The LPGA Tour’s fall Asian swing continues with the BMW Ladies Championship. This is an elite event on Tour and draws a tremendous field as a result. Seven of the top 10 and 20 of the top 30 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings have made the trip to Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea. The 78-player field will compete for $2.2 million, with 68 players from the LPGA, eight sponsor invites and two KGA amateurs making up the list of competitors.
Everyone will play all four rounds of 72-hole stroke play, and the low player after Sunday will take home a $330,000 winner’s check. Seowon Valley Country Club is the host venue this year and just completed an amazing course renovation. The property is a 27-hole facility, and the BMW Ladies Championship will see the West and South Courses making up the front and back nines of the Seowon Hills Course.
Together, the scorecard reveals a par-72 layout measuring 6,680 yards. Set on the side of a mountain, Seowon Hills is a perfect test for this premier tournament. The greens are Bentgrass, and the fairways and rough feature Bluegrass, outlining a visually stunning landscape. Seven holes bring water into play, and the course has 55 bunkers. In an interesting twist, players will face more sand off the tee than around the putting surfaces.
That’s where this prediction research starts. Analyzing the layout hole by hole, the venue can be attacked off the tee. Linn Grant leads the LPGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee, followed closely by A Lim Kim, Yuka Saso, Nelly Korda and Ruoning Yin. Strokes gained off the tee favors length in the rankings. Any player near the top of this list can drive it long and accurately, which will surely be a huge advantage on this course and help separate a player from the pack.
Those who can drive it great will be able to take advantage of the conditions. Rain is expected in round one, and there is a 90% chance the course will receive over .25 inches of rain. Temperatures start in the mid-60s but then drop to the high 50s. Cold, damp conditions favor ball speed. This course sits on the side of a hill, so many of the elevation changes will also benefit the power players.
Four par 5s and an average par-4 length under 390 yards means the field will score here. The best of the bunch at making birdies is Germany’s Olivia Cowan, and while her sample size on the LPGA Tour is small, she can go low. A Lim Kim again, along with Hyo Jim Kim, Atthaya Thitikul and Saso, are also strong sub-par scorers. Could Thitikul get back to where she was last fall and give herself a chance at a third LPGA Tour title?
To do so, she will need to convert her birdie chances on the greens. There are nine players with fewer putts per green regulation in the field. (Hyo Joo) Kim leads that statistical category for the LPGA and is closely followed by Solheim Cup star Carlota Ciganda, Lilia Vu and Saso. Saso’s year has been a rollercoaster affair. But she could win if she can get her approach game to match her acumen off the tee.
Overall, look for a young power player like Thitikul or Saso to succeed here, but don’t count out two-time major champion Lilia Vu. Vu lost to Rolex First-Time Winner Angel Yin last week in a playoff and averages over four sub-par scores per round. She is also well above average from tee to green. She looks like a strong pre-tournament pick, along with Danielle Kang, who always plays well across the Pacific Ocean.
Kang has three straight top-10 finishes in the BMW Ladies Championship and is in great form. It seems many players like Yin last week have used the emotion of the moment at the Solheim Cup in Spain to spur a late-season charge. Only four events remain prior to the CME Group Tour Championship. If you’re a player in this limited field, there’s a sense of urgency to secure your spot in the season-ending event.
Keith Stewart is an award-winning PGA Professional. He covers the LPGA and PGA Tour for Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, LPGA, and PGA TOUR. If you are looking to raise your golf acumen and love inside information about the game, check out his weekly newsletter called Read The Line.