LPGA fans don’t get to see the world’s best golfers go head-to-head in match play events very often. But this season, fans are spoiled with three different match-play competitions. With the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown checked off the list, next up is the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards. This event promises thrills, drama and even a few new faces to entertain fans after a week off so here’s what you need to know about the third edition of the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play.
On Sunday, four familiar faces will scrimmage during the inaugural Players Challenge presented by MGM Resorts International. Normally enemies on the field, wide receivers Davante Adams and Terry McLaurin will team up on the course to face running back Mark Ingram and a fourth NFL player who has yet to be announced for a nine-hole team scramble. The NFL scramble will be played concurrently with the final championship match on Sunday. Play Like a Girl will receive a $40,000 donation from MGM Resorts International as a beneficiary of the celebrity event.
Golf, Golf and More Golf
The Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play is a unique event with a grueling format. The field of 64 will be divided into 16 groups for three days of round-robin pool play starting on Wednesday. Players will earn one point for a win, a half-point for a tie and no points for a loss. Whoever has the most points in each pool by Friday will advance to the round of 16 for single-elimination play. From there, four rounds of match play will be squeezed into the final two days. The round-of-16 matches will be played Saturday morning and the quarterfinals will follow in the afternoon. Sunday morning will see two more players eliminated in the semifinals before the championship is finally played. In all, that’s five days, seven rounds and 120 potential holes of competition. That’s a whole lot of golf.
A Good Bet
Last season, five players who made it to single elimination went on to become Rolex First-Time Winners: Ayaka Furue, Andrea Lee, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Gemma Dryburgh and Paula Reto. Furue, who finished runner up after falling to Eun-Hee Ji 3 and 2 in the championship match, was the first to find her maiden title at the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open. Reto, who finished T9, was next and captured her first victory in Canada at the CPKC Women’s Open. Lee, who finished fourth after losing to Lilia Vu 3 and 2 in the consolation match, followed with the Portland Classic. Dryburgh then rounded out the fivesome with a win at the TOTO Japan Classic in November.
Though she wasn’t able to do it last season, Vu took home her first win this season at the Honda LPGA Thailand and added a major title at The Chevron Championship for good measure. So, pay attention to all the names in the round of 16 – it’s a good bet they’ll be back at the top of the leaderboard soon enough.
Look for Rising Stars
Speaking of first-time winners, the Tour is long overdue for their next one. There have been three Rolex First-Time Winners so far in 2023, the last being Grace Kim at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei over a month ago. By this time in 2022, the Tour had already seen four first-timers hoist some hardware (Leona Maguire, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Atthaya Thitikul and Jennifer Kupcho). Angel Yin and Aditi Ashok have both been skirting the winner’s circle in recent weeks and are strong picks for the next first-time winner. Between them, they have racked up four top 10s – including a runner-up each – in the last three events. Yin just barely missed grabbing the Chevron title after losing in a playoff to Vu. The next week, Ashok lost in a three-way playoff at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro to eventual champion Hannah Green. Both finished T5 at the Cognizant Founders Cup. Thoroughly battle-tested in high-stakes, one-on-one play, Yin and Ashok will be players to watch this week.
For Alison Lee and Danielle Kang, it pays to live in Las Vegas. The pair both call Shadow Creek their home course and will be spending the week in their own beds – which makes a big difference in five days jam-packed with competition. This week could provide a much-needed energy boost and momentum shift for both veterans. Kang started the season strong, earning three top-10 finishes in four starts but has fallen off since, having not found the top 20 since the DIO Implant LA Open. Lee has climbed up to the top 10 just once this year with a T9 finish at the JM Eagle Championship. Though Kang didn’t get past pool play last year, she finished T5 in the event’s inaugural installment. Lee has never made it to single-elimination play.