T-Mobile Match Play 2024 Tips: Four Each-Way Picks for the LPGA Tour

 | April 02 | 

13 mins read

jamie LPGA

All eyes are on Las Vegas in the LPGA Tour this week as a new format descends upon the T-Mobile Match Play. Nelly Korda comes into the event red-hot having won three-straight events on the tour but our golf tipster is looking for some value in the market.

Jamie Worsley has picked out four each-way plays as part of his comprehensive preview and all-important T-Mobile Match Play 2024 Tips...

T-Mobile Match Play 2024 Tips

  • Lydia Ko - 1/4 4 places – 2 pts ew @ 22/1
  • Brooke Henderson - 1/4 4 places – 2 pts ew @ 22/1
  • Andrea Lee - 1/4 4 places – 1 pt ew @ 66/1
  • Albane Valenzuela - 1/4 4 places – 1 pt ew 70/1

Two world number ones entered Sunday with the chance of a memorable three-timer but only one of them got the job done. Nelly Korda did in Arizona what Scottie Scheffler couldn’t in Texas, by winning for a third straight start; becoming the first LPGA player to do so since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016 and the first American since Nancy Lopez in 1978.

2023 could hardly be described as a failure for Korda but there is no doubting she wasn’t at her brilliant best. Her dominance this year has been an incredible response and should set her up perfectly for a push to add to her one major championship win to date; which really doesn’t feel like enough for the talent she possesses.

Korda is back in action this week at the revamped T-Mobile Match Play at Shadow Creek, the tour’s final stop before the Chevron Championship - the first major of the year. There, she will have the chance to join an exclusive list of four players who have recorded four straight wins and would become the first since Lorena Ochoa in 2008 to achieve the feat.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY & FORMAT

There have been three previous editions of this event after it debuted on tour in 2021, though things will look considerably different this year, with stroke play now forming a major part of the event.

Gone are the group and last-16 knockout stages that saw match play all the way. The now 96-woman field (increased from 64 in previous editions) will first compete in stroke play over the first two days of this five-day marathon, before a typical 36-hole cut takes place on Thursday.

The top 65-and-ties then advance to a third day of stroke play on Friday, all competing to make it into the top 8 and earn a spot in the match play element of the event.

The match play stage begins on Saturday with the quarter and semi-finals, before the final two return on Sunday to take part in the Championship Match.

Past winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Pajaree Anannarukarn (3 & 1); runner-up: Ayaka Furue
  • 2022 – Winner: Eun Hee Ji (3 & 2); runner-up: Ayaka Furue
  • 2021 – Winner: Ally Ewing (2 & 1); runner-up: Sophia Popov

Pajaree Anannarukarn won her second LPGA-sanctioned title here last year, confining Ayaka Furue to the runner-up spot for the second successive year. Both of them return to compete again this year and it will be especially interesting to see if Furue can continue her superb form in this event under the new format.

THE COURSE

The spectacular Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Nevada has been home to this event since the inaugural 2021 edition. Designed by Tom Fazio and opening for play in 1989 – with Fazio returning to renovate in 2008 – it was the most expensive course ever built at the time of opening.

Fazio took a flat, barren piece of land and crafted a green golfing oasis right from the desert floor. With tall pines framing the gently-rolling hills, this picturesque and impeccably-maintained venue wouldn’t look out of place among the lusher east/west-coast courses and if it wasn’t for the mountainous backdrop, players could be forgiven for forgetting where they are.

This challenging but playable par 72 has played to a lengthy 6765 yards in previous editions; possessing 10x par 4s (324-442 yards), 4x par 5s (480-561 yards) and 4x par 3s (140-185 yards).

There is a surprising amount of elevation changes around here considering the initial lay of the land; both into the average width fairways – some very narrow and some much more generous - and the small-average bentgrass greens, which are undulating and generally elevated.

Though the rough is non-penal, said fairways are protected by intelligent bunkering and water comes into play on nine holes in total, from artificial creeks, ponds etc; requiring lots of forced carries over hazards/penalty areas.

Smart bunkering again guards these greens, which are heavily sloped at their edges. They require quality approach play to avoid the ball hurtling off the putting surface and leaving a challenging pitch from well below the level of the green.

The par 5s are a decisive factor here, with two coming over the closing three holes of an exciting finish. The 518-yard 16th doglegs from left-to-right and has one of the narrowest fairways on the course, with strong bunkering protecting the fairway, layup area and narrow, angled putting surface.

In between the final two par 5s comes the signature 162-yard par 3 17th, where the surrounding pines and cascading waterfalls make it one of the most aesthetically-pleasing holes on the course. Players will be required to hit an approach into a tiny, shallow green which is well bunkered and has water short and left for protection.

Finally, another narrow and strategically bunkered fairway will need to be hit on the closing 480-yard par 5 18th. Water sits right of the fairway and layup areas, and short of the final green. We’ll see players make or break their week over these closing holes and it will provide an especially exciting finish to the match play element of the event if the matches get that far over the weekend.

THE WEATHER

We’re set for a bit of everything this week in Vegas. Conditions start off relatively warm, dry and sunny, though some of that pleasantness will be offset by potentially brutal 40mph+ winds on Thursday.

It remains blustery on Friday at upwards of 30mph and accompanied by much cooler conditions it should be another very trying day.

