Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship 2024 Tips: Nasa ready for launch in Palos Verdes

 | March 20 | 

19 mins read

jamie LPGA

With the start of major season just four weeks away, the LPGA returns to action in the US this week, as we take in the delights of Palos Verdes Golf Club for the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship.

As always, we've asked our golf expert Jamie Worsley to preview this one and he's also given us his five each way predictions ranging from 22/1 to 125/1.

Fir Hills Seri Pak Betting Tips

  • 2 pts Nasa Hataoka each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 22/1 
  • 1.5 pts Megan Khang each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 30/1
  • 1 pt Hannah Green each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 45/1 
  • 1 pt Georgia Hall each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 50/1
  • 0.75 pts Grace Kim each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 125/1

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

This event is the latest iteration of the LA Open, which was first staged at nearby Wilshire Country Club in 2018, before Palos Verdes Golf Club undertook hosting duties in 2023. Its name change coincides with legendary five-time major winner, Seri Pak, becoming the tournament host for this 2024 edition.

The previous renewals of the championship have seen five different nationalities lift the trophy. Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn recorded her first LPGA success in the inaugural edition and was succeeded by Minjee Lee of Australia in 2019.

The tournament returned in 2021 after the 2020 edition was cancelled due to covid and saw Canada’s Brooke Henderson end an almost two-year wait for an LPGA victory.

Japan’s Nasa Hataoka then took the trophy back to Asia in 2022, producing the most impressive performance in the history of the event with a dominant five-stroke success.

Last year’s course change to Palos Verdes GC provided China’s Ruoning Yin with the stage to begin a memorable 2023 campaign. After fighting back from a poor start in her final round to take this title for a first LPGA win, she would then go on to become a first-time major champion a couple of months later, winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

Yin returns to defend this week and will again be hoping that the event can be used as a springboard to bigger and better things in 2024.

THE COURSE

Palos Verdes Golf Club celebrates its 100-year anniversary this year, having been designed by William P. Bell in 1924; under consultation with George Thomas, who he worked with on renowned courses such as Riviera and LACC.

Prior to hosting this event for the first time last year, it was first seen on the LPGA in 2022, hosting the Palos Verdes Championship. That event was won by Marina Alex with a score of -10 and though playing a little easier last year, Ruoning Yin’s -15 winning score still suggests that Palos Verdes is a firm test.

That level of difficulty comes despite the par 71 measuring just 6258 yards; possessing 11x par 4s (290-422 yards), 4x par 3s (139-214 yards) and 3x par 5s (454-536 yards).

It is worth noting that the two nines are flipped for this event, with the front nine (usually the back nine) possessing just one par 3/5 and seven par 4s; whilst the back nine (usually the front nine) has more interesting routing with no two consecutive holes playing to the same par.

Built along cliff tops, this fabulously strategic and traditional course has had some of the densely-populated trees removed in recent years, to open up the playing corridors and supply players with spectacular panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

The course is extremely hilly, with sloping fairways leaving uneven lies and elevation changes on almost every hole, which predominantly come in the shape of uphill approaches into the tiny poa annua/bentgrass greens. Resulting in the short course playing deceptively longer than its yardage.

Though some of the driving lines are tight, there are generous landing areas on the fairways and they were pretty easy to hit last year, but you need to avoid the plethora of deep, penal and strategically-placed fairway bunkers that dramatically shape many holes. Notoriously tricky kikuyu rough awaits to punish you further, whilst there are regular forced carries across ravines and barrancas throughout, causing added reason for concern.

The aforementioned putting surfaces are largely elevated and heavily contoured, however they will run at just 11 on the stimp this week. Hitting them is tough, with steep run-offs and false-fronts making the targets even smaller.

Those who miss are tasked with a mixture of scrambling problems; some tight lies, some from the thick kikuyu rough and more of those deep bunkers, which are as punishing around the greens as they are aside the fairways.

