Blue Bay LPGA 2024 Tips: Four each-ways for China

 | March 05 | 

14 mins read

jamie LPGA

Before a mini-break and a return to the USA in two weeks’ time, the LPGA finishes its journey of East Asia with a long-awaited return to the Jian Lake Blue Bay golf course for the Blue Bay LPGA; an event that has been absent from the schedule since 2018 due to the covid pandemic.

As always, we've asked our golf expert Jamie Worsley to preview this one and he's also given us his four each way predictions.

Blue Bay LPGA Betting Tips

  • 2.5 pts Sei Young Kim each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 18/1 
  • 1 pt Albane Valenzuela each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 66/1
  • 1 pt Peiyun Chien each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 66/1 
  • 1 pt Lucy Li each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 70/1

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Blue Bay LPGA was first staged in 2014 and took place every year following that, up to and including 2018; with each renewal being held here at the Jian Lake Blue Bay course.

South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace won her first and only LPGA title in the weather-shortened inaugural edition of the tournament in 2014; followed by a trio of major winners over the next three years - Sei Young Kim (2015), Minjee Lee (2016) and Shanshan Feng (2017).

After what must seem like a lifetime ago, Gaby Lopez finally gets the chance to defend her title, after winning that last edition of the event in 2018. Where she held off the classy Ariya Jutanugarn in the final round for a maiden tour success.

THE COURSE

The Jian Lake Blue Bay course was designed by Mark Hollinger of the JMP Golf Design group and opened for play in 2012.

Hollinger took a flat, unremarkable piece of land and has turned it into one of the most visually appealing courses in China. Making use of the sandy, coastal and often windy location to create what has been described as a “tropical links course”, with manmade dunes framing holes around the venue.

After Pace shot -16 to win this event over three rounds in 2014, it became a much more formidable test. The wind caused havoc on this fairly open, exposed and water-laden setup to produce an average winning score of -8 in the four latter editions.

There has only been a minor change in length to the course ahead of this week’s return, with the Blue Bay course a still lengthy 6712-yard par 72. It possesses 10x par 4s (329-437 yards), 4x par 3s (162-183 yards) and a particularly long collection of 4x par 5s (525-569 yards).

Those striking dunes are somewhat for aesthetics only, with many of the extremely generous fairways pretty flat.

Large sandy waste areas dotted with tall palm trees border many of those fairways. They are predominantly doglegged, forcing many to lay back off the tee and rely on their long irons, with only the longest drivers in the field able to carry the danger that sits on the corner of said doglegs on several holes. Which aside from the abundance of water includes vivid steep-faced bunkers that are lined with timber sleepers.

Paspalum is the grass of choice here and makes for some very slow greens, which are at just 10 on the stimp this week. They are rather large and undulating, with many open-fronted to encourage play along the ground, and with several relatively shallow surfaces, it’s easy to take approaches a touch too long, with run-offs and bunkers littering the perimeters.

This is one of those rare occasions where I think the scoring looks easier on the par 4s than the four par 5s. Many of the par 4s are short and can be got at with a good drive and strong wedge play, whilst the tee on the 15th will be pushed up over the course of the week to make the hole drivable; though players will need to hit directly over water to the putting surface.

In contrast, the par 5s are all long and may only be reachable in two for the very longest hitters in the field; all featuring elements of risk/reward, with water well in-play on each.

THE WEATHER

That wind that has troubled the field in the four most recent editions of the event looks set to make an appearance again this week, with gusts at over 25mph forecast over the first two days. Though they die down a notch over the weekend, the slightly lighter winds will be accompanied by rain, potentially leading to some attritional conditions.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation
  • SG: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance
  • Par 4 Scoring

It’s difficult to know exactly what to expect from the Blue Bay course over five years since it last staged an LPGA event. Not only is that a long time in sport but the event has moved to an early-season timeslot instead of an end-of-year position.

