Cognizant Founders Cup 2024 Tips: Brooke can deny Nelly historic win

 | May 07 | 

16 mins read

jamie LPGA

The eyes of the golfing world will be fixed upon on New Jersey this week, as Nelly Korda attempts to record an unprecedented sixth straight LPGA win, in the Cognizant Founders Cup at Upper Montclair Country Club.

As always, we've asked our LPGA expert Jamie Worsley to give us his preview, as well as five each-way selections ranging from 16/1 to 125/1. Here are Jamie's Cognizant Founders Cup Predictions. 

Cognizant Founders Cup Tips

  • 2.5 pts Brooke Henderson each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 16/1 
  • 1.25 pts Celine Boutier each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 35/1
  • 1 pt Ruoning Yin each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 45/1 
  • 1 pt Jennifer Kupcho each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 50/1
  • 0.75 pts Yuna Nishimura each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 125/1

It has been a little over two weeks since Korda battled those back-nine nerves to claim a stunning fifth victory in a row and her second major in the Chevron Championship, and she will have hopefully recharged the batteries as she attempts to achieve this incredible feat.

Having said that, this week isn’t all about Nelly and with the second women’s major of the year just three weeks away, a strong field will be desperate to find some form to take into the US Women’s Open.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Founders Cup debuted on the LPGA in 2011 and was initially staged at Wildfire Golf Club in Arizona up until 2019. Following cancellation due to the pandemic in 2020, it returned in 2021 at Mountain Ridge Golf Course, before switching to its current home of Upper Montclair Country Club in 2022.

Only major champions need apply this week, with each of the 12 previous editions of this event going the way of then or future major winners.

Australia’s Karrie Webb won that first renewal in 2011 and went on to become the first two-time winner of the event in 2014. After victories in 2019 and 2021, Jin Young Ko equalled this tally and regained the title last year, making her the first player to win three Founders Cup titles.

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Jin Young Ko (-13, playoff); runner-up: Minjee Lee (-13)
  • 2022 – Winner: Minjee Lee (-19); runner-up: Lexi Thompson (-17)
  • 2021 – Winner: Jin Young Ko (-18); runner-up: Caroline Masson (-14)
  • 2019 – Winner: Jin Young Ko (-22); runners-up: Carlota Ciganda, Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda, Yu Liu (-21)
  • 2018 – Winner: Inbee Park (-19); runners-up: Laura Davies, Marina Alex, Ariya Jutanugarn (-14)

Jin Young Ko beat Minjee Lee in a playoff last year, denying the Aussie a second straight victory in the event. The Korean star returns to defend this week.

THE COURSE

Upper Montclair Country Club was originally designed by A.W Tillinghast in 1928, though that course was essentially replaced by a new one after Robert Trent Jones Snr’s 1957 renovation. It has been further renovated by A. John Harvey, first in 2010 and after this week’s event he will return to these holes to perform a bunker restoration.

There are 27 holes at the venue split across three courses: South, West and East. As with the previous two years, this event will use the South/West composition.

Measuring 6536 yards, this par 72 possesses 10x par 4s (323-414 yards), 4x par 5s (474-536 yards) and 4x par 3s (164-195 yards).

As we’ve seen in the last two renewals, the difficulty of this course large depends on conditions. Minjee Lee took apart a soft course in 2022, firing -19 for the win. Although, with drier, firmer conditions last year the course was a much different prospect, with -13 enough for Jin Young Ko and Minjee Lee to make it into a playoff. With likely receptive conditions again this week, I’d expect scoring to be similar to that 2022 edition.

This compact, tree-lined venue is a demanding test of driving. Whilst there are a few with more generous landing areas, the fairways are predominantly narrow and though the doglegs are largely gentle; vivid and strategic fairway bunkering often sits at their angle. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass rough awaits to add further pain to wayward drives and with trees often hugging the holes, it’s imperative that players drive the ball on the correct side of the fairway to be able to attack the putting surfaces unobstructed.

The often elevated poa annua/bentgrass mixed greens are large and would play pretty speedy if the weather allowed it. Subtle undulations can make them very tricky to read and with more of that thick rough and demanding bunkering for protection, the course provides a difficult short-game challenge.