Water is in-play on just one hole, protecting the left-hand side of the fairway and green on the 536-yard par 5 16th. This is one of a number of risk/reward opportunities, joined by a couple of potentially drivable par 4s: the 290-yard 3rd and the 5th hole, which will play as short as 263 yards this week.

THE WEATHER

Conditions are set to be cool and dry throughout the week. With only a mild breeze predicted over the opening two rounds, wind shouldn’t be too much of a factor early on.

However, it is forecast to get much more difficult over the weekend, with gusts of around 25mph on Saturday and 40mph+ on Sunday set to cause havoc.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Around-the- Greens/Scrambling

Whilst players will need to be smart off-the-tee, the most difficult aspects of play at Palos Verdes all come into and on/around the tiny poa putting surfaces. Meaning that the combination of a good short game and quality approach play will be hugely beneficial.

Quality around the greens has been a major indicator in each of the two events staged here and with those strong weekend winds set to make hitting these greens extremely difficult, this area will again be called upon.

Though Ruoning Yin relied on a quality long game to win last year, those directly behind her on the leaderboard all showed sharpness around the greens. Runner-up, Georgia Hall ranked 2nd in scrambling and 18th around-the-greens; Hyo Joo Kim in 3rd ranked 3rd in scrambling and 5th ATG; whilst fellow 3rd-place finisher, Patty Tavatanakit, ranked 9th in scrambling and 20th ATG.

Go back to that 2022 edition of the Palos Verdes Championship and winner, Marina Alex, led the field in scrambling and  Megan Khang in 3rd ranked 1st ATG.

  • SG: Putting (poa annua)

The putter will too play a key role on these tricky greens. Georgia Hall led the field on the greens when finishing 2nd last year and Patty Tavatanakit ranked 6th; whilst both of the top 2 in 2022, Marina Alex and Jin Young Ko, ranked top 5.

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation

Despite Ruoning Yin ranking 1st in approach when winning last year, quality approach play hasn’t been overly important so far – certainly not as prevalent a stat among the challengers as the short-game areas – but I’m certain in time it will prove to be as much of a necessity as any other area.

Sloping fairway lies, elevation changes and plenty of fairway-adjacent danger make this as challenging a course for approach play. Add into the equation the size of these greens – which repel balls at their edges – and there’s no doubt that if anyone can replicate Yin’s quality in this area last year, they will give themselves a great chance at taking the trophy this week.

  • Par 4 Scoring

Finally, scoring well on the par 4s at this William Bell gem has been essential. Ruoning Yin ranked 3rd in par 4 scoring last year, with each of her closest challengers ranking inside the top 6; including Patty Tavatanakit who led the field on these holes.

It was a similar story in 2022, as Marina Alex ranked 11th in par 4 scoring and the other three members of the top 4 ranked no worse than 6th.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

LA Championship (Wilshire Country Club)

I’m going to begin with former host of this event and current LA Championship host, Wilshire Country Club. This fellow Californian venue is another traditional old course built on gently rolling, hilly land. It possesses small poa annua greens, heavy bunkering and has some similarly generous landing areas off the tee.

Notable correlating form:

Ruoning Yin:

Palos Verdes (1st) / Wilshire (4th)

Marina Alex:

Palos Verdes (1st) / Wilshire (10th)

Jin Young Ko:

Palos Verdes (2nd) / Wilshire (2nd, 3rd, 5th)

Megan Khang:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Wilshire (5th)

Hannah Green:

Palos Verdes (5th) / Wilshire (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Nasa Hataoka:

Palos Verdes (7th) / Wilshire (1st)

Madelene Sagstrom:

Palos Verdes (9th) / Wilshire (3rd)

Portland Classic (Columbia Edgewater Country Club)

Columbia Edgewater is another classic venue approaching its 100-year anniversary. As a relatively short, tree-lined course, with difficult, small poa greens and penal rough, it can act as a good comp course this week.

