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Henderson's skill eclipsed Lotte's tough conditions

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser — Paul Arnett The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

April 16--The best women players in the world fought the golf course and the golf course won at Ko Olina.

Not once in blustery conditions for three rounds and Kona breath in the third did the Lotte Championship average score drop into red numbers as can happen when the weather plays nice here for four straight days.

During ideal conditions in January, the PGA Tour's best came in and put on a driving, chipping and birdieing display at the Plantation Course at Kapalua and the Waialae Country Club set-up for the Sony Open in Hawaii. If you're going to win either of those events -- as Dustin Johnson did on Maui and Patton Kizzire on Oahu -- you gotta go low.

Former Canadian hockey goalie Brooke Henderson put her hand-eye coordination in plain view with a nice display of golf in tough weather on the west end. Her 12-under finish was the only score in double digits, punctuated at the par-3 16th with a final-round birdie after a four-putt double bogey on the same green the day before.

That hole owed her one.

And she turned it into her sixth LPGA Tour victory before a good-sized crowd here to see more than just local favorite Michelle Wie. The Stanford and Punahou School graduate never threatened the upper tier, but still managed a T-11 on her old home course, nine shots off the pace of Henderson.

Wie is playing good golf. Her 3-under finish was a steady if not spectacular one. She still draws a crowd of people who are loyal fans mixed with those her own age. She enjoys it and should be a factor the rest of the year if she can remain healthy.

As for Henderson, she had some talented golfers giving chase, including Korea's Inbee Park and current world No. 1 Shanshan Feng of China. Feng was startled during a postgame interview that her now 23-week reign as the best in the world had been in peril. Park could have finished alone in second had she birdied the final two holes which would have put her back at No. 1. Instead she bogeyed both to slip into a tie for third at 7 under with Feng and former world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn.

That right there gives you an idea how tight things are at the top. World No. 2 Lexi Thompson skipped this event for a second straight year and could fall to No. 3 thanks to the solid play of Park and Feng. The official world rankings come out this morning with Feng still in first. Park is the leading money-winner with $586,984 through seven events. Henderson is second at $496,619. She pocketed $300,000 with the Lotte Championship.

The tour continues in Los Angeles this week with local golf fans finishing off a solid professional golf run here that began in January. Don't forget Jerry Kelly's dramatic win at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai to start the PGA Tour Champions part of the season on the Big Island. Long-term deals are in place for all four events.

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