After a four-week stay in Europe, where we crowned our final two major champions of the year, the LPGA now returns across the Atlantic to Canada; for the CPKC Women’s Open at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver.
The CPKC Women’s Open is Canada’s national championship in the women’s game and has a rich history on the LPGA. It was first staged in 1973 and from 1979 to 2000 it was one of four major championships on the tour – when it was predominantly called the du Maurier Classic – before being replaced by the Women’s Open (British) in 2001.
Still, it has remained one of the most prestigious events on the tour despite the downgrade in status and has taken place every year; excluding 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
Pat Bradley – one of only seven players on the tour to have completed the major Grand Slam – has won this event on three occasions, with each of those wins (1980, 1985, 1986) coming in the event’s years as a major.
Her record was tied by Meg Mallon in 2005, who won the last version of the tournament as a major in 2000 and then again in 2002. Before Lydia Ko added her name to the short list of three-time winners, with three wins in four years in 2012, 2013 and 2015; the first two coming when she was still an amateur.
Further wins for LPGA stars such as Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa enhance the quality of the winners here.
2018 was a memorable year for home fans, as Brooke Henderson won the event for the first time, becoming the first Canadian to do so since Jocelyne Bourassa won the inaugural edition in 1973.
She was succeeded by Jin Young Ko in 2019, who produced a record-breaking 26-under-par winning score on her way to a five-stroke victory and in the first renewal following a two-year break due to covid, South Africa’s Paula Reto won her first LPGA title at Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club last year.
Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club was designed by respected golf course architect A.V. Macan in 1960 and will be hosting an LPGA event for only the second time in its history – and for the first time in over fifty years – after the Molson’s Canadian Open took place here in 1969.
However we have seen it much more recently than that in the golfing world, as it has hosted the Canadian Open four times on the PGA Tour, most recently in 2011.
The course will this week play as a par 72, measuring in at 6685 yards. It possesses twelve par 4s (ranging from 319-427 yards), four par 5s (ranging from 476-540 yards) and four par 3s (ranging from 162-202 yards). It offers a challenging layout, as shown by the winning scores on the PGA Tour here, with each of those events being won in -4 or -5.
This charming, traditional course is situated right by the coast and offers up views of the Pacific Ocean at various points, particularly on the holes closest to said coast: the 396-yard par 4 9th, the 425-yard par 4 10th, the 490-yard par 5 11th and the 162-yard par 3 17th.
The course is tree-lined throughout and offers plenty of variety, with the large cedar and fir trees intimidating and densely hugging many a fairway. Though they are balanced out by a number which are a little more open.
The fairways are tight, with most doglegging gently and are protected by thick rough and some strategically placed bunkers – which often litter layup areas – and there are also a number of out-of-bounds areas around the course.
There are plenty of subtle elevation changes from tee-to-green, which adds extra difficulty in approach into the small, speedy and deviously difficult-to-read poa annua greens; many of which are in the upturn saucer style that Macan is known for.
The green complexes are typical of Macan’s design in that they make it tough to get it close to the flag and repel all but the most precise approaches, often leading to either a quick downhill putt or falling foul of the run offs that send you tumbling into trouble around the greens; particularly in the shape of some deep bunkering. Though the sand-traps rarely block the front of the greens and do enable you to play along the ground if needed.
There is further danger lurking in the shape of Cutthroat Creak, which is in-play on seven holes around the course.
- SG: Approach
- SG: Putting
I feel you’re going to need a little bit of everything here this week, it’s a course that requires precision in places but also allows you to get creative. Though I think it’s play into and on/around the tricky green complexes that will ultimately decide the event.
You’re going to need to hit as many greens as possible and the utmost precision will be needed to stick it close. However, they’re fast and with conditions set to be warm and dry, that speed is unlikely to disappear.
Not only will that require players to rely on the quality of the putter to answer the trying questions that these greens pose but I suspect GIR will be relatively low this week, which will call on strong scrambling skills.