Notable correlating form:

Marina Alex:

Palos Verdes (1st) / Portland (1st)

Ruoning Yin:

Palos Verdes (1st) / Portland (3rd)

Georgia Hall:

Palos Verdes (2nd) / Portland (1st)

Megan Khang:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Portland (5th, 6th)

Andrea Lee:

Palos Verdes (5th) / Portland (1st)

Hannah Green:

Palos Verdes (5th) / Portland (1st)

Carlota Ciganda:

Palos Verdes (5th) / Portland (3rd)

Dana Open (Highland Meadows Golf Club)

Traditional courses are the order of the day and it is something which very much applies to this 1925 design, Highland Meadows. Though significantly longer than this week’s course, its emphasis on quality approach play and putting on small and slow poa/bentgrass mixed greens – which are strongly protected by bunkers – makes it an appealing correlating course this week.

Notable correlating form:

Ruoning Yin:

Palos Verdes (1st) / Dana Open (4th)

Marina Alex:

Palos Verdes (1st) / Dana Open (5th)

Lydia Ko:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Dana Open (1st, 1st)

Megan Khang:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Dana Open (2nd)

Hyo Joo Kim:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Dana Open (4th, 5th)

Andrea Lee:

Palos Verdes (5th) / Dana Open (5th)

Nasa Hataoka:

Palos Verdes (7th) / Dana Open (1st, 7th)

Evian Championship (Evian Resort)

The notoriously hilly, sloping Evian Resort and it’s undulating, largely elevated greens - that harshly punish a lack of precision in approach – has developed some unsurprisingly strong crossover form with this week’s host course.

Notable correlating form:

Jin Young Ko:

Palos Verdes (2nd) / Evian (1st)

Georgia Hall:

Palos Verdes (2nd) /Evian (6th, 8th)

Lydia Ko:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Evian (1st)

Hyo Joo Kim:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Evian (1st, 2nd)

Megan Khang:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / Evian (8th)

Carlota Ciganda:

Palos Verdes (5th) / Evian (3rd)

Nasa Hataoka:

Palos Verdes (7th) / Evian (3rd)

2023 CPKC Women’s Open (Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club)

Small, difficult poa annua greens; regular elevation changes; and susceptible to wind due to being situated close to the Pacific are just a few reasons as to why Shaughnessy G&CC should act as a good comp this week. Though only hosting the CPKC Women’s Open for the first time last year, there was some eye-catching correlating form at the top of the leaderboard.

Notable correlating form:

Ruoning Yin:

Palos Verdes (1st) / CPKC (3rd)

Jin Young Ko:

Palos Verdes (2nd) / CPKC (2nd)

Megan Khang:

Palos Verdes (3rd) / CPKC (1st)

Hannah Green:

Palos Verdes (5th) / CPKC (4th)

THE FIELD

This week’s field possesses six of the world’s top 10, headed by #1 Lilia Vu and #2 Nelly Korda. Defending champion, Ruoning Yin is the next-best player at #4 in the world.

Yin is joined by three of the other four former champions of this event: Nasa Hataoka (2022), Brooke Henderson (2021) and Moriya Jutanugarn (2018). Whilst the only other player to win at Palos Verdes, Marina Alex, is also in attendance.

There is plenty of depth in the field, with a further twelve of the top 25. This includes the in-form Patty Tavatanakit at #22 and #23 Rose Zhang, who makes just her second start of the year – and first in her home-state open as a professional - after finishing 7th in the Tournament of Champions.

Among the tournament invites is #14 amateur, Hannah Darling from Scotland; Lizette Salas makes her first start since last year’s US Women’s Open following over eight months out with a back injury; and in-form Ladies European Tour star, Alexandra Forsterling gets the chance to make her first LPGA start after taking down a strong field in the Aramco Series – Tampa event two weeks ago.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Nelly Korda 10/1, Brooke Henderson 16/1, Xiyu Lin 20/1, Ayaka Furue 22/1, Nasa Hataoka 22/1, Patty Tavatanakit 22/1

I’m going to get stuck in near the top of the betting this week. Whilst Nelly Korda finished 5th here on her only previous visit, we haven’t seen her since winning at the end of January and she’s entitled to be a little rusty.

