The LPGA Tour’s second stop on the Asian spring swing takes us to Singapore and the island of Sentosa. What is commonly referred to in women’s professional golf informally as “Asia’s Major,” the best players in the world are ready to tee it up again at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
- The same nine of the top-10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings from the field last week are in Singapore alongside 17 of the world’s top 20.
- The women are competing for a $1.8 million purse and a first-place prize of $270,000.
- Defending Champion Jin Young Ko is back fresh off a 64 on Sunday in Thailand and T6 finish.
Sixty-six players are competing for 72-holes with no cut. Since 2017, the host site of this prestigious event is the Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong Course, located on a small island region off the south coast of Singapore. It is not uncommon for this field to be elite and therefore many of these women are familiar with the layout.
- Measuring 6,774 yards, the Tanjong Course plays to a Par 72.
- Fifty-four bunkers decorate the design, and 12 of the 18 holes have areas where water comes into play.
- The final four holes all have significant penalty areas to test the best’s resolve.
- Large greens with an average size of 10,600 square feet are covered in Bermudagrass.
- In recent years, the golf club has added over 150 trees to the course.
Three of the last 13 HSBC champions are competing. They will all agree the scorecard at Sentosa is long. Unlike last week’s birdie-fest, this test really rewards patience, precision, and pars. Each of the five champions on the Tanjong Course are also major champions. Even though the average winning score since 2017 is 17-under par, this course can challenge you.
Unfortunately, the course may not be the biggest obstacle this week. The weather looks warm and wet - very wet. Temperatures are predicted in the low 80’s each day with winds in the low teens. We know those breezes will get bolstered by the course’s proximity to water, but the real challenge will be the rain. Nearly four inches of precipitation are expected to fall from Thursday through Sunday.
To compound that issue, director of agronomy Andrew Johnston stated this in his GCSAA report, “This is the wettest season in more than 100 years with daily rain since October. This has made it challenging to navigate conditions combined with daily play to become tournament ready.”The Tanjong Course gets longer, and players will have to contend with storms throughout.
Whenever the weather becomes the lead character in a golf tournament, it is difficult to determine the path to victory. Under these predicted challenging conditions on a championship golf course, I’d pay close attention to those ladies who can do the following four things.
- Six of the ten par fours are over 390 yards. Five of those holes ranked in the 10 toughest holes in 2022’s edition. Approach shots on these difficult holes will test the players. There are some par fours where you can score as well, therefore par-4 scoring is important. These players get it done regardless of the length – Atthaya Thitikul, Maja Stark, Lillia Vu, Georgia Hall, and Madelene Sagstrom.
- Length and accuracy off the tee will be a huge advantage this week. Strokes Gained Off the Tee is a measure of each player’s ability to bomb it in the fairway. The most complete drivers in Sentosa are Nelly Korda, Madelene Sagstrom, Atthaya Thitikul, Minjee Lee, and Linn Grant.
- We don’t know how many holes these players will even play in the HSBC, as four inches of rain can be hard to recover from. Scoring quickly is a skill we don’t normally consider for 72 holes, but this week might be different. LPGA.com tracks a unique analytic called “sub-par holes.” The players in this field who have played both tournaments in 2023 leading this category are Nelly Korda, Leona Maguire, Maja Stark, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and Brooke Henderson.
- Under those conditions, players are going to miss greens. When they do, this tournament is going to become a short-game contest. I saved this stat for last because it will be the biggest differentiator. Wet sand, heavy rough and slippery slopes are managed best by these players: Lilia Vu, Leona Maguire, Megan Khang, Danielle Kang, and In Gee Chun.
Many ladies have played this event multiple times. Defending Champion Jin Young Ko has a win, and two top-6 finishes in her last four starts. U.S. Women's Open Champion Minjee Lee has two runner-up finishes and World No. 1 Lydia Ko has never finished worse than 23rd since the Tanjong course became the host five years ago.
For the second week in a row, we have an elite collection of players. It’s tough to determine who to truly keep your eye on when the world’s best come together. The LPGA doesn’t keep a statistic measuring grit or resilience. Although by the end of this week, I think we all will know who has the most in Singapore.
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