- Driving Accuracy
- Par 5 Scoring
With the danger that lurks around this place you will have to find fairways this week, which is why I’d like to steer clear of the most wayward drivers. In addition, the par 5s should again be the key in any decent scoring at Shaughnessy.
With this essentially being a new course for these players, there’s not a great deal of evidence to go off in terms of finding correlating courses.
Having said that, there is one other A.V. Macan course which is used regularly on the LPGA, the host of the Portland Classic, Columbia Edgewater Country Club. Though fairways are a little more generous, the traditional, tree-lined course has small(ish), quick greens and thick rough; all of which is the same poa annua make up as this week’s event.
Two other courses of interest, which have relatively tight, tree-lined fairways and small, quick poa annua greens, are Wilshire Country Club, host of the LA Championship and LA Open host, Palos Verdes Golf Club. Both of these courses generally play to a similar level of difficult to that which I’m expecting to find this week in Canada.
The conditions look pleasant this week, with each day forecasting clear, bright and warm weather; with little in the way of wind.
However, I would err on the side of caution with that. The course is located in very close proximity to coastline shared with the Pacific Ocean and as such weather can be unpredictable. Don’t be surprised if some stronger winds arrive at some point over the week.
Virtually all of the biggest stars are back in action this week in this much loved event.
We are joined by new world #1 and now two-time major winner in 2023, Lilia Vu. She is one of nine players from inside the world’s top 10 heading to Vancouver; with Charley Hull the exception.
Defending champion, Paula Reto will be hoping to overcome some poor recent form to produce a stern defence of her title. The South African is one of eight former champions in attendance, which includes that most recent Canadian success story in 2018, Brooke Henderson and three-time winner of the event, Lydia Ko.
Lilia Vu isn’t the only 2023 major champion set to tee it up, with each of the other three also in action: US open winner, Allisen Corpuz, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner, Ruoning Yin and Evian Championship winner, Celine Boutier.
Other entrants of note include Rose Zhang; star Swedes, Linn Grant and Maja Stark; Gabriela Ruffels, who has been tearing it up on the Epson Tour this year with three wins and Alex Pano – the teenager who won her first pro title in a playoff in Northern Ireland last week.
Hyo Joo Kim continues to perform excellently, with four top 6s in her last seven starts and enters this week as the 11/1 favourite. She is followed by Nelly Korda at 12s and the trio of Celine Boutier, Linn Grant and Xiyu Lin at 16s.
All of their chances have merit but I’m pretty clear about the type of player I want this week and it will come as no surprise that I’m back in on Japan’s Nasa Hataoka as the headline selection.
2.5 pts Nasa Hataoka each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 20/1
Hataoka’s form figures this season have been relentlessly impressive. She hasn’t missed a cut sixteen starts; recording twelve top 25s, six top 10s and three top 5s. Her best efforts came when she was 4th in the US Women’s Open four starts ago and she followed that with an even more impressive 3rd in the Evian Championship on her next start.
It really is a surprise that in a year where the majors have been dominated by first-time winners, that the six-time LPGA winner wasn’t among them, but I’m certain such a victory isn’t too far away and I expect her to go close again next year.
She can make up for that lack of a major success this week on a course where her quality, precision based all-round game should be a good fit.
Hataoka has excelled in approach this year, ranking 13th and is also 17th in greens-in-regulation. The short game has fired too, ranking 36th in both scrambling and putting and she’s among the top 50 on tour in driving accuracy. Her ability on the par 5s, where she ranks 24th, is another positive and should see her make the most of the best scoring opportunities in Canada this week.
A win at Wilshire Country Club is an additional sign of a player who can go well here, as are a 4th-place finish in the Portland Classic and 7th at Palos Verdes.
Hataoka has managed an LPGA victory in four of the last five seasons, with the only winless year in that time coming in 2020, which is easily forgiven. She hasn’t quite managed it yet this year but there are few players with better overall form figures for 2023 and she can add a 1 to them this week.