Having said that, I don’t see why it won’t suit a similar type of player to its original run and with that, I’m keen to side with strong ball-strikers this week. Especially those highest-quality iron players, who will be able to attack these slow paspalum putting surfaces.

Most of those past winners were indeed strong into the greens, with Shanshan Feng ranking 5th in GIR in 2017, Minjee Lee ranking 29th in in 2016 and Sei Young Kim ranking 18th in 2015.

It is also noticeable that three of them – Gaby Lopez, Minjee Lee and Sei Young Kim – were/are long off the tee, meaning they can take on some of those more dangerous driving lines with less angst.

Meanwhile, the par 5s are as tricky a selection you’ll see all year and I’m much more interested in siding with the most prolific par 4 scorers at Jian Lake.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

LOTTE Championship

The LOTTE Championship takes place every year in Hawaii and has been played across three different courses during its time, all of which have used paspalum grass. This, along with the windy, coastal locations have enabled the event to develop strong form-ties with the Blue Bay course.

Notable correlating form:

Sei Young Kim:

Blue Bay (1st, 4th) / LOTTE (1st, 2nd)

Minjee Lee:

Blue Bay (1st) / LOTTE (1st, 3rd)

Shanshan Feng:

Blue Bay (1st) / LOTTE (3rd)

Gaby Lopez:

Blue Bay (1st) / LOTTE (5th)

Ariya Jutanugarn:

Blue Bay (2nd, 3rd) / LOTTE (3rd, 3rd)

Moriya Jutanugarn:

Blue Bay (2nd) / LOTTE (4th, 9th)

Ashleigh Buhai:

Blue Bay (3rd) / LOTTE (4th)

Chella Choi:

Blue Bay (5th, 10th) / LOTTE (4th, 5th)

Alena Sharp:

Blue Bay (5th) / LOTTE (5th)

Sandra Gal:

Blue Bay (5th, 7th) / LOTTE (6th)

HSBC Women’s World Championship (Sentosa Golf Club – Tanjong Course)

Not only played in a similar climate but the Tanjong course features generous fairways, large greens and an abundance of water in play. It’s clear why many players have transferred form between these two courses.

Notable correlating form:

Minjee Lee:

Blue Bay (1st) / HSBC (2nd, 2nd)

Shanshan Feng:

Blue Bay (1st) / HSBC (4th)

Gaby Lopez:

Blue Bay (1st) / HSBC (7th)

Stacy Lewis:

Blue Bay (2nd) / HSBC (1st, 3rd)

Sung Hyun Park:

Blue Bay (3rd) / HSBC (1st, 3rd)

Danielle Kang:

Blue Bay (4th, 5th) / HSBC (2nd, 3rd)

Pornanong Phatlum:

Blue Bay (4th) / HSBC (2nd)

Ariya Jutanugarn:

Blue Bay (2nd, 3rd) / HSBC (2nd, 4th)

Celine Boutier:

Blue Bay (3rd) / HSBC (2nd)

Honda LPGA Thailand (Siam Country Club – Old Course)

The Honda LPGA Thailand is played at a similarly generous driving course and has been a favourite of big hitters. In addition, whilst not in use on the putting surfaces, paspalum covers the rest of the course.

Notable correlating form:

Minjee Lee:

Blue Bay (1st) / Honda LPGA (2nd, 4th)

Sei Young Kim:

Blue Bay (1st, 4th) / Honda LPGA (3rd, 3rd, 5th)

Shanshan Feng:

Blue Bay (1st) / Honda LPGA (5th)

Jessica Korda:

Blue Bay (2nd, 3rd, 3rd) / Honda LPGA (1st, 3rd)

Ariya Jutanugarn:

Blue Bay (2nd, 3rd) / Honda LPGA (1st, 5th)

Moriya Jutanugarn:

Blue Bay (2nd) / Honda LPGA (2nd)

Stacy Lewis:

Blue Bay (2nd) / Honda LPGA (2nd, 5th)

Celine Boutier:

Blue Bay (3rd) / Honda LPGA (3rd, 4th)

Chella Choi:

Blue Bay (5th, 10th) / Honda LPGA (5th, 7th)

Dana Open (Highland Meadows Golf Club)

Highland Meadows Golf Club is another venue that suits long and high-quality ball-strikers, and it’s this which leads to it possessing as much correlating form as any other course I looked at this week.

