BRADENTON, Fla. — The LPGA Drive On Championship is on tap this week for the LPGA Tour’s top talent as 120 of the world’s best players take on Bradenton Country Club for the sixth playing of the event. The field features defending champion Celine Boutier, five of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, including No. 1 Lilia Vu, and last week’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions winner Lydia Ko, who will all be clamoring for a share of the $1.75 million purse. Take a look at just some of the featured groups this week at the LPGA Drive On Championship.
Thursday, 8:09 a.m. – Linn Grant/Georgia Hall/Celine Boutier
A trio of European Solheim Cup teammates comprise group nine on Thursday at the LPGA Drive On Championship. Sweden’s Linn Grant became a Rolex First-Time Winner last year at the Dana Open, blitzing the field with a 72-hole total of 21-under to win by three shots over Allisen Corpuz in Sylvania, Ohio. In addition to her victory, Grant recorded three other T7 or better results, the most notable of which was a tie for sixth at the CPKC Women’s Open, and she ultimately finished 24th in the Race to the CME Globe in 2023. She also made her Solheim Cup debut last year as a rookie on the European team, helping the Blue and Yellow retain the Cup for a third consecutive time after a 14-14 tie with the Americans at Finca Cortesin. Grant opened her 2024 season last week at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions with a T27 finish, and this week marks her first start in the LPGA Drive On Championship since joining the LPGA Tour in 2022.
Georgia Hall is making her season debut in Bradenton, Fla., and will be looking to break through for the first time since the 2020 Portland Classic this year. She came close a handful of times last season, earning five top-10 finishes, two of which were back-to-back runner-up results that came at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain and the FIR HILLS SERI PAK Championship last spring. And while she didn’t finish 2023 as strongly as she started it, the Englishwoman still managed to record four T16 or better results in her last seven events of the season. According to KPMG Performance Insights, Hall is one of just four players to be ranked in the top 20 in both strokes gained total and strokes gained putting over the last two seasons, doing so alongside Celine Boutier, Atthaya Thitikul and Lilia Vu. Her prowess with the flat stick should prove promising this week at Bradenton Country Club, a Donald Ross design that features sloped, undulating greens, so definitely keep an eye on Hall at the LPGA Drive On Championship.
Celine Boutier became the winningest French player in LPGA Tour history with her playoff victory over Hall at the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain. The win primed Boutier for even more success throughout the rest of the season as the Frenchwoman went on to win three additional times at The Amundi Evian Championship, the Women’s Scottish Open and the Maybank Championship. Of the bunch, Boutier’s win in Evian-les-Bains, France was arguably the most special not only because it was a major in her home country but because she was the first French player to accomplish the feat in the tournament’s history. The 30-year-old led the Tour last season in bogey avoidance according to KPMG Performance Insights, only making bogey 11.2 percent of the time in 22 total events in 2023. All four of her wins coincided with her best strokes gained putting performances of the year, the best of which came at the Women’s Scottish Open when Boutier gained 9.35 strokes on the field with her putting at Dundonald Links. If she gets the flat stick rolling again this week in Bradenton, Fla., watch out for Boutier to have a chance to successfully defend her title for the first time in her LPGA Tour career.
Thursday, 8:20 a.m. – Nelly Korda/Megan Khang/Ruoning Yin
Bradenton native Nelly Korda will tee it up alongside two of last season’s record-breaking twelve Rolex First-Time Winners at 8:20 a.m. on Thursday. The eight-time LPGA Tour champion got her 2024 season started last week at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, tying for 16th after recording a four-day total of 2-under at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, and will be working to improve upon that finish this week at Bradenton Country Club. According to KPMG Performance Insights, Korda ranked second in the Tournament of Champions field in strokes gained off the tee, gaining 0.82 strokes over the field with her tee shots. She also ranked seventh in average driving distance, hitting it 254.75 yards off the tee, and seventh in greens in regulation, hitting the green 75 percent of the time at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. This is the 25-year-old’s fifth appearance in the LPGA Drive On Championship, and in her four previous starts, she has never finished better than T15, doing so in 2022 at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony, which was held in Fort Myers, Fla.
