It is not just the PGA and DP World Tours for Jamie Worsley this season as our golf tipster is also covering the LPGA for us here at Betfred. Check out his in-depth preview and four each-way selections for the Honda LPGA Thailand below…
Honda LPGA Thailand 2023 Tips
Hye-Jin Choi – 1/4 5 places – 2 pts ew – 28/1
Hannah Green – 1/4 5 places – 1.25 pts ew – 40/1
Yuka Saso – 1/4 5 places – 1 pt ew – 50/1
Hinako Shibuno – 1/4 5 places – 0.75 pts ew – 125/1
It’s been a little over four weeks since Brooke Henderson won the Tournament of Champions to kick off the 2023 season on the LPGA. Following many of the top players in this week’s field returning to action in the Saudi Ladies International last week on the Ladies European Tour, it’s now time for the LPGA to really get their season going, as we head to Thailand for the Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club’s Old Course.
The Honda LPGA Thailand (the first LPGA event to be staged in Thailand) was first held in 2006 at Amata Springs Country Club and has taken place virtually every year since; with the exception of 2008 and was also lost in 2020 due to the pandemic.
It was held at this week’s venue in 2007, before taking a slight detour to the Plantation Course at Siam Country Club in 2009 but returned to the Old Course in 2010 and has taken place here in every renewal since.
It boasts seven major champions amongst its past winners: Yani Tseng (x2), Suzann Pettersen, Lorena Ochoa, Inbee Park, Anna Nordqvist, Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanugarn; though it’s Korea’s Amy Yang who holds the record for most wins in the event, with three victories to her name since 2015.
It’s typically been a very low scoring affair, with an average winning score of -19.5 in the thirteen renewals here, though in recent years that has become more prominent, with every version since 2016 being won in -20 or lower.
Jessica Korda held the previous tournament record, shooting -25 to win in 2018, though she was usurped by Denmark’s Nanna Madsen last year, who beat China’s Xiyu Lin in a playoff; both players finishing tied on -26.
This week’s renewal boasts an outstanding field; one that might well put that record in danger once more.
The Old Course at Siam Country Club is very easy on the eye and was completed in 1972 by Isao Mazumi; then renovated in 2007 by the Schmidt-Curley Design team, where they opened the course up by the removal of many trees.
A par 72 measuring 6576 yards, this tree-lined course starts off a little tight over the opening four holes but opens up thereafter, with fairways pretty easy to find, though defended by strategic bunkering on many holes.
The large paspalum greens are speedy – potentially even speedier this week with hot, breezy conditions predicted over the week – protected by more of that bunkering and run-off areas – nothing too severe – whilst there is water in-play on three holes.
There is little to cause problems here if conditions allow with birdie chances on every part of the course. The four par 5s obviously offer up the best birdie opportunities but there is also a series of gettable par 4s, where the strongest iron players in the field will be able to go pin-seeking if getting into a good position off-the-tee.
With the openness of the course and necessity for low scoring; long, strong ball-striking types who can get hot on the greens are the way to go here, as has been proven over recent years.
Nanna Madsen won last year, a year she finished ranked as the 11th biggest hitter on the LPGA; one of the best drivers too, ranking 14th and was also 15th on the greens. Xiyu Lin – who she defeated in a playoff – isn’t lacking for distance either, ranking top 50 last season in DD; a strong all-rounder but particularly in the ball-striking department, ranking 7th in greens-in-regulation, 11th in approach and 22nd off-the-tee.
Of the others in the top 5 we had Brooke Henderson, another excellent ball-striker, ranking 5th OTT and 13th in approach in 2022; Celine Boutier, who is an exceptional iron player, ranking 5th in approach and quality on the greens, ranking 14th; whilst Amy Yang is another box ticked for the putting stakes, though also doesn’t lack for distance.
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn won in 2021, at her very best a long driver who can catch fire on the greens. Atthaya Thitikul chased her home there, a player who we’re fast learning to be one of the best ball-strikers and putters on tour, as she ranked 9th OTT, 11th in putting and 20th in approach on the LPGA last year.
Again a leaderboard littered with strong ball-strikers and putters; including Patty Tavatanakit, who was the 8th longest hitter on tour in 2021 and is a strong-putter.
Go back to 2019 and we see the third of Amy Yang’s wins; at this time Yang was the 27th longest hitter on the LPGA and as mentioned, is a good putter. Minjee Lee was 2nd, an excellent tee-to-green player who possesses enough power off the tee and was the best iron player on tour last year; whilst the strong driving and putting Carlota Ciganda was 3rd.
2018 saw Jessica Korda win; the 9th longest driver on tour that year and is a renowned ball-striker, very much a similar story with those in behind her, including Lexi Thompson (the 2017 winner), Minjee Lee and Ariya Jutanugarn.
Key Stats: SG: Approach, SG: Off-the-Tee, Driving Distance, SG: Putting
Correlating Events (Courses)
Dana Open (Highland Meadows Golf Club)
Highland Meadows is a similarly tree-lined but open course, where fairways are pretty generous.
In-kyung Kim and Chella Choi are both past champions there and have had some good finishes here; Amy Yang has finished top 5 there; Mirim Lee has finished 2nd and 5th to go with 2nd and 8th place finishes here; Gerina Piller and Xiyu Lin amongst others with strong crossover form.
JTBC Classic (Aviara Golf Club)
Aviara Golf Club is a tree-lined course and though there are a few tighter, more dangerous driving holes it has developed strong form-ties with this week’s course.