Brooke Henderson has been playing well at the start of this year but a missed cut on her debut at Palos Verdes means she’s passed over for a player who finished top 10 here last year, and who has several pieces of appealing correlating form, Nasa Hataoka.

2 pts Nasa Hataoka each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 22/1 

Nasa enjoyed an impressively consistent 2023 campaign, missing just one cut in twenty-five starts and recording eight top-10 finishes, including two major top 5s when finishing 3rd in the Evian Championship and 4th in the US Women’s Open.

She signed off last year with a string of high-quality performances, culminating in finishing runner-up in the Tour Championship and whilst a win eluded her in 2023, she lost little in defeat. Signs at the start of 2024 suggest she’s going to keep racking up the high finishes this year.

Hataoka was a solid enough 22nd in the season-opening Tournament of Champions but stepped up on that when finishing 9th the following week in the LPGA Drive On Championship. A 41st-place finish in Thailand was uninspiring; though that is a place where she rarely goes well, and she improved massively on that when we last saw her, finishing 3rd in the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

The six-time LPGA winner possesses quality in all areas, shown by her gaining strokes across the board in the previous two seasons. She especially excels with her iron play, which has again been evident at the start of 2024, as she ranks 4th in greens-in-regulation and 8th in approach. With the short game looking sharp, ranking 25th in scrambling, she is perfectly suited to this week’s potentially taxing challenge.

After opening with rounds of 67-66, Hataoka sat 3rd at the halfway point at Palos Verdes on debut last year, before eventually finishing 7th. This positive first-time display was easy to predict, as she’s a past winner of this event when it was last staged at Wilshire CC in 2022. Also owning a win in the Dana Open, along with top-4 finishes in last year’s Evian Championship and in the Portland Classic, she ticks almost every box and can make up for the lack of a win last year by getting in the winner’s circle early in 2024.

1.5 pts Megan Khang each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 30/1

Megan Khang made her long-awaited LPGA breakthrough when winning the CPKC Women’s Open last year and if her performances at the start of 2024 are anything to go by, it’s a win that could act as the trigger to further successes. She can claim a second win this week, at a course where her excellent approach play and touch around the greens has enabled her to develop a strong record.

Khang didn’t take part in the tour’s trip around East Asia and has done all of this year’s competing in Florida. She kicked off the year with an 11th-place finish in the Tournament of Champions and followed that by finishing 3rd in the LPGA Drive On Championship the next week; before returning from a six-week absence to finish 12th in the Aramco Series – Tampa tournament a fortnight ago.

This accurate ball-striking type ranked 4th in approach and 5th in GIR last season, complimenting that with a sharp short game, ranking 10th around-the-greens and 27th in scrambling. It’s very much been business as usual across her two LPGA starts this year, which sees her rank 1st in approach, 2nd in GIR, 2nd in scrambling and 4th ATG at this still early point of the season.

These qualities add up to make her consistently rank as one of the best par 4 scorers on tour and goes some way to explaining why she has excelled at Palos Verdes on her two visits.

The American shot three rounds in the 60s to finish 3rd behind Marina Alex here in 2022 and returned to finish 13th last year, where rounds of 66-69 to start had her inside the top 10 after 36 holes, though she stalled a little over the weekend.

The only thing that has held Khang back at Palos Verdes is struggles on the greens. However, she has had plenty of competent putting displays on poa, including when she won the CPKC Women’s Open last year.

That attractive piece of correlating form is strengthened by a runner-up finish in the Dana Open; top 5s in the Portland Classic and at Wilshire CC; as well as a top 10 in the Evian Championship.

1 pt Hannah Green each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 45/1 

Hannah Green is already a winner this season and with her strong record at Palos Verdes I thought she looked a big price to go in again this week.

Green’s speedy start to 2024 has seen her take her LPGA trophy tally to four, after she sunk a 30-footer on her final hole in the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore to get the better of Celine Boutier by a shot. In what had been a ding-dong final round battle between the two.

