If the game teaches us anything over time, it’s that in any given week, a player can run around and find the winner’s circle. But before a middle finger, there are always clues to a potential winner, nuggets of information that litter the landscape like breadcrumbs.

Last year, for example, Patty Tavatanakit was the LPGA Tour’s most anticipated rookie, a player whose talent, history and warm hand as spring approaches put her in the conversation as someone one to watch. On Chevron Championship Sunday, when Tavatanakit turned her first LPGA Tour win into a major and became the second-to-last player to jump into Poppie’s Pond, watchers of the women’s game weren’t at all surprised.

So who’s on this year’s list of players to watch as the LPGA Tour returns to Mission Hills for the final time?

The best choice must be the #1 player in the Rolex rankings. Jin Young Ko hasn’t played much, but when she has, she’s been head and shoulders above the competition. As well as winning her last two starts – the CME Group Tour Championship last November and the HSBC Women’s World Championship the first week of March – Ko is in the midst of some remarkable streaks. She has 15 consecutive rounds in the 60s, an all-time record on the LPGA Tour and 30 straight rounds under par. Add to that the fact that she won the Chevron Championship in 2019 and it would be silly not to put Ko at the top of the list of titles to watch.

But there are others who play awfully well and have a Dinah Shore Tournament Course history; those with a redwood-sized chip on their shoulders; who feel they have something to prove and want nothing more than to etch their name as the latest Californian winner of the calendar’s first major.

First on this list is Brooke Henderson.

Brooke’s last victory came in California, the JTBC LA Open eleven months ago. And many people forget that she was part of the 2020 Chevron Championship playoffs won by Mirim Lee, who competed three times en route to victory.

But more than that, Henderson’s 2022 season so far has included everything but a win. And her resume, which includes being the winningest Canadian golfer in history, misses only a second major title.

Henderson opened the year in Orlando with a second-place finish at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. But for a few stalling ups and downs at the end of the final round by eventual winner Danielle Kang, Henderson could have secured a victory while others shook off the cobwebs of the new year.

A week later, she finished sixth at the Gainbridge LPGA Championship in Boca Rio, even after shooting 74 on Saturday in the toughest conditions of the season.

On the first Sunday in February, Henderson finished with a pair of 67s to finish T11 at the Drive On Championship at Crown Colony in Fort Myers, Florida. A month to the day later, she closed with another 67 at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore for a T6 finish at the aforementioned HSBC Women’s World Championship, a finish that may have been lost in all of Jin Young Ko’s history. if Henderson had not followed him. a week later with a stunning 23 under at Siam Country Club to finish tied for fourth in the Honda LPGA Thailand.

“I felt like I played really well, which is a really good feeling, especially after last year wasn’t my best year,” Henderson said, despite having won in 2021 and had six more top-10 finishes. . “So coming out so strong this year, I’m really happy and proud of that. I feel like I’m getting closer each week to being a little more comfortable and enjoying these last bands as much as I have. summer.

Henderson is known as a close relative. She thrives when the pressure cooker is put on the grill. “It’s so fun, so exciting to be in (the latest bands),” she said. “I look forward to the moment when I have the opportunity to win.

“I love making birdies. And I love chasing and that attack mentality.

These are the characteristics of a champion. It’s been six years since Henderson won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in a spectacular playoff with Lydia Ko. Brooke won’t be playing in Carlsbad at JTBC as she rests for the first major of the year.

No one knows if his major league drought will end this year. But there’s no doubt that Brooke Henderson is moving in the right direction.