Ford Championship 2024 Tips: Boutier can get it done in Arizona

 | March 27 | 

15 mins read

jamie LPGA

As always, we've asked our golf expert Jamie Worsley to preview this weeks LPGA and he's also given us his six each way predictions for the upcoming Ford Championship.

Ford Championship Betting Tips

  • 2 pts Celine Boutier each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 25/1 
  • 1.5 pts Sei Young Kim each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 33/1
  • 0.75 pts Ariya Jutanugarn each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 100/1 
  • 0.75 pts Mi Hyang Lee each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 100/1
  • 0.75 pts Lucy Li each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 150/1
  • 0.5 pts Yealimi Noh each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 300/1

On just her third start, Nelly Korda recorded a second win of 2024 in the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship at Palos Verdes Golf Club; defeating Ryann O’Toole in a playoff. It was a win that took her back to the top of the Rolex Rankings and she’ll be hoping to keep the form up as the tour gets closer to that first major championship of the year in three weeks’ time.

It’s to Vegas for the Match Play next week but first the players will head a little further east, for the inaugural edition of the Ford Championship. Which takes place at Seville Golf and Country Club in Gilbert, Arizona.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The LPGA has often visited Arizona throughout its history, most recently for the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf Club last year, won by Celine Boutier.

However for this brand new event, we have a new course, as Seville Golf and Country Club not only hosts the LPGA’s best for the first time but will be making its debut as the host of a professional event.

THE COURSE

Seville G&CC was designed by prolific local architect, Gary Panks in 2001 and is situated in the desert, just outside of Phoenix. The course plays as a par 72, measuring 6615 yards and possess 10x par 4s, 4x par 5s and 4x par 3s.

We’re heading a little into the unknown this week but it looks like your typically exposed desert course, with everything I read speaking of the venue’s playability. Potentially setting up for some low scoring.

Sandy waste areas – littered with some troublesome native shrubbery - and a smattering of trees frame the majority of holes at this largely flat course.

There is some movement on most holes, with an even balance of left-to-right and right-to-left doglegs. The gently undulating fairways are very generous and whilst the limited bunkering is well placed, the rough shouldn’t be a factor and there’s a feeling that providing they aren’t too wayward off-the-tee, players won’t be overly punished for inaccuracies.

The tiered bermudagrass greens a pretty large and will play at 11.5-12 on the stimp this week. Having said that, many are elevated, narrow in shape and generally positioned at an angle to the fairway, meaning they will require a good level of precision to hit. With collection areas and some deepish bunkering around the putting surfaces looking difficult to get up-and-down from.

Water is in-play on seven holes, including the exciting risk/reward closing three. This finish kicks off with the drivable par 4 16th, on which water protects the entire right-hand side of the hole.

Players then move on to the short but dangerous par 3 17th, played on a true island green that is only accessible via a walkway.

The course closes out with the par 5 18th, with water punishing players who go long and right off the tee, as well as short and left into the green. There are chances here to finish with a flourish but equally, players could see their chances meeting a watery end.

THE WEATHER

There’s a chance of showers in the days leading up into the event but it doesn’t look like being too heavy. It is forecast to pretty dry for the rest of the week and though starting off with just a light breeze, the wind does look set to increase over the weekend, which may make this exposed setup a different beast.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach/Greens-in-Regulation
  • SG: Putting (bermudagrass)
  • Driving Distance

It’s hard to know what to expect this week but with my feeling that the event will be low scoring, I’m keen to focus on strong iron players and putters.

Precision iron play will be key in hitting the right spots on these multi-tiered putting surfaces and we should look towards players who have previously shown an ability to get hot with the putter on bermudagrass.

The course isn’t overly long; therefore I wouldn’t entirely rule out shorter hitters but there is no doubt that these generous fairways and their lack of protection will look incredibly inviting for the bombers in the field.

CORRELATING EVENTS

There is zero correlating form to go off this week but there are some lines of attack that should help us out in Arizona.

Firstly, it makes sense to me to look at recent events in the state. Both last year’s LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain and the Founders Cup (2011-2019) at Wildfire Golf Club took place in Arizona and have many similarities; they are each typically exposed desert-style courses of a similar length, with large bermudagrass-based greens and generous fairways.

I felt that The Ascendant LPGA at Old American Golf Club could be worth a look too. Another exposed venue with wide fairways and bermudagrass greens.

Finally, whilst the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club and the host of the Chevron Championship, The Club at Carlton Woods are more traditionally tree-lined courses, they both have generous fairways and feature sizeable bermudagrass greens.

THE FIELD

New world #1 Nelly Korda heads a brilliant field for this inaugural edition of the Ford Championship, joined by a further eight players from the world’s 10: #2 Lilia Vu, #3 Celine Boutier, #4 Ruoning Yin, #5 Minjee Lee, #7 Charley Hull, #8 Lydia Ko, #9 Hyo Joo Kim and #10 Xiyu Lin.

