The major season has come to a close, but the LPGA hasn’t lost any steam and the thrills are far from over. The Tour will finish off its European swing in Ireland this week at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, a sensational event that spans three tours, two golf courses and always promises a dramatic finish.
The ISPS Handa World Invitational is one of the most unique events on the schedule. Not only does the event feature two concurrent competitions, but it also has two cuts and two courses to make play that much more compelling. The tournament had humble beginnings in 2019, when it was played on the Challenge Tour and featured an invite-only women’s competition. For its second playing in 2021, the tournament was promoted to the LPGA Tour schedule as a co-sanctioned event with the Ladies European Tour and the DP World Tour. The tournament will feature parallel competitions on the men’s and women’s side: 144 women across the LPGA and LET and 144 men from the DP World Tour will each battle it out for $1.5 million in prize money in 72-hole stroke-play competitions. Each tournament will feature two cuts, one to the top 60 and ties after 36 holes and another to the leading 35 players and ties after 54 holes. For the first two days, every player will play one round at Galgorm Castle Golf Club and the other at Castlerock Golf Club. The remainder of the event will be played at Galgorm.
This week will also be the last chance for players to qualify for the European Solheim Cup team. So far, Celine Boutier and Maja Stark are the only two players to have solidified their places on the team, leaving 10 spots up for grabs. As it stands, the six players projected to earn their spots through the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings are No. 9 Charley Hull, No. 14 Leona Maguire, No. 16 Georgia Hall, No. 19 Linn Grant, No. 33 Carlota Ciganda and No. 37 Anna Nordqvist. The four remaining players will be hand-picked by captain Suzann Pettersen and her trusty crew of vice captains: Nordqvist, Dame Laura Davies and Caroline Martens. The U.S. players will have one additional week at the CPKC Women’s Open to qualify for the U.S. team. So far, just four players have clinched their spots on the American team: Lilia Vu, Nelly Korda, Allisen Corpuz and Megan Khang.
Euro Swing Summary
After this final week in Ireland, the Tour will say goodbye to Europe until that select crew of 24 players and captains make the trip to Finca Cortesin in Spain for the Solheim Cup. It’s been an exciting four weeks on the continent for the LPGA Tour starting with Boutier’s electric maiden major win on home soil at The Amundi Evian Championship. Boutier won the event by a whopping six strokes over her closest competitor Brooke Henderson. The Frenchwoman took that momentum with her over the English Channel to Scotland where she won again at the FREED GROUP Women’s Scottish Open presented by Trust Golf. For just one week, Boutier was the only player on Tour with three wins in 2023 before Vu joined her, bookending the major championship season with victories at The Chevron Championship and the AIG Women’s Open. With her second major victory and third win of the year, Vu ascended to the Rolex Rankings No. 1 spot for the first time in her career and took home the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award.
There are three Northern Ireland natives in the field this week, Stephanie Meadow – who won the inaugural playing of the ISPS Handa World Invitational – Jessica Ross and Olivia Mehaffey, but there’s only one player competing under the Irish flag: Leona Maguire. The Irishwoman found her groove in 2022, picking up her first win at the LPGA Drive On Championship and seven additional top-10 finishes, not losing any momentum in 2023. Maguire has made 13 cuts in 14 starts this season, recording five top-10 results, including her second LPGA Tour win at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. As the only LPGA player with a win in 2023 under her belt, the 28-year-old has a unique advantage over the rest of the field. Maguire has also seen success at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, finishing 10th at 11-under in the event last season.
Ringer in the Field
But Maguire is not the only player in the field with one or two LPGA wins under their belt. Two-time LPGA Tour winner Georgia Hall will also be making the trip to Galgorm Castle Golf Club this week, looking for her first win on Tour since the 2020 Portland Classic. Hall had a great start to 2023 and looked poised to capture her third LPGA win. In her first six starts of 2023, Hall did not finish outside of the top 15 and registered back-to-back runner-up finishes at the LPGA Drive on Championship and the DIO Implant LA Open. Unfortunately, Hall’s fire seemed to sputter out over the summer and the Englishwoman has only found the top 10 once since then, a T10 finish at the Cognizant Founders Cup. But this week would be the perfect chance for Hall to get back to winning form. Though Hall has proven she can play well anywhere, she has had ample success at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, finishing T14 in 2021 and solo third in 2022, which might be the confidence boost she needs to get back in contention.