Out of the Rough: The Chevron Championship (2023)
The first Major of the LPGA Tour is upon us as the biggest names in women’s golf take on the new-look Chevron Championship.
Formally held at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, the event will now be held at The Club in Carlton Woods, Texas.
With the new location, we no longer will see the infamous pond jump into Poppie’s Pond by the tournament winner, which is a bummer.
Not only is the event being held at a new location, it too is being held in a new slot in the schedule.
Being a major and the first one of the year to boot, all of the World’s top-20 players will be in attendance this week. Additionally, 42-of-the-top-50 women golfers in the World will be playing this week.
The defending champion of this event, Jennifer Kupcho, will be in this year’s field as well. Although the defending champion, as previously mentioned, the event was held at a different venue than a year ago, removing any form of advantages being a defending champion holds.
This field too includes all of last year’s major winners. These names include Minjee Lee (US Women's Open), In Gee Chun (Women's PGA Championship), Brooke Henderson (Evian Championship) and Ashleigh Buhai (Women's British Open).
World number one, Lydia Ko of New Zealand, will be playing in this week’s field. She will be looking to build off her stellar 2022 campaign which included three LPGA Tour victories and winning the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship to be crowned Player of the Year.
Ko won this tournament in 2016 and joining her as past Chevron Champions in this week’s field are defending champion Kupcho, Patty Tavatanakit (2021), Mirim Lee (2020), Jin Young Ko (2019) and Stacy Lewis (2011).
Another notable name in this week’s field is Nelly Korda.
Korda is the reigning Olympic Gold Medalist and she will be making her return to the Chevron Championship after she missed last year’s installment due to injury.
Buhai won the Bristin Women’s Open, the last LPGA major of the 2022 season and will look to build off that performance and capture the first major of the 2023 season.
Additionally, Thai prodigy and 2022 LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Atthaya Thitikul, will be teeing it up this week as well.
The most notable absence from this week’s Major is World number-23 Linn Grant who remains unable to compete in tournaments held in the United States because of government travel restrictions related to COVID-19.
The Club at Carlton Woods is a Jack Nicklaus design that opened in 2001 and will pose a difficult test to even the World’s best golfers.
It will play as a par-72 at 6,824 yards and takes full advantage of the natural lakes, ponds, forests and rolling terrain of the area.
It offers generous teeing grounds and landing areas but the wind between lakes can cause misplaced shots.
Areas of natural vegetation separate several of the holes which not only adds to the beauty of the course, but adds an additional challenge.
One of the key holes at this week’s track is the par-five 18th hole that is reachable. Although the hole is reachable, it is best described as a classic risk-reward hole.
It is surrounded by water so there will be a big decision to be made in going for the green or laying up.
The greens are both undulating and surrounded by bunkers. Playing from the sand will be the routine this week.
Getting off the tee will be rather important this week in both distance and accuracy. With natural vegetation everywhere on the course, a misplaced tee shot can derail anyone’s round.
The course also plays on the longer side of LPGA standards, so those who can bomb it off the tee will see an advantage this week.
Weather will almost certainly be a factor this week as of the time of writing this, there is at least a 30-percent chance of precipitation on each of the four days. The chance of perception peaks at 60-percent on Friday with Thursday boasting a 50-percent chance. Highs will begin in the low 80’s for Thursday and Friday before taking a nosedive to the low 70’s on Saturday and even the low-to-mid 60’s on Sunday. Winds are set to range from 11-to-15 miles-per-hour across the four days and as previously mentioned, being positioned between lakes, gusts and swirls will come into play as well. In all, expect some form of delays this week.
Average Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Sand Saves Percentage
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Georgia Hall (+1800)
Per my model this week, Georgia Hall is my favorite. She comes into this event tied for the fourth best odds to win this first major of the season and that’s for good reason. She is currently second on Tour in birdie or better percentage, third in SG: PUTT, 17th in SG: APP, 21st in sand saves percentage, 74th in average driving distance, 76th in driving accuracy and 87th in SG: ATG. The English native has put together a very impressive start to her 2023 campaign. She posted back-to-back runner-up finishes at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain and DIO Implant LA Open in late March. Additionally and most recently, she placed T6th at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei just a week ago. She placed T10th at the Honda LPGA Thailand in late February and T14th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in early March. She is an elite putter who in turn, doesn’t leave many birdies or better opportunities on the course. Combining her elite putting with a well above average approach game is the formula in claiming a Chevron Championship.
Atthaya Thitikul (+1800)
Coming in with the same odds to win as Hall is the 2022 LPGA Rookie of the Year Atthaya Thitikul. The Thai golf prodigy has had a great start to her 2023 campaign as well. In four tournaments between late February and late March, Thitikul has four top 20’s, three top tens and a top five. She placed third at the Honda LPGA Thailand, tenth at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, T16th at the PGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain and most recently at her last outing, placed tenth at the DIO Implant LA Open. She is currently seventh on Tour in birdie or better percentage, 13th in SG: APP, 31st in average driving distance, 35th in SG: PUTT, 61st in SG: ATG, 95th in driving accuracy and 104th in sand saves percentage. Thitikul too doesn’t leave birdie or better opportunities on the course and is a well above average approach player. She is competent on the greens and as I previously mentioned when talking about Hall, the combination of being a great approach player and quality putter goes a long way in competing for a major.
Nasa Hataoka (+2200)
Continuing on the trend of above average approach players who are quality on the greens and don’t leave birdie or better opportunities on the course, we have Nasa Hataoka. Hataoka is currently fifth in birdie or better percentage, 11th in SG: APP, 40th in SG: ATG, 41st in sand saves percentage, 55th in SG: PUTT, 60th in driving accuracy and 109th in average driving distance. The Japan native’s worst finish in five tournaments on the calendar year is T23rd back in late February at the Honda LPGA Thailand. She placed fifth at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in mid-January, T11th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, T7th at the DIO Implant LA Open and most recently, T16th at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei.
Ruoning Yin (+6500)
When it comes to approach play, there is not one better on the LPGA Tour than Yin. On top of being the Tour’s best in SG: APP, she is also 11th in sand saves percentage, 22nd in average driving distance, 32nd in SG: ATG, 67th in birdie or better percentage, 85th in driving accuracy and 93rd in SG: PUTT. Her downfall is her work on the greens where she ranks below average but we can’t ignore what the rest of her game brings. She’s long off the tee, the best the LPGA has to offer in approach and well above average in around-the-green work. If she can catch a hot flat stick this week, I can see her making a deep run into Sunday. She too already has a victory on the season, winning the DIO Implant LA Open just three weeks ago. She also went T16th at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain in late March. Yin actually comes in second in our model this week to just Hall. At +6500 with the statistics she offers is a steal in my book.