There are another eleven players from the world’s top 25, this includes Linn Grant, who attended college at Arizona State; Carlota Ciganda, Anna Nordqvist, Linnea Strom, Azahara Munoz and Roberta Liti also went to Arizona State and tee it up this week.

Other local connections can be found from Bianca Pagdanganan, who attended the University of Arizona; as did Lindsey Weaver-Wright, playing for the first time since October last year after becoming a parent in December.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Nelly Korda 9/1, Brooke Henderson 18/1, Minjee Lee 18/1, Hyo Joo Kim 20/1, Lydia Ko 20/1

Events on unfamiliar courses are always tricky to dissect and it feels like a week to have a handful of more speculative selections. However, before I get to that, there’s a couple of major champions that caught the eye nearer the top of the betting, who have some winning form in Arizona and have been playing well this year, starting with Celine Boutier.

2 pts Celine Boutier each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 25/1 

I put up Boutier in the LPGA Drive On Championship event in Arizona last year, where she got the better of Georgia Hall in a playoff; a victory that kicked off the best year of her career, as she finished it with four LPGA victories, which included a memorable first major win at home in the Evian Championship.

The Frenchwoman has started 2024 in fine form. She finished 16th in this year’s LPGA Drive On Championship in Florida and followed an underwhelming 49th-place finish in Thailand by finishing 2nd in the HSBC Women’s World Championship; denied a playoff place there after a superb birdie putt from Hannah Green on the 72nd hole saw the Aussie take the title.

When we last saw her, Boutier finished 12th in the Blue Bay LPGA in China; an event where she was in fine form tee-to-green, ranking 1st, but threw in an unusually poor performance on the greens that would’ve otherwise seen her contend for the second week on the spin.

I say that putting display was unusual as she has ranked inside the top 20 on tour on the greens in each of the last two seasons. Part of a strong all-round profile that saw her rank 18th T2G and 20th in putting last year - a combination that will work well anywhere – and with her irons looking strong so far this season (ranking 17th in approach) she should be able to make plenty of birdies here.

Boutier not only won in Arizona last year but several top 10s in The Ascendant LPGA and Tour Championship boost her comp form. Giving me confidence that she has the game to take it to this new challenge.

1.5 pts Sei Young Kim each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 33/1

Sei Young Kim won the 2016 Founders Cup in this state and entering this week in good form; driving it well (and far), putting well and hitting plenty of greens, she ticks every box for the Ford Championship.

Kim had some eye-catching finishes towards the end of last season but they were more sporadic, recording finishes of 60-MC after finishing 4th in the CPKC Women’s Open and then finishing 3rd in the Arkansas Championship, before failing to sniff the top 10 for the remainder of the season.

What has been more pleasing from the Korean in 2024 is the consistency. She’s finished inside the top 20 on each of her four starts and fired thirteen rounds under par out of sixteen. There has been the odd stinker thrown in, closing with a 5-over 76 in her season-opening 13th-place finish in the LPGA Drive On Championship, and opening with a 5-over 77 in the HSBC Women’s World Championship, before eventually finishing 17th. However, when she’s finally put it all together, we’ve seen what she can do, recording a 3rd-place finish in the Honda LPGA Thailand, her best result of the year.

The putter has been her biggest asset, ranking 15th. She’s complimented that with some typically strong driving, ranking 23rd OTT and 24th in driving distance, whilst she’s also hitting plenty of greens, ranking 12th in GIR.

Kim’s comp form with her Founders Cup win is added to by a win at Tiburon in the Tour Championship, as well as 4th and 8th-place finishes in The Ascendant LPGA. Suggesting she’ll be among the frontrunners this week.

0.75 pts Ariya Jutanugarn each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 100/1 

Now for the more speculative plays and you’ll find fewer classier 100/1 shots than Ariya Jutanugarn. After a strong finish to 2023, the two-time major champion hasn’t quite managed to carry that form over into this year, however she had been starting to find her feet prior to last week’s missed cut in California. Now coming to a course where her occasionally erratic driving won’t be as severely punished; she looks well worth a shot.

Jutanugarn began her year with a couple of missed cuts in Florida and Saudi though took a huge step forward on her next start, finishing 13th in the Honda LPGA Thailand; following that up with a second top 25 on the spin, finishing 22nd in the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

Though struggling when missing the cut at Palos Verdes, that is the type of strategic, accuracy-dependent course that doesn’t suit – shown by her two missed cuts in previous years – and I’m more than happy to forgive that for this more suitable setup in Arizona.

