It was about a month ago when Brooke Henderson started the season quickly with an impressive win in Orlando. The victory was her 13th career title, this one over a small, yet impressive field of winners from the past two seasons. Now, the world’s best meet in Thailand for the Honda LPGA Thailand, the first of a two-week stretch in southeast Asia.
The Pattaya Old Course at Siam Country Club has been the host of the LPGA Tour’s Thailand event since 2009. The parkland-style layout covers 6,576 yards and plays to a par of 72. Don’t be misled by that number. Par is merely a mild recommendation on this course as the LPGA Tour’s finest have turned this into a birdie-fest.
Last year, 15 recorded scores came in under 65. The average winning score over the past 10 years is 21-under par. If you just look at the average from the past five years, it jumps to 23-under par. Nanna Koerstz Madsen won last year in a playoff with Xiyu Lin at 26-under par. Nineteen-under par didn’t even finish in the top 10.
I don’t see the scoring average getting any worse with the field set to compete. Nine of the top-10 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and 26 of the top 30 are in Chonburi. The top six-ranked players are ready. They know it will take about 30 birdies to win this week.
All courses are unique. The Old Course’s special trait is that all the holes run north-to-south, with nine pointing toward the north and the remaining nine toward the south. Very rarely do you see a layout that doesn’t have a couple stretching side to side with the rising and setting sun. This is an important aspect of this week’s challenge as the weather, and specifically the wind, will be blowing across the golf course.
The temperatures in Thailand will be in the 90s and extremely humid. Watch for fatigue. There’s no significant rain in the forecast, and that wind will be blowing from the west on Thursday and Friday with gusts in the low teens. It is the predicted to pick up to 20 mph when it switches sides and comes from the east on Saturday and Sunday.
The blueprint to get to 25-under par or more starts by looking at last year’s leaderboard. The defending champion, Koerstz Madsen, averaged 295 yards off the tee. Creeping closer to the greens, she hit more than 80% of them and converted most of those birdie- and eagle chances into low scores. Her path to victory helps break down this elite field.
- Overall driving has proven to help differentiate leaders at Siam CC. The best in this field at shortening the course and gaining strokes off the tee are Nelly Korda, A Lim Kim, Yuka Saso, Brooke Henderson, and Hye Jin Choi.
- Competing with those crosswinds will be challenging. The Old Course does have some elevation changes and almost 50 greenside bunkers. Driving the ball is important, but complete tee-to-green play is a tremendous factor as well. There are familiar names who led the LPGA Tour in 2022 in this comprehensive category and in this week’s field that includes Minjee Lee, Brooke Henderson, In Gee Chun, and Xiyu Lin.
- A great approach game leads to birdie opportunities. Players will hit 66% of their approaches from 125-175 yards away. The closer they get to the 125-end, the better their chances. In either case, the best iron players in Thailand are Hye Jin Choi, Brooke Henderson, Minjee Lee, Xi Yu Lin, and Megan Khang.
- Pattaya has a varied set of par 4s. There’s the brutal 11th hole, which played over par last year and the short 15th which is this week’s Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole. It takes a well-rounded winner to score on both. The best par-4 players this week are Atthaya Thitikul, Brooke Henderson, Hye Jin Choi, Hyo Joo Kim, and Lydia Ko.
The Kiwi Ko just won last week on the Ladies European Tour, and the World No.1 seems to be picking up right where she left off in 2022. Can anyone compete with her? Well, Henderson did win by four shots last month at Lake Nona. If driving is a key, does that mean Korda is a favorite this week? Or will this be another wonderful story of a young superstar like Atthaya Thitikul winning in her home country, who got oh so close back in 2021?
The possibilities are infinite when you have a collection of players like this. We certainly don’t know who will win, but after reading this preview, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the names mentioned multiple times in the lists above.