Notable correlating form:

Sei Young Kim:

Blue Bay (1st, 4th) / Dana (1st)

Gaby Lopez:

Blue Bay (1st) / Dana (1st)

Shanshan Feng:

Blue Bay (1st) / Dana (1st)

Lee-Anne Pace:

Blue Bay (1st) / Dana (4th)

Minjee Lee:

Blue Bay (1st) / Dana (4th)

Danielle Kang:

Blue Bay (4th, 5th) / Dana (1st)

Chella Choi:

Blue Bay (5th, 10th) / Dana (1st)

Caroline Masson:

Blue Bay (2nd, 4th) / Dana (3rd, 5th, 5th)

Ariya Jutanugarn:

Blue Bay (2nd, 3rd) / Dana (2nd)

Megan Khang:

Blue Bay (3rd) / Dana (2nd)

Shoprite LPGA Classic (Seaview – Bay Course)

The Shoprite LPGA Classic can provide us with some final clues this week. Whilst significantly shorter than Blue Bay, Seaview’s Bay Course is somewhat linksy in style, is situated by the coast and has some attractive correlating form on offer.

Notable correlating form:

Shanshan Feng:

Blue Bay (1st) / Shoprite (2nd)

Sei Young Kim:

Blue Bay (1st, 4th) / Shoprite (4th)

Stacy Lewis:

Blue Bay (2nd) / Shoprite (1st, 1st)

Celine Boutier:

Blue Bay (3rd) / Shoprite (1st)

Ashleigh Buhai:

Blue Bay (3rd) / Shoprite (1st)

Sandra Gal:

Blue Bay (5th, 7th) / Shoprite (5th)

THE FIELD

We have an increase in field size in China compared to the last two weeks and with that, a 36-hole cut. Whilst maybe lacking a little depth, there’s a lot of quality from the top making the trip to Hainan, including five of the world’s top 7: #1 Lilia Vu, #3 Celine Boutier, #4 Ruoning Yin, #5 Minjee Lee and #7 Lydia Ko.

Minjee is one of three former winners in this week’s field, along with defending champion Gaby Lopez and the in-form Sei Young Kim.

Five-time major winner, Yani Tseng makes her second start of the year after missing the cut in the Drive On Championship; former tour winner, Sandra Gal makes her first start on tour in almost two years, after taking time out to battle Lyme disease; and with twenty-five invitations handed out to players of the CLPGA we have a strong home contingent – aside from Ruoning Yin - including world #11 Xiyu Lin and Xiaowen Yin - who won a junior event at this course in 2019.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Celine Boutier 9/1, Lydia Ko 9/1, Xiyu Lin 9/1, Lilia Vu 10/1, Minjee Lee 10/1, Ayaka Furue 12/1, Hye Jin Choi 14/1

The top of the betting is really strong this week and it’s difficult to see a big outsider winning it. There is a case to be made for most up there, though just behind that leading seven or so in the betting is a former major champion; former Blue Bay LPGA winner and looking strong so far this year, I’m taking Sei Young Kim to record a first win in over three years this week.

2.5 pts Sei Young Kim each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 18/1 

By her own high standards, Kim’s form in the last couple of years has been underwhelming but she was showing some really positive signs towards the end of 2023; recording two top 5s over her final eight starts with finishes of 3rd in the Arkansas Championship and 4th in the CPKC Women’s Open.

She has continued this into 2024, hitting the top 20 in each of her three starts and finishing an impressive 3rd behind Patty Tavatanakit in the Honda LPGA Thailand two starts ago.

