Of the many groups worth watching in the first two rounds of the AmazingCre Portland Classic, none offers more potential than the threesome of Maria Fassi, Andrea Lee, and Leona Maguire.
Days ago, Fassi played herself into the final group on Sunday at the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G for the first time in her career. She attributes a great deal of that success to the mentorship she has received from her fellow Arkansas Razorback and Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational teammate, Stacy Lewis, who has coached Fassi on strategy and how to attain long-term success on the LPGA Tour.
But she also has a secret weapon that no one can teach. Fassi has been the longest driver on the LPGA Tour for the last two seasons. A two-year average has Fassi driving the ball 278.2 yards. And as she showed in Cincinnati, she has a lot more in the tank. On numerous occasions, her tee shots at Kenwood Country Club exceeded 300 yards.
However, there’s more to the 24-year-old Mexican than massive drives. At last week’s event, she improved her total strokes gained average by more than four-and-a-half shots. Entering the Kroger Queen City Championship, Fassi’s total strokes gained on the field was -0.98. Last week it was 3.60. She went from averaging 3.2 birdies a round to averaging five birdies a round in Cincinnati.
In addition to being entertaining, Fassi is also on the cusp of a breakout.
Another 24-year-old is on the cusp of a career-changing victory. California-native Andrea Lee finished T5 last week, her third top-5 finish this season, and is 10th in qualifying points for the U.S. Solheim Cup team, a goal Lee has set for herself since she joined the LPGA Tour in 2020.
Lee gets the job done much differently than Fassi. While the Stanford graduate ranks 153rd on tour in driving distance, she hits almost 84% of her fairways, making her one of the accurate drivers in the game.
While Lee and Fassi look for their first career wins, Leona Maguire looks to make 2022 a multi-win season. The victor at the Drive On Championship at Crown Colony has five additional top-10 finishes this year, including a runner-up to Jennifer Kupcho at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give.
The Irishwoman, who broke out at the 2021 Solheim Cup where she went undefeated, has done it on the strength of a vastly improved short game. According to the KPMG Performance Insights, Maguire is one of three players averaging more than one-third of a stroke gained per round both on and around the greens in 2022. She gains an average of 0.37 strokes on the field every week. The only players better are Aditi Ashok and Hyo Joo Kim.
The numbers are even better when you go back to 2021. Maguire is averaging more than a full stroke gained per round with her short game since the KPMG Performance Insights began tracking last season in San Francisco at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.
Strokes gained short game incorporates a player’s performance on shots around the greens and on putts – in other words, the scoring shots, which make Maguire a worthy follow for the remainder of the year.