Water is in-play on eight holes in total, including three of the four par 5s and the 323-yard par 4 10th, on which the tee may be pushed up to make the hole drivable; creating an exciting collection of risk/reward holes.

There are good scoring opportunities to be had throughout, with several other shorter par 4s that can be got at with quality ball-striking. If the forecast conditions come to fruition, I expect scoring to be low this week.

THE WEATHER

The area has seen plenty of rain in the last few months and that is set to continue this week, starting before the event and potentially carrying on into Friday. However, it should be dry over the weekend and with little more than a mild breeze forecast, scoring conditions should be favourable.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach

Quality approach play has been key in each of the differing renewals at this course and with the likely receptive conditions, I expect it to once again be essential if wanting to contend.

In the scoreable 2022 edition, Minjee Lee ranked 1st in approach and was closely challenged by Lexi Thompson in 2nd, who ranked 3rd.

The top of the leaderboard last year was littered with quality approach performances. Winner, Jin Young Ko ranked 3rd; Minjee Lee in 2nd again hit her irons well, ranking 6h; whilst Ashleigh Buhai in 3rd ranked 2nd.

  • SG: Off-the-Tee and/or Driving Accuracy

Both winners of this event have driven the ball well, as have most of the contenders.

Minjee Lee ranked 27th off-the-tee when winning in 2022 and each of her three closest challengers ranked inside the top 25.

Jin Young Ko ranked 11th with the driver last year, with Minjee again driving it well in 2nd, ranking 7th. It was also noticeable how many of the leading players ranked high in driving accuracy that year, with each of the top 4 ranking inside the top 26 and three in the top 10.

  • SG: Putting (poa/bent mix)

If this event does turn into a birdie-fest, players will likely need to enjoy a good week on the greens.

Though Minjee Lee relied heavily on her excellent ball-striking to go low in 2022, her three main challengers ranked top 20 on the greens; with Angel Yin and Madelene Sagstrom in 3rd, ranking 5th and 6th respectively.

Even when not especially low scoring, these subtly-contoured greens are that much of a challenge that they still require players to putt at least solidly, with all of last year’s top 4 ranking inside the top 30 in putting.

  • Par 4 Scoring
  • Birdie-or-Better

Unusually on a course with four par 5s, I think it’s the par 4s that are the key to unlocking the course. There are a couple of more challenging 500yd+ par 5s that may not be reachable for all in this field, especially if soft fairways limit roll-out. Whereas the par 4s are all relatively short, and strong iron players should be able to orchestrate chances on most in soft conditions.

Minjee Lee ranked 3rd on the par 4s in 2022; whilst Lexi Thompson and Madelene Sagstrom in 2nd and 3rd, ranked 2nd and 1st respectively.

Jin Young Ko led the field in par 4 scoring last year and of her nearest challengers, Ashleigh Buhai and Haeran Ryu ranked inside the top 5.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

With just two renewals of this event staged at Upper Montclair CC, correlating form for this week is very limited but there are several courses that I felt could be worth a look.

Dana Open (Highland Meadows Golf Club)

Highland Meadows Golf Club measures in at a similar length to this week’s venue and mixes some narrow, tree-lined fairways with poa/bent mixed greens; both well protected by sand and thick fescue/Kentucky bluegrass rough.

Notable correlating form:

Minjee Lee:

Founders (1st, 2nd) / Dana (4th)

Lexi Thompson:

Founders (2nd) / Dana (2nd, 2nd)

Angel Yin:

Founders (3rd, 5th) / Dana (8th)

Nasa Hataoka:

Founders (6th, 8th) / Dana (1st)

Megan Khang:

Founders (6th) / Dana (2nd)

Sarah Schmelzel:

Founders (11th) / Dana (4th)

Meijer LPGA Classic (Blythefield Country Club)

Blythefield Country has many of the same characteristics as Upper Montclair. It plays at an almost identical length; has poa/bent mixed greens, strong bunkering and punishing Kentucky bluegrass rough.