The Australian was electric on the greens and in approach in Singapore, ranking 2nd and 5th in each respective strokes-gained area. Both of these areas have shown to be her key assets in recent years and with her solid scrambling ability, along with a habit of scoring well on the par 4s, she matches up statistically with this week’s course.

That was clear to see on her debut in 2022, as she started 67-66 to take the halfway lead, before a pair of 1-over 72s over the weekend saw her slip to 5th; again showing a liking for the course when returning to finish 25th last year.

Green has been able to transfer her putting talents to poa on each of those visits, as well as at several of the correlating courses; possessing wins at Wilshire CC and in the Portland Classic, as well as a 4th-place finish in last year’s CPKC Women’s Open behind Khang.

1 pt Georgia Hall each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 50/1

Georgia Hall lost little in defeat when finishing runner-up to Ruoning Yin at Palos Verdes last year and after a promising - albeit lightly-raced - start to 2024, she may just fancy her chances of going one better this time around.

That 2nd-place finish here in 2023 was part of an excellent start to last year for Hall, as she finished no worse than 14th over her first seven starts; recording a further runner-up finish the week prior to her effort here, in the LPGA Drive On Championship.

Though she wasn’t able to maintain that incredibly high standard throughout the rest of the year, her game didn’t look all that far away and she’s begun this year in similarly consistent fashion.

After withdrawing on her first start of the year in the LPGA Drive On Championship, Hall finished 12th in the Saudi Ladies International three weeks later and recorded a second top 25 in a row when 23rd in the Honda LPGA Thailand on her latest start.

She looked very good in approach in Thailand, ranking 11th. This has typically been a big strength of hers, ranking inside the top 25 on tour in the last two years. Marrying this with a tidy short game, ranking 15th in scrambling on tour last season, and as one of the best putters around over recent years, regularly ranking inside the top 20, the Englishwoman has an attractive skillset for Palos Verdes.

Hall immediately signalled her suitability to this test last year, signing off with a 4-under 67 to finish just behind Ruoning Yin in 2nd, where she led the field on these greens. Her ability on poa has also been displayed in Portland, where she won in 2020 and with several top 10s in the Evian Championship, we know she has the game to handle this hilly, undulating terrain.

0.75 pts Grace Kim each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 125/1

The talented Grace Kim enjoyed a successful rookie season on the LPGA in 2023 and with some steadily-improving form to her name at the start of her second season on tour, she looks primed for a big week in California.

Kim enjoyed an excellent amateur career, reaching #29 in the world and won right throughout her years at that level. Which included winning the Australian Girls’ Amateur in 2017; taking down players such as Yuka Saso and Atthaya Thitikul in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games; and in 2021 she won the prestigious Australian Women’s Amateur.

The Aussie turned pro right at the end of 2021 but it didn’t take her much time to establish herself in the pro ranks in 2022. She finished as the top female player in the TPS Sydney event – part of a series of events where men and women compete against each other – and then headed to the US for a season on the Epson Tour.

There, a win in the IOA Golf Classic was a major contributing factor in her finishing 5th on the season-ending rankings and earned her an instant upgrade to a rookie season on the LPGA last year.

It took her just three starts to become an LPGA winner, beating Liu Yu and Yujin Sung in a playoff in the Hawaii-based LOTTE Championship. She then went on to record seven further top-25 finishes, including two top 15s in majors, when finishing 14th in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and 13th in the US Women’s Open on consecutive starts.

Kim started this year slowly but her game hasn’t looked that far away on her last two starts; finishing 31st in Thailand and 25th in Singapore.

As a player who possesses an excellent short game, ranking 5th in scrambling and 22nd ATG last year, and combines it with a reliably-steady ball-striking game, ranking 10th in driving accuracy and 30th in GIR, she looks capable of improving on her solid if unspectacular 59th-place finish here last year. Especially as these areas of her game have started to click over recent starts.

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

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