Kim’s ball-striking has rarely been much of a problem and she’s again looking good in this area this year, ranking 16th off-the-tee – where she’s pretty long – and 29th in GIR. The putter has been firing too over these opening events of the year and when combined with her ball-striking, leads to her ranking 2nd in Par 4 scoring.

The Korean won a brutally difficult renewal of this tournament on debut in 2015, returning to finish 37th the year later and recorded another top 5 when finishing 4th on her last visit to Jian Lake in 2018.

Past wins in the LOTTE Championship and Dana Open enhance Kim’s chances here – as do two 3rd-place finishes in the Honda LPGA Thailand – and she looks to have every chance in China.

1 pt Albane Valenzuela each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 66/1

Albane Valenzuela had an up and down week in Singapore when we were on in the HSBC Women’s World Championship last week. However, there was enough positivity in there – as she closed out with a 4-under 68 to finish 29th – that tempted me to give her another chance at a course where her strong ball-striking should be a real asset.

It was another encouraging performance at the start of the year for the talented Swiss star, coming off the back of a runner-up performance in the Honda LPGA Thailand on her previous start.

Valenzuela again hit the ball excellently in Singapore, ranking 1st in GIR, 2nd in approach and 15th OTT. This has been the key to her early season form; ranking 2nd in approach, 4th in GIR and 11th OTT overall. As a big hitter who ranks top 10 in par 4 scoring, she has an appealing statistical profile for the Blue Bay course.

That belief is strengthened by a book of correlating form that includes finishes of 4th and 6th in the Shoprite Classic to go with her 2nd-place finish in Thailand two weeks ago.

1 pt Peiyun Chien each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 66/1 

Peiyun Chien enjoyed her best ever year on the LPGA in 2023 and with her solid short game complimenting a high-class ball-striking game at the start of this year, she can earn a first win on the tour this week.

Chien’s tally of four top-10 finishes last year is her highest yet on tour and included three top 5s; two of which came over her final six starts of 2023.

She’s carried that momentum over into 2024, winning on the Taiwan LPGA on her first start of the year and has recorded three top 25s in a row since, finishing 23rd in the Saudi International, 23rd, in the Honda LPGA Thailand and 13th in last week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship.

Chien’s ball-striking was key there, ranking 14th in approach, 20th in GIR and 22nd OTT, which very much represents where she has shown her qualities to lie in previous years. However, rankings of 31st around-the-greens and 50th in putting is a big step up on previous years; marrying this solid short-game play with her long game is naturally bringing about better results.

The Taiwanese golfer has played here twice, recording solid finishes of 25th and 45th, though some pleasing comp form suggests she’s capable of better.

Chien’s best finish of 2023 came on the paspalum surfaces of the LOTTE Championship, where she finished 4th – an event in which she also finished 6th in 2018, again on paspalum – and a 3rd-place in the Dana Open adds further encouragement.

1 pt Lucy Li each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 70/1

There were few at three figures who I really fancied to go well this week and instead I’m going to finish my selections with former #3 amateur Lucy Li.

This former child prodigy – who became the youngest player to qualify for the US Women’s Open in 2014 as an 11-year-old – comes into this year after a difficult rookie season in 2023, though signs are positive that she’ll improve for that experience in 2024.

Li kicked off the year with a 4th-place finish in the LPGA Drive On Championship, which tied her best-yet finish on tour; following up with a 14th in the Saudi International and 48th in the Honda LPGA Thailand on her next two starts.

Every area of her game has shone during this period but she’s looked strongest with her irons, ranking 6th in GIR and 11th in approach. As a capable par 4 scorer and not short on length, she has a promising skillset for Jian Lake.

Li will be making her debut this week but a 4th in the Dana Open in 2022 shows what she could potentially achieve here, and this hugely gifted golfer - who could still be just about anything in the game – looks an interesting contender to add to her two Epson Tour wins in 2022 with a first LPGA success this week.

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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