Notable correlating form:

Lexi Thompson:

Founders (2nd) / Meijer (1st, 2nd, 2nd)

Madelene Sagstrom:

Founders (3rd, 10th) / Meijer (4th)

Atthaya Thitikul:

Founders (5th, 8th) / Meijer (5th)

Carlota Ciganda:

Founders (5th) / Meijer (2nd, 5th)

Nasa Hataoka:

Founders (6th, 8th) / Meijer (2nd)

Georgia Hall:

Founders (10th) / Meijer (6th)

Shoprite LPGA Classic (Seaview – Bay Course)

Also taking place in New Jersey, the Shoprite LPGA Classic features large and firm poa/bent mixed greens, along with thick fescue and Kentucky bluegrass rough. Though much shorter and more exposed than this week’s venue, those similar grass types have helped players feel comfortable across these two courses.

Notable correlating form:

Jin Young Ko:

Founders (1st) / Shoprite (2nd)

Lexi Thompson:

Founders (2nd) / Shoprite (1st)

Ashleigh Buhai:

Founders (3rd) / Shoprite (1st)

Atthaya Thitikul:

Founders (5th, 8th) / Shoprite (6th)

Nasa Hataoka:

Founders (6th, 8th) / Shoprite (4th, 6th)

Jenny Shin:

Founders (10th) / Shoprite (3rd, 6th)

Kroger Queen City Championship (Kenwood Country Club)

Kenwood Country Club plays to a par 72 and at a similar length to Upper Montclair. It features large and speedy poa/bent mixed greens, strong bunkering and fescue/Kentucky bluegrass rough. Whilst similarly to this week, it’s the par 4s that offer up the greater scoring opportunities.

With only two events staged there, form-ties are very thin on the ground. However, Minjee Lee has won at both courses.

THE FIELD

Nelly Korda is the star attraction but she sits atop a deep field of competitors, joined by a further seven of the world’s top 10 and 17 of the top 25.

Among those are each of the last two winners of this event at Upper Montclair, Jin Young Ko (2023) and Minjee Lee (2022). There are another four former winners of the Founders Cup teeing it up: Anna Nordqvist (2017), Sei Young Kim (2016), Hyo Joo Kim (2015) and Stacy Lewis (2013).

Elsewhere, Atthaya Thitikul continues her return from a thumb injury after an impressive comeback effort of 12th in the Chevron Championship last month; Maja Stark will be hoping to turn those consecutive runner-up finishes into a victory; and watch out for American amateur, Bailey Shoemaker, who recently finished 2nd in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Nelly Korda 18/5, Atthaya Thitikul 14/1, Brooke Henderson 16/1, Jin Young Ko 16/1, Lydia Ko 22/1, Haeran Ryu 22/1

Betting against Nelly Korda looks a scary proposition at the moment but at the prices she’s understandably going off at, I feel it’s a necessary one. She did miss the cut here on debut last year, for all she’s now playing much better and should appreciate the softer conditions this week.

I wouldn’t put anyone off the “without Korda” market for those that are into that kind of thing but I’m going to stick to the outright betting, and begin this week’s selection with Brooke Henderson, who has been in excellent form herself this season.

2.5 pts Brooke Henderson each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 16/1 

Henderson has not missed a cut in 15 starts, stretching back to the Women’s Open in August of last year. That includes across her eight starts in 2024, during which she’s finished inside the top 10 five times; recording 3rd-place finishes in the Tournament of Champions, HSBC Women’s World Championship and last time out behind Korda in the Chevron Championship.

The Canadian is gaining strokes right across her game, ranking 4th tee-to-green and 38th in putting. The driver has been the key ingredient to that T2G prowess, where she’s combining power and accuracy to rank 7th and comes into this week after her best approach performance of the year in the Chevron. Ranking 2nd in par 4 scoring and 7th in birdies-or-better, her stats looks an ideal fit for Upper Montclair.

Henderson hasn’t played here in the last two years but with two wins in the Meijer LPGA Classic, along with a victory here in New Jersey in the Shoprite LPGA Classic, her comp form is excellent and she looks the most likely candidate to stop Nelly from making history this week.

1.25 pts Celine Boutier each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 35/1

Whilst not matching the excellence of her 2023 campaign, Celine Boutier has been largely solid so far this year and after rediscovering form with her irons on her last start, she looks a lively contender.

