitely with that comes a lot more confidence,” he said.

Woodland also got an added boost of confidence from his longtime instructor, Butch Harmon. They have worked together on and off since 2011, but Harmon retired from tending to his stable of pros at Tour events and so Woodland has seen less of him. He stopped on the way to Torrey Pines for a tune-up of sorts. Usually, Harmon can pinpoint one area of weakness that he needs to work on, but this time Woodland required more assistance.

“Last week there were four things that were off. That’s a lot for me, and it was all stuff that I wasn’t able to do last year and stuff that I started doing because I was hurt,” he explained. “That part is a little frustrating, so usually I’m one day with Butch. I spent three with him. Thursday, he told me I was horrible, and Saturday he told me I was pretty good and I had a chance to win this week. That’s what I like about Butch. He keeps it honest.”

Woodland, 37, has made three cuts in his last four events, including finishing fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship last month. He also is returning to a Torrey Pines course that he’s played regularly and has always fit his eye and power game. Woodland is paired for the first two rounds with fellow past U.S. Open champions Martin Kaymer and Webb Simpson despite the rumors he would be grouped with defending champion Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.

“I would have loved to have played. I think the energy in that group would have been amazing,” Woodland said. “I would have instigated and tried to start fights or whatever I could have done.”

Woodland’s injury not only dented his confidence, but his chances of playing in the Ryder Cup, which was postponed a year, this fall. He’s plummeted to No. 21 in the U.S. Ryder Cup team point standings behind Will Zalatoris. (Only the top six automatically qualify for the team.)

“I think I would have made the team if we would have had it before COVID, and then I battled injuries and battled a lot and I dropped way down,” he said. “I’m happy with where my game is. I’m happy where the confidence level is. I don’t think I’m too far off where I can play my way back in. I think I can do that, and that starts this week.”

Source : Golf Week More   

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