EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France (AP) — Brooke Henderson’s six-year wait for a second major championship title is over.
The Canadian ended a wild final round at the Evian Championship by rolling in an 8-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to win by one stroke on Sunday.
Henderson was soaked in champagne by fellow players on the 18th green after an even-par round of 71 that saw her finish on 17-under 267 and ahead of Sophia Schubert, an LPGA rookie who was one of many to make a run at Henderson at Evian Resort Golf Club.
Five players were tied for third a further shot back: Mao Saigo (64), Lydia Ko (66), Charley Hull (67), Hyo Joo Kim (67) and Carlota Ciganda (68).
Henderson, who won the Women’s PGA Championship in 2016 at the age of 18, started the final round with a two-shot lead over So Yeon Ryu. It was wiped out after the first hole thanks to a birdie from Ryu and a bogey from Henderson.
So began a crazy final round of the fourth major of year, featuring four-putts from Henderson and Ryu, a spectator picking up a ball that dribbled into the rough and landed by her feet and — at one stage on the back nine — a seven-way tie for the lead.
In total, there were 13 changes of leader, with Henderson only knocked out of it — briefly — when Schubert (68) made birdie at No. 12 to move onto 15 under.
Henderson held herself together and managed to keep pace with Schubert with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15. The pair were tied for the lead after reaching the 18th, with Schubert playing in the group ahead of Henderson.
Schubert’s birdie putt came to rest barely an inch from the cup just after Henderson had a wild hook off the tee, only for the ball to ricochet off the trees and back out to the rough.
Henderson laid up and, from 107 yards, sent her third shot to 8 feet. The birdie putt never looked like missing and Henderson bent her knees as the ball fell into the cup.
She was a major winner again.
SCHUBERT SHOWS TREMENDOUS CHARACTER IN EVIAN RUNNER UP
The casual fan – the one who can name a handful of LPGA Tour players and enjoys the television coverage but who has never dived too deep into the women’s game – might have tuned into the final round of the Amundi Evian Championship and said, “Who is Sophia Schubert?” A few minutes later, that question might have been followed by, “How do I get that putting stroke?”
The answer to the first is simple: Schubert, a former University of Texas standout and winner of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur championship, is a 26-year-old rookie from Oak Ridge, Tennessee who spent the last three years honing her craft on the Epson Tour. After college and a success Curtis Cup appearance at Quaker Ridge in New York, Schubert struggled. In 2019, her first year as a pro, she only made $12,986 and didn’t break the top 90 on the Road to the LPGA. Some wondered if she would call it quits after she donned a headset and showed tremendous promise as an on-course commentator for Golf Channel.
But she gutted it out, carrying her own golf bag, driving to events, staying in host housing, and getting incrementally better. In 2020 she made every cut and finished in the top 30 on the Epson Tour money list. A year later, and just about the time many players realize that they have a career choice to make, Schubert had nine top-10 finishes and won the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. She finished fourth on the Epson Tour money list to earn LPGA membership for the 2022 season.
Still, in the first half of her rookie year on the LPGA Tour she missed five cuts and hadn’t finished better than a tie for 12th. However, the trendlines seemed to be moving in the right direction. She arrived in France having made three cuts in a row, including at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. It appeared as though she could play well for three rounds (the typical week on the Epson Tour) but was having trouble adjusting to 72 holes multiple weeks in a row.
Through it all, the ups and downs, the joys and tears, Schubert remained a positive force, the kind of player who never seemed to have a bad day who never said an unkind word to anyone. No one who has witnessed her career can recall her ever losing her temper, being curt with a fan or volunteer, or blowing off a request. She greets every person with kind eyes and a magnetic smile, the sort of personality that draws you close.
As for the second question the casual fan might have – the one about the putting stroke – it’s always been there. If there is one aspect of Schubert’s game everyone should emulate, it’s the languid, pendulum stroke where she allows the face to open and the toe to release. Not only does the rhythm of her motion never change, she never lets the situation dictate the stroke. Schubert always gives gravity a chance. Every roll from inside 20 feet looks like it’s dying when it gets to the hole.
You might not have seen her until her stellar performance in Evian, but with a preternaturally calm temperament and a putting stroke that would make Ben Crenshaw smile, those who don’t know Schubert will likely be hearing more of her in the coming months and years.
“You know, I want to cry,” she said after coming up one shot short on Sunday. “I want to cry tears of happiness. I’m proud of myself, proud of everyone that’s helped me get to this point. I came just short, but I know that I’ll be back, so I’m really happy.
“I have a lot of support back home and they’ve been telling me over and over again, you can do this. Just be confident.
“I fixed my clubs a little bit, the lofts and lies. I fixed those a few weeks ago and I’m just hitting the ball straighter.
“And lastly, I’m trusting in the process, trusting in God’s plan for me. Whatever He wants is going to happen, and I take ease in that. … I think the last few holes coming in, I just had this sense of peace. So, I just hit every shot and kept going.”
She is learning to fly, taking up a Cessna 150 with an instructor when she’s home. And she travels with her dog whenever possible. Other than that, you now know everything you need to about Sophia Schubert, most of which can be summed up in her last quote.
She keeps going, no matter how rough the road. That and a putting stroke worth mimicking are more than enough reasons to follow her.
* Information and images credit to www.lpga.com