Boutier narrowly missed out on a victory on her third start of the year, finishing 2nd to Hannah Green in the HSBC Women’s World Championship. She continued to look in good shape after that, finishing 12th in the Blue Bay LPGA and following a first missed cut of the year in the Chevron Championship, she responded immediately by finishing 13th in the LA Championship two weeks ago; a result engineered by her second-best approach performance of the year.

She ranks 17th for the season overall in that area and it was also a positive to see her drive it a little better there, having been underwhelming with driver for most of the season. Her ranking of 10th in birdie-or-better should be a benefit in this week’s conditions and though the putter isn’t quite firing like we know it can, she has putted these greens well before, ranking 25th in 2022.

Boutier finished 35th that year on debut and returned to finish 31st last year. She recorded her first U.S-based win on the LPGA in this state in the 2021 Shoprite Classic and with two of her last four LPGA wins coming in scores of -20 or lower, we know she has the birdie-making ability to go low if that is indeed what is required.

1 pt Ruoning Yin each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 45/1 

Ruoning Yin gained the biggest win of her career just a few miles down the road from here at Baltusrol, in last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. That win was part of a stellar breakthrough campaign for the Chinese star and after missing her first cut in around 10 months in L.A last time out, she’s been pushed out to an appealing number this week.

That start in L.A was Yin’s ninth of the season, prior to which she’d looked strong in 2024; hitting the top 30 six times in her previous eight starts and recording a top 10 in the Seri Pak Championship at Palos Verdes.

It was some blistering ball-striking that took her to those impressive results in 2023 and though not quite up to the same standard she’s still hitting the ball very well, ranking 19th in approach and off-the-tee.

The putter is not her biggest asset, though I do take positives from the fact her best display of the year came on similar poa/bent mixed greens at Palos Verdes; ranking 23rd in par 4 scoring and 27th in birdie-or-better, there is little not to like about her chances statistically.

Yin missed the cut on debut here but was much improved when finishing 31st last year. Top 5s in the Dana Open and Kroger Queen City Championship may well boost her chances and at a bigger price than I can remember her being in some time, I’m taking her to bounce back from that rare missed cut last time out.

1 pt Jennifer Kupcho each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 50/1

Jennifer Kupcho has been ticking over nicely this year and looks primed for a big performance this week, at a course where she’s gone well on both previous visits.

Kupcho is another player who has a lengthy made-cut streak, which stretches back 16 events to August last year. Whilst constantly making the weekend, her early season form was still a little uninspiring but she’s improved her results massively in recent starts, recording four top 25s in a row. The best of those came four starts ago in the Ford Championship, finishing 8th and when we last saw her, she finished 13th in the L.A Championship.

This power-packed major champion has excelled most with the driver this season, ranking 17th. She’s also top 50 on the greens, recording her best putting performance of the year on that poa/bent mix at Palos Verdes and whilst the irons are yet to fully get going, she has produced her four best performances of the year in this area in her last four starts.

Kupcho has finished 17th and 21st in her two starts at this course, putting these greens well on both occasions. As a winner of the Meijer LPGA Classic and possessing a runner-up finish in the Shoprite LPGA Classic, her comp form is very strong and she should have every chance of a positive performance at Upper Montclair.

0.75 pts Yuna Nishimura each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 125/1

Six-time JLPGA winner, Yuna Nishimura looked to be finally getting comfortable with life on the LPGA towards the end of her rookie season in 2023. She’s continued to show promise at the start of her second campaign on tour and making plenty of birdies in 2024, this strong iron player should relish this week’s receptive conditions.

Nishimura’s only missed cut this season came on her latest start when hopping it over to the JLPGA. Prior to that she’d been performing well on the LPGA, including equalling her best finish on tour when 3rd in the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

She ranked inside the top 25 in approach last season and though not quite matching that so far this year, she still ranks a solid 51st. As one of the straightest drivers, ranking 5th and excellent on the greens, ranking 15th, she has an appealing profile for this challenge. One that is enhanced by her ranking of 26th in birdie-or-better this season.

Nishimura finished 31st at Upper Montclair last year, where she took to these greens immediately, ranking 9th. She managed that with an unusually poor all-round ball-striking performance and if she can hit the ball with as much precision as she has so far this year, whilst once again shining on these greens, I’m sure she can improve on that debut effort.

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

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