From the opening tee shot in January onward, the 2023 LPGA Tour season had no shortage of memorable moments and statistical achievements.
KPMG Performance Insights provide the most comprehensive analysis ever available in women’s golf. Now with millions of shots recorded in an ever-expanding data set, the Insights program illuminates the details of the performances that shape rounds, championships and seasons on the LPGA Tour.
The 2023 season was most notable for an array of firsts, including four first-time major champions and a record 12 Rolex First-Time Winners. There was also Rose Zhang’s unforgettable maiden steps onto the main stage, becoming the first player in 72 years to win in her first LPGA Tour start as a professional. That’s just the beginning of the story, though.
Lilia Vu’s Sensational Year
The ascent of Lilia Vu to Rolex Player of the Year and No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings was one of the biggest stories in all of golf in 2023. Her season started with a scorching Sunday in Thailand when she shot a closing 64 to run down Natthakritta Vongtaveelap and pick up her first career LPGA Tour win. In her final round, she gained a whopping 5.32 strokes on the field on the greens alone, making seven putts of 10 feet or longer.
Two months later at The Chevron Championship, Vu entered the final round in a tie for 11th, four shots behind co-leaders Angel Yin and Allisen Corpuz. Vu gained more than three full strokes on the greens that Sunday – and 2.74 tee-to-green – firing a closing 68 to win her first major title in a playoff over Yin. The comeback was something not seen in more than three decades: Vu was the first player to win a women’s major when beginning the final round outside the top 10 since Sherri Turner at the 1988 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Walton Heath Golf Club provided the setting for Vu to officially climb into superstardom. Vu shot 67-67 in the final two rounds of the AIG Women’s Open to win by six shots over Charley Hull. With the victory, Vu became the first American woman to win multiple majors in the same season since Juli Inkster in 1999. She was the first player since Se Ri Pak in 1998 to enter a season without a win on the LPGA Tour and proceed to win more than one major in a season. Her six-shot margin of victory tied the second largest by an American woman in a major in the last 30 years.
Vu was brilliant through the bag in her six-shot runaway win, ranking second in the field in both strokes gained tee-to-green (+8.77) and strokes gained putting (+10.00). Her five bogeys all week were two fewer than anyone else who played all four rounds. She moved to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings for the first time, becoming the fourth American to reach the top spot.
Ruoning Reigns at Baltusrol
Arguably the most impressive iron-play performance of 2023 belonged to Ruoning Yin at Baltusrol, site of this year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Yin hit her last 37 consecutive greens in regulation that week with her last missed G.I.R. of the championship coming on the 17th hole on Friday. She entered that week as the season leader in strokes gained approach per round and only expanded her lead in that statistic with her performance in New Jersey. Yin gained more than 9.5 strokes on the field with her approach play, most of any player in the field.
Yin finished the 2023 season ranked second in strokes gained approach per round, trailing only Minjee Lee. On all approach shots this season from 150 to 175 yards away, Yin had an average proximity of just under 29 feet. For perspective, the LPGA Tour’s average proximity from that range this season was 34 feet, 6 inches.
Five Skill Sets to Recognize
- Only one qualified player averaged two strokes gained total per round on the LPGA Tour this season: Hyo Joo Kim. Kim led the strokes gained total metric despite not leading in any of the four primary divisors of that stat (off the tee, approach, around the green and putting), a testament to her balanced excellence all season. Kim ranked in the top 50 in every strokes gained category, one of only three players with that distinction (Brooke Henderson and Xiyu Lin).
- No player gained more strokes per round on the greens this season than Angel Yin, who averaged 1.40 per round in 2023. Yin made 143 putts of 10 feet or longer on the season, 12 more than any other player on the LPGA Tour. The Aon Risk Reward Challenge winner made 31.7% of her putts this season from 10 to 20 feet away. Nearly two-thirds of qualified LPGA players this season made putts from that range at a rate of 25% or lower. Yin also had the best strokes gained putting round of the year, picking up 7.72 shots on the competition in round two of the AIG Women’s Open.