Megan Khang made her tournament debut at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions a week ago, kicking off her ninth season on the LPGA Tour with a solo 11th finish in Orlando, Fla. The 2023 LPGA Tour season saw the now 26-year-old become a Rolex First-Time Winner at the CPKC Women’s Open after defeating Jin Young Ko in a playoff at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, and she also earned six additional top-10 finishes, three of which came in major championships. KPMG Performance Insights show that, statistically, Khang has been one of the strongest players on the LPGA Tour since the end of last summer. Since then, she ranks third in strokes gained tee to green (+1.83), fourth in strokes gained approach (+1.14) and eighth in both scoring average (69.61) and strokes gained total per round (+1.68). Khang has played in all five previous editions of the LPGA Drive On Championship, earning a tournament-best finish of T8 in 2021 at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club.
Ruoning Yin was one of the breakout stars of the 2023 season, becoming just the second player from the People’s Republic of China to win on the LPGA Tour with her victory at the FIR HILLS SERI PAK Championship last March and then winning her first major in June at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club. She earned seven additional top-10 results, four of which were third-place finishes that came in a five-tournament stretch from the Women’s Scottish Open to the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G. Statistically, Yin was ranked second in strokes gained approach per round last season, gaining 1.18 shots on the field with her approach play in 2023. She also ranked second in strokes gained ball-striking (+1.85), gaining strokes with her long game in 84% of the rounds in which she teed it up last year. Yin began her third season on the LPGA Tour last week, finishing T19 at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in her tournament debut.
Thursday, 12:49 p.m. – Brooke Henderson/Amy Yang/Lexi Thompson
Brooke Henderson had a strong showing in her title defense a week ago at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, ultimately finishing in solo third after recording a four-day total of 10-under at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. According to KPMG Performance Insights, Henderson now has carded 172 rounds under par since the beginning of the 2021 LPGA Tour season, the most of any player in that span. She also seems to like competing in Florida, having finished in the top 20 in her last four starts in the Sunshine State and gaining 2.10 stokes total across her 12 total rounds in those events. This is her fourth appearance in the LPGA Drive On Championship, and in her three previous starts, her best result is a tie for 11th in 2022 at Crown Colony Golf and Country Club.
Amy Yang finally broke through for the first time since 2019 last November, winning the CME Group Tour Championship by three shots over Nasa Hataoka and Alison Lee, after earning four other top-five finishes throughout the rest of the 2023 season. Two of those top fives were ties for fourth that came at The Chevron Championship and AIG Women’s Open, and those results were her best in a major championship since she tied for fourth at the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago, Ill. Yang played in her first Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions since 2020 last week in Orlando, Fla., and finished in a tie for 22nd in her season debut, a performance she’ll look to improve upon this week at Bradenton Country Club. This is her fifth LPGA Drive On Championship start, and she has earned a tournament-best finish of T16, which came last year when the event was held at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club.
Lexi Thompson gets her 13th LPGA Tour season underway this week at the LPGA Drive On Championship and will continue searching for her first Tour title in five years, having not won since the 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. While her 2023 season might have been a bit lackluster early – Thompson missed eight cuts in her first 10 events last year – the LPGA Tour veteran turned things around late, earning three top-10 finishes in her last four starts of the 2023 season and nearly making the cut in her PGA Tour debut at the Shriners Children’s Open last October. According to KPMG Performance Insights, Thompson ranked 127th in strokes gained ball striking in her first 10 events of last year but recovered starting at the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G in September, ultimately ranking in the top 10 in that statistic in her last four starts of the season. Historically, Thompson has finished in the top 10 in her season debut six of the last seven years, and considering the positive momentum she generated at the end of 2023, look for that trend to continue this week at Bradenton Country Club.