She’s been struggling with the driver for a couple of years now, where she’s not accurate or as long as she used to be (though still not short) but she has been very strong with her irons, ranking 26th in approach and 27th in GIR last year; carrying that over into 2024, ranking 20th in approach and 33rd in GIR.

The putter was also strong last year, ranking inside the top 20 but has been hit-and-miss this, ranking 3rd in her 13th-place finish in Thailand but looking off it in other starts. However she does often go well on bermudagrass and I’m hoping these greens will bring out her best.

Jutanugarn’s ability on bermuda was on show when she won the 2017 Tour Championship. She’s also recorded two 2nd-place finishes in the Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club and a finish of 4th in The Ascendant LPGA. This represents a strong book of comp form and leads me to believe she can end her three-year winless streak at Seville G&CC.

0.75 pts Mi Hyang Lee each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 100/1

Mi Hyang Lee is another inaccurate driver who should relish the more forgiving fairways here and producing her best approach play in years so far in 2024, she can continue her strong run of form this week.

Lee showed a good level of consistency in 2023, missing just six cuts in twenty-three starts and recording a couple of top 10s. She’s not just carried that form over into this year - hitting the top 25 in four of five starts -  but in her 3rd-place finish at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, she recorded her best result since finishing runner-up in the 2019 Chevron Championship (then the ANA Inspiration).

The Korean was at her best on the greens last year, ranking 31st and whilst a ranking of 18th so far this season is an improvement on that, it doesn’t represent her only or indeed best gains.

Instead, this has come in her approach play, where Lee has gone from ranking outside the top 80 in the previous two seasons to ranking 13th in the area in 2024; producing a field-leading display when finishing 21st in the Blue Bay LPGA two starts ago.

A 3rd-place finish in the 2015 Founders Cup represents a good piece of form in Arizona and in her current form, this could be just the place to provide Lee with a long-awaited third LPGA win (and first on U.S soil) of her career.

0.75 pts Lucy Li each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 150/1

Former child prodigy, Lucy Li continues to show much improved form in her second season on tour and with all areas of her game looking in good shape, she looks a big price in Arizona.

Li started the year with her best ever result on tour, finishing 4th in the LPGA Drive On Championship. She followed up with finishes of 14th in the Saudi International, 48th in the Honda LPGA Thailand and recorded her second top 10 of the year in the Blue Bay LPGA; before again impressing with a 13th-place finish at Palos Verdes last week.

She is gaining strokes in most aspects this year but it’s the iron-play that stands out, in which she ranks 11th in approach and 15th in GIR. In addition to that, she’s a relatively lengthy top 30 in driving distance and much improved with the putter in 2024, the Californian looks a good fit for this challenge.

Comp form is hard to come by for a player still at the start of her LPGA career, however Li does have some good pro form in Arizona, finishing top 5 in both of the events in the state on the Epson Tour in 2022. I’m hoping she can lean on those positive vibes this week to find that breakthrough LPGA win at Seville G&CC.

0.5 pts Yealimi Noh each way (1/4 - 5 places) - 300/1

The most speculative selection of all comes in the shape of the hugely talented Yealimi Noh. She’s struggled for form the last couple years after initially making an impressive start to her pro career but she started to find some consistency towards the end of 2023. Having played only twice so far this year, signs have remained positive.

Noh turned pro at just 17-year-old at beginning of 2019 following a high-class junior career, where she won the Girls Junior PGA Championship – beating a certain Rose Zhang into 2nd, among other stars on the leaderboard – and US Girls’ Junior in consecutive starts in 2018. Before completing the treble in the Canadian Women’s Amateur on her next start, beating much more experienced players such as Lilia Vu, Jennifer Kupcho and Allisen Corpuz – all now major champions.

The beginnings of her pro career was full of quality, including a 3rd-place finish in the 2021 Evian Championship, however since receiving a captain’s pick for the Solheim Cup later that year as a 20-year-old, her form has slipped over recent years.

As mentioned, Noh was showing much more positive signs at the end of last year, making four of her last six cuts of 2023 and recording her only top 10 in the Arkansas Championship on her third-last start.

She then finished top 25 on her first start of 2024 in the LPGA Drive On Championship and whilst a 65th-place finish last week doesn’t look overly impressive, she was returning from an eight-week absence and looked solid through three rounds on a test that wouldn’t be the most obvious fit.

Noh’s prowess with the driver has stood out in her pro career and this big-hitter has looked stronger than ever with the club in those two starts this year. The rest of her game is also looking decent and it is worth noting that her improved form at the end of last year was aided by some excellent approach play, a level of which I’m hoping she will rediscover this week.

This power-packed ball-striking game should serve her well here and with a 2nd-place finish to her name in The Ascendant LPGA, along with some winning experience in Arizona from her junior days, I’m sure she will feel comfortable in her surrounds.

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

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