The professional major season is in full swing with the PGA Championship taking place this week at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York for the fourth time. Jack Nicklaus won 18 professional majors with his 17th major win at the 1980 PGA Championship, the first played on Oak Hill’s East Course.
Nicklaus was known as a great ball striker. In 1980, he led the PGA Tour in total driving and greens in regulations. Both his driving distance and accuracy helped him secure the victory.
Minjee Lee and Collin Morikawa have both established themselves as good ball strikers from tee to green. Early on in their careers, they focused on the fundamentals by perfecting their swings and dialing in numbers to the greens.
According to LPGA Professionals who are peers in swing mechanics, Morikawa’s golf swing includes a slightly bowed left wrist to create a stronger face with limited rotation through the impact area. When Morikawa tees it up, he hits it long and straight.
The same can be said for Lee who is long off the tee and very accurate with her irons.
Morikawa won two majors in his first seven major starts, winning both the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 Open Championship in his debut appearances of each major. In 2020, he led the PGA Championship field in driving accuracy and proximity to the hole. His total approach shots from 50 yards to 175 yards had an average distance to the hole of 21 feet.
Lee’s success in the majors has been steady with her winning two of the last eight majors played on the LPGA Tour. She is the only player alongside Jin Young Ko to have won multiple majors since the start of 2019.
According to the KPMG Performance Insights, Lee ranked second in strokes gained tee to green when she won her second major title at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open and gained more than three strokes on the field in this statistic. Her average proximity to the hole from all distances 175 yards and in was approximately 15 feet, which is astounding. Lee also made 23 of 34 putts between five and 25 feet, a 68% conversion rate compared to the combined field average of 46%.
|Minjee Lee vs. Collin Morikawa|
|Cuts Made||91% (176 of 194)||84% (72 of 86)|
Each player’s accuracy has allowed them to consistently make cuts. Morikawa started his PGA Tour career with 22 consecutive cuts made, including a tie for 35th at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. This was three fewer cuts made than Tiger Woods had when he began his professional career from 1996 to 1997.
Lee has made the cut 91% of the time, averaging two missed cuts per year over nine seasons. Her cuts made percentage ranks among the best on tour with a minimum 100 rounds played since 1980.
|Best Cuts Made Percentage|
|LPGA Tour Since 1980 - Minimum 100 Events Played|
In 2023, both Morikawa and Lee have been close to victory, but unable to capitalize on their 54-hole leads. Morikawa began the final round at the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a 6-shot lead and Lee held a 3-stroke lead at the Cognizant Founders Cup. While their tee-to-green performance has been solid, they have lost strokes to their competitors on the greens. Lee is losing an average of 1.35 strokes on the greens through five events played compared to Morikawa at -0.325 strokes gained putting on the season.
|Minjee Lee vs. Collin Morikawa|
|2023 Performance Statistics|
|Driving Accuracy||54th: 77.50%||3rd: 69.90%|
|GIR Percentage from Fairway||9th: 81.11%||52nd: 78.59%|
|Strokes Gained Tee to Green Average||6th: 1.57||5th: 1.63|
|Putts per GIR||T73: 1.80||T101: 1.76|
Morikawa is a favorite to win his third major and second PGA Championship. Lee continues her quest for another LPGA Tour win in two weeks at the Mizuho Americas Open.