1.75 pts Ayaka Furue each way (1/5 – 6 places) – 28/1
With her combination of an elite short game and accurate ball striking, Hataoka’s compatriot, Ayaka Furue looks an ideal type for the test I’m expecting at Shaughnessy G&CC this week.
Furue has herself produced an excellently consistent year in 2023. She’s missed just one cut in eighteen starts and had thirteen top 25s, eight top 10s and six top 5s. Her standout performance came when runner-up for the second year on the spin in the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play.
Whilst not quite as good as Hataoka, she too has looked good during the recent energy-sapping run of majors; finishing 6th in the US Women’s Open, 8th in the Women’s PGA, 36th in the Evian Championship and when we last saw her, she finished 21st in the Women’s Open.
Her biggest asset is the putter, an area in which she ranks 4th on the LPGA this year. She matches that ranking in driving accuracy and is 9th in scrambling. When added to her perfectly reasonable top 40 rankings in approach and GIR, we find a player who should be well suited to this challenge.
My belief in Furue’s chances here is strengthened by her 3rd in Portland last year and a 4th at Wilshire earlier in 2023; concluding a strong case for a big performance from the diminutive Japanese star this week.
1 pt Cheyenne Knight each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 90/1
Cheyenne Knight was showing some promising form in the U.S earlier in the year. Though she hasn’t quite managed to transfer that to the recent majors – for all she’s been far from poor – she can get back on track in Canada this week. On a course that should suit her steady, accuracy-dependent game.
Knight started her year with nine top 20 finishes in her opening eleven starts. She converted those into three top 10s; with a 6th-place finishes in the LA Championship rating as her best result.
She started the major gauntlet in good shape, finishing 30th in the Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol, whilst she also made the cut in the US Women’s Open and Evian Championship. However, she does come into this week with missed cuts in Scotland and at Walton Heath on her last two starts; something she’ll need to bounce back from here.
I’m sure she’s capable of doing that at a course that should set up well for her statistically. Knight is the 5th-best scrambler on the LPGA and one of the straightest drivers, ranking 11th in driving accuracy. The Texan is a good iron player, ranking 26th in approach and a solid top 40 par 5 scorer. Whilst also ranking above average in GIR and on the greens. Her profile is a good one for Shaughnessy G&CC.
Her correlating form gives us further reason for optimism, possessing a 5th in Portland and that best finish of the year in the LA Championship came at the aforementioned Wilshire CC.
Knight won her second LPGA title a month ago in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational pairs event, teamed with Elizabeth Szokol. She can top that up with a first individual win since 2019 this week.
1 pt Andrea Lee each way (1/5 – 6 places) – 100/1
Former #1 amateur, Andrea Lee was one of the breakout stars on the LPGA last year, gaining a first victory on the tour in the correlating Portland Classic. She struggled at the start of this year but has been much more encouraging over recent starts and can use her previous positive experience of that Macan design to produce her best performance of 2023 this week.
After missing just four cuts in the entirety of last year, Lee has already failed to make the weekend on seven occasions this; with little in the way of positivity in her opening nine starts of the year.
She showed some improvement at the Match-Play and followed that with a first top 25 of the year at Liberty National in the Mizuho Americas Open. Though missing her first two cuts after that, she has looked much closer to her best over her last four starts.
Lee finished 20th in the US Women’s Open four starts ago at Pebble Beach and has responded to a missed cut at the Evian Championship with two consecutive 9th-place finishes in the UK; in the Women’s Scottish Open and Women’s Open.
The ball-striking has been of little concern for her this year, with rankings of 8th in driving accuracy, 16th in approach and 47th in GIR reminiscent of her quality performances last year. The issue has been the short game, where at 79th in scrambling and 129th in putting she is significantly down on last year’s numbers.
However, it has been the improvements in these areas that have brought about the better results in recent starts, as she ranked 2nd in scrambling and 34th in putting in Scotland, and 25th in scrambling and 39th in putting at Walton Heath.
Any replication of those performances this week will serve Lee well at a course that should suit ideally if her win at Columbia Edgewater and 5th at Palos Verdes last year are anything to go by.