We only have to go back to last year’s edition there, where Atthaya Thitikul picked up one of her two LPGA titles last year and beat last year’s Honda LPGA winner, Nanna Madsen. Inbee Park and Anna Nordqvist have won at both courses, whilst Mirim Lee is a past champion there. IK Kim and Gerina Piller once again offering up further form-ties.
Walmart NW Arkansas Championship (Pinnacle Country Club)
Pinnacle Country Club is another tree-lined course that compares well to this week’s venue due to the openness of the course off the tee.
Atthaya Thitikul won here last year, whilst Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato and Inbee Park have won both events. Amy Yang has a runner-up finish there, Chella Choi makes another appearance with 3rd and 8th place finishes to her name, whilst Moriya Jutanugarn – who was 2nd in Thailand in 2018 – has recorded finishes of 2nd, 4th and 8th at Pinnacle Country Club
Conditions are set to be dry and warm, which often means humid too in this part of the world. There is also the potential for some wind arriving throughout the week, kicking up most during Sunday’s final round.
The field for this week’s Honda LPGA Thailand is without doubt the best field you’ll find anywhere in the golfing world this week. World #1, Lydia Ko will be teeing it up following her win in Saudi last week – her third in four starts – with Lexi Thompson the only player missing from inside the world’s top 10 and one of just four from inside the top 25 not in attendance.
The top of the betting is incredibly strong. Lydia Ko leads the way as 5/1 favourite, followed next by Nelly Korda at 8/1 and Brookie Henderson at 11/1.
All will be tough to beat but they’re not at the type of prices I’m keen to get involved in here, though I won’t be straying too far from the market leaders for my first selection.
I kick off with Korea’s Hye-Jin Choi, who should be making her first start of the year full confidence, following a superb rookie year on the LPGA last year.
She earned her way onto tour thanks to qualifying in the 2021 Q-School and it’s safe to say she felt right at home pretty swiftly. She didn’t miss a single cut on tour all season, recording a massive twenty-one top 25s, ten top 10s and five top 5s, the best performance coming at the CP Women’s Open in August when finishing 2nd; possessing a major record that reads 17-3-5-22-28.
An incredible, consistent year and one which very much deserved a victory, which she’ll be almost certain to get this year if continuing in the same vein of form.
She was excellent statistically, rating as the 2nd best player in this week’s field in my model. She ranked 5th off-the-tee – where she’s not short, ranking top 40 in driving distance – and 7th in putting. A solid 41st in approach by no means a negative.
The lack of a start compared to many would be a slight concern but most will still be a little rusty yet and I’m hoping Choi can put right the only negative from her performance last year – that missing win – this week in Thailand.
2019 Women’s PGA Champion, Hannah Green missed the cut last week in the Saudi International but as a big-hitter, who excelled in approach and on the greens last year, this looks a perfect place for her to bounce back.
Gre comes into this week off the back of another strong year on the LPGA in 2022. She made every cut for the year and hit the top 10 on nine occasions, with a runner-up finish in the LA Open her best finish of the year.
This strong year was engineered by quality in approach, where she ranked 14th and on the greens, ranking 18th. A solid 35th off-the-tee is anther positive, as is her top 50 in driving distance in relation to this week’s test.
She’s played here twice before, finishing 7th on debut in 2021 and returned to finish a solid 27th last year, whilst a top 10 in the Dana Open offers further encouragement.
Green hasn’t won on tour since 2019, though did become the first female winner of a professional mixed-gender event in 2022, comfortably winning the TPS Murray River on the Australian tour.
That and her major championship win shows her class and I’m expecting her to respond well to her disappointing effort in the Middle-East last week.
Another major champion up next in the shape of Japan’s Yuka Saso, who won the US Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in 2021. She’s one of the best drivers on the LPGA and can improve on her strong debut here last year.
Saso only turned pro in 2019 after a successful amateur career that took her into the top 20 in the world. She went straight onto the Japanese Tour, winning twice there in 2020, though following her win in the US Open, has played almost exclusively on the LPGA.
Last year was her first full season on the tour and she performed well, if not quite up to expectations that were set with that incredible major win; finding a top 10 on four occasions, with a best of 2nd in the Mediheal Championship. The standout area of her game was the driver, where she ranked 3rd, as well as being one of the longest, also ranking 3rd.
She made a strong start this year in the Tournament of Champions in January, finishing 6th, following that with a 58th in Saudi Arabia last week and comes into an event where she finished 12th on debut.
In addition, she’s recorded top 5s in both the Arkansas Championship and Dana Open, which gives further encouragement as to her chances this week.
I’ll sign off with a third major winner: 2019 Women’s British Open winner Hinako Shibuno. She struggled for form a little at the end of 2022 but went well here last year and with the class she possesses, looks a nice price for another good performance.
Shibuno actually started last season well, recording three top 10s in her first five starts, including a 2nd in the LOTTE Championship. Her form tailed off from there but she shot into life at the Women’s Open, finishing 3rd and found her final top 10 in the Mediheal Championship on her fourth last start of the year.
She’s a strong ball-striker, ranking 35th in approach and 45th off-the-tee on tour last season; about average in terms of driving distance but last season the real weakness was the putter, where she ranked 92nd; something I’m hoping she can put right this week.
Shibuno has played here the last two years, finishing 34th in 2021 and improving markedly last year, finishing 8th. If this classy major champion and six-time winner in Japan can hit the ball as well as she did last year, whilst finding something on the greens, she can once again improve her finishing position in Thailand.
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