- In 2022, Celine Boutier was merely pedestrian around the greens by the elite standards of the LPGA Tour. She ranked 40th on Tour in scrambling percentage that season and averaged negative strokes gained around the greens per round (-0.05). That changed dramatically in 2023, as Boutier led the LPGA in scrambling and ranked third on Tour in shots gained around the green. Her short-game solutions fueled a breakout season that saw her capture her first major victory at The Amundi Evian Championship and have one of two four-win seasons on the LPGA Tour in 2023, alongside Vu.
- For the second season in a row, Minjee Lee led the LPGA Tour in strokes gained approach per round. Lee’s brilliance can best be explained by her proximity numbers from 125 to 150 yards out. The two-time major champion averaged 22 feet, 0 inches on approach shots from that range this season, tied with Jin Young Ko for best on the LPGA Tour. That’s a full 6 feet better than the Tour average in 2023 from 125-150 yards away.
- Being one of the best putters in the world has many distinct advantages. For Ayaka Furue, one of those is the prospect of a bogey-free round. Furue had 15 of those this season, two more than any other player on the LPGA Tour. She ranked third on Tour in overall bogey avoidance, behind only Boutier and Kim. Furue made 64 putts of 15 feet or longer in 2023, the fourth-most of any player on the circuit.
Corpuz Wins U.S. Women’s Open
At Pebble Beach, Allisen Corpuz became the first American player in 20 years to get her first LPGA victory at the U.S. Women’s Open. Corpuz was great in every facet of her game but was especially impressive with her approach play. Her average proximity to the hole was the best of any player all week (28’1”). She also ranked second in strokes gained approach and third in greens in regulation. In the final round, she picked up 2.5 strokes on the field putting, helping push her to a three-shot win.
Europe Retains the Solheim Cup
The proceedings at Finca Cortesin got off to a surprising start as the United States swept the opening four matches, which was the first time the USA had swept any foursomes session in Solheim Cup history. The Americans were in prime position after day one, leading 5 to 3, and holding a 6-0 record all-time when leading after two sessions.
Team Europe responded in earnest, however, to forge a tie and retain the Solheim Cup. On home soil, Carlota Ciganda finished the week with a flawless 4-0-0 record, becoming the fifth player in Team Europe history to have four or more match wins and no losses or halves in a single Solheim Cup. Europe has now won or retained three consecutive Solheim Cups for the first time in their team’s history.
Yang Finishes Season with Birdie Barrage
Amy Yang’s season-ending performance got her name into the LPGA record books. Yang won the CME Group Tour Championship with a four-day total of 27-under, tying the fourth-lowest 72-hole score to par in the history of the Tour. Yang made just two bogeys all week, the fewest of any tournament winner all season. She was stellar on approach shots from 150 to 175 yards away, especially on the weekend. In the last two rounds, her average proximity from that distance was 22 feet, 5 inches, more than 12 feet better than the Tour mean.
Despite not winning a tournament this season, Atthaya Thitikul wrapped up the Vare Trophy with a fifth-place finish at the CME Group Tour Championship. Thitikul’s 13 top-10 finishes in 2023 were the most by a player who did not win that season since Stacy Lewis had 14 in 2015.
Rounds of the year and other wild facts
- Yang’s 61 at The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican was the lowest score shot this season on the card, but it wasn’t the round with the biggest differential against the field scoring average. That distinction belongs to Hinako Shibuno, who in the opening round of the FREED GROUP Women’s Scottish Open shot 64, gaining 10.77 strokes on the field.
- There were 11 rounds this season on the LPGA Tour in which a player hit every fairway and every green in regulation. Hyo Joo Kim was the only player to do it in a major, achieving the feat in the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
- The LPGA Tour had 467 rounds this season where a player hit every fairway. To put that into perspective, the PGA Tour had 176 such rounds.
- Alison Lee had the best strokes gained approach performance of the season in round two of The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, picking up 7.96 strokes with her irons on her way to a career-low round of 62. Lee closed the season with three runner-up finishes in a row, playing those 12 rounds in a staggering 56-under.