Paradise awaits on the island of Oahu as the LPGA prepares for their first major championship in 2023. With the Chevron Championship just one week away, we have a Wednesday start for the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei. Contested in Hawaii for a decade, this tournament has been hosted by three different venues.
The current course is Hoakalei Country Club, a property constructed on a sugar plantation, an absolutely epic layout designed by World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els in 2013. Characterized by sand and water, this course was nearly an impossible test in 2022 when Hyo Joo Kim won. Trade winds crossed the course for four days and created a challenge, but Kim outscored the field by two and won her fifth LPGA Tour title. She returns along with two other past champions Brooke Henderson and Cristie Kerr.
Hoakalei measures 6,573 yards for the LOTTE Championship and plays to a par 72. The standard compliment of four par 3s and 5s accompany 10 par 4s. The field scoring average last year was 73.3 with weather playing a huge role, but thankfully we have a better forecast for this week.
- The high temperature all four days is 81 degrees.
- Trade winds are expected in the low teens (10-14 mph) with gusts up to 28 mph. The wind will be persistent, but not nearly the issue it was in 2022.
- There’s a slight chance of rain on Thursday (20%), but overall, the tournament looks dry.
Golf in paradise attracts some of the world’s best players. Four of the top-10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings are competing alongside eight of the top 30. There are 144 players in the full field with the top 65 and ties making it to the weekend. Those who do play the weekend will compete for a $2 million dollar purse and a first-place check of $300,000.
Two favorites we should consider ready to win on Sunday are Georgia Hall and defending champion Kim. The duo just squared off in Los Angeles two weeks ago in the final round. If you like to pick your own winners, look at what Hall and Kim do well to give yourself a chance of finding this week’s winner ahead of time:
- The greens at Hoakalei are quite large at 7,500 square feet. Making sure you accumulate as many GIRs as possible is vital. Kim is ranked second in the field behind Hae Ran Ryu for hitting greens. Others such as Hall, Celine Boutier, Nasa Hataoka and Perrine Delacour can be very accurate on approach as well.
- Els included 112 bunkers when he designed the course. Chances are you will hit at least one through 72 holes. Hall is ranked fourth in the field for sand save percentage. Scoring from the sand and saving par will be crucial to keeping a great round going. A couple others who are best from the beach are Boutier, Minami Katsu, Delacour, and In Gee Chun.
- Along with all those bunkers, water comes into play on 14 holes. For those who start on hole one, you’ll see blue for the first 11 holes. Kim is ranked first tee-to-green in the field. Her ability to position herself is why she won in the wind last year. If she cannot defend, these tee-to-green players who can avoid trouble while navigating the course might give her a run over the weekend: Ryu, Hataoka and Henderson.
- Scoring last year was limited by the windy conditions. With six par 4s under 385 yards, and four very scoreable par 5s, the winning total should be lower than 11-under-par. Hall averages 4.7 sub-par holes per round. Kim is right there with her going low along with Hinako Shibuno, Delacour, and Frida Kinhult.
These four skills cover much of the traits it takes to win. That’s the point and there’s a reason why Hall and Kim are two favorites for the final group on Sunday. They possess the skills needed to differentiate themselves from the field. Who else can contend and separate come Sunday? We will soon find out, but don’t be surprised if their name is one you just read.
Keith Stewart is an award-winning PGA Professional. He covers the LPGA and PGA Tour for Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, LPGA, and PGA of America. If you are looking to raise your golf acumen and love inside information about the game, check out his weekly newsletter called Read The Line.