Whilst those winds are forecast to die down over the weekend, the cool temperatures will persist and with some rain also forecast for Saturday/Sunday, players will have to contend with adverse weather on almost every day.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach/Greens-in-Regulation
  • Driving Distance
  • SG: Around-the-Greens
  • SG: Putting (bentgrass)
  • Par 5 Scoring

The change in format sends us back to square one from a statistical point of view. Match play is less about making a score and more about whether a player has the ingredients to outdo their opponent. There will have been players shoot +1 and win matches, whilst some will have shot -4 and lost. Therefore it’s hard to glean too much from the statistical makeup of the better performing players in previous years.

Strong iron play into these small, punishing greens will be vital, even more so with the potentially demanding conditions on the way. Whilst as the second-longest course on tour and with a lack of overly penal rough, I feel a need to favour the longer hitters.

Greens-in-regulation may be hard to come by if the weather has its way and with some of the up-and-downs looking particularly difficult, I’d want those with a sharp short game on side; both who excel around-the-greens and ideally, players with a proven ability putting on bentgrass.

Finally, with two par 5s over the final three holes, these easier scoring chances could prove pivotal in both aspects of this week’s event.

CORRELATING EVENTS

This is a tricky week for comp courses. Not only does the format make things tough but there are very few courses on tour played on similar surfaces to this week.

One course that does stand out is Arkansas Championship host, Pinnacle Country Club. This tree-lined course has similarly-sized bentgrass greens and is fairly generous off-the-tee.

We can also explore the Tom Fazio angle and the Tournament of Champions host, Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. A place where both 2021 winner here, Ally Ewing and two-time runner-up Ayaka Furue have recorded top-4 finishes.

Finally, I wondered if the Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club could be worth a look. This densely tree-lined course has greens of a similar size, is well bunkered and features plenty of water in-play. Past winners of the LPGA Match Play, Pajaree Anannarukarn and Eun Hee Ji have recorded top-8 finishes there; Ayaka Furue has finished 3rd.

THE FIELD

World #1 Nelly Korda is the star attraction in this week’s field as she makes her debut in the event. She is joined by a further four of the world’s top 10: #3 Celine Boutier, #5 Minjee Lee, #8 Lydia Ko and #9 Hyo Joo Kim.

Other high-profile debutants include Rose Zhang and Yuka Saso, whilst each of the last three LPGA Match Play champions are all in attendance.

Angel Yin makes her return from injury, with major champions Allisen Corpuz, Brooke Henderson and Sei Young Kim adding plenty of depth to the field.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Nelly Korda 8/1, Ayaka Furue 20/1, Hyo Joo Kim 20/1, Alison Lee 22/1, Brooke Henderson 22/1, Celine Boutier 22/1, Lydia Ko 22/1

The format change allows us to treat this more like a regular stroke play event from a betting point of view and has removed some of the unpredictability. If hitting that top 8, they’ll need to navigate just the one match to make the semi-final spot and the place money comes with it.

The top of the betting is strong and you can make a case for any number up there, though with those tough conditions on the way I think Lydia Ko’s combination of excellence in approach and with the short game makes her stand out, and with the driver also looking in a little better control of late she goes in as the main selection this week.

Lydia Ko

Ko returned to form at the end of last year and has maintained that progress into the new season. She won the season-opening Tournament of Champions in impressive fashion on her first start of the year and after finishing 2nd on her next start in the LPGA Drive On Championship, she looked like the one to beat this year before Korda burst into life.

The New Zealander’s worst finish of the year came courtesy of a solid 34th in the HSBC Women’s World Championship; following that with a 4th-place finish in the Blue Bay LPGA in China and she was 13th in last week’s highly-competitive Ford Championship.

Ko’s assets are well established and she’s been typically excellent in those areas this season, ranking top 20 in approach, greens-in-regulation, around-the-greens and putting. In addition to that, she’s currently finding more fairways than she has in previous seasons and as a top-10 par 5 scorer, she looks well suited to this challenge.

Her win at the Fazio-designed Lake Nona in that opening event of the year gives extra reasons for optimism and with a win in Arkansas also potentially working well, I’m expecting her to be among the leading contenders this week on debut.

Brooke Henderson

Brooke Henderson looks an ideal statistical fit for Shadow Creek and as another player who has been in excellent form so far this year, I’m expecting her to enjoy a much better time of it in this new format.

Henderson hasn’t missed a cut in her last thirteen starts, stretching back to the 2023 Women’s Open. Whilst that included some good results at the end of last year, she’s looked even better in 2024, recording three top 10s in her six starts; including two 3rd-place finishes in the Tournament of Champions and HSBC Women’s World Championship.

The Canadian has been hitting the ball expectedly well, ranking 5th in GIR, 36th in approach and 15th off-the-tee, where she’s a lengthy top 30 in driving distance. She has been complimenting this with rock-solid play with the short game, ranking 27th ATG and 43rd in putting; as another top-10 par 5 scorer she’s doing everything well enough to be a feature.

Henderson performed strongly here last year, scoring two points from a possible three in the group stage to just miss out on making the knockouts. Wins at Lake Nona and in the Portland Classic enhance her profile for this challenge and I’m expecting her to be in the mix come the weekend.

Andrea Lee

Andrea Lee has overcome her length disadvantage to perform well here on her two previous visits and with her approach play starting to sing, she can do so again this week.

Lee has been super consistent since the middle of last season, making fifteen of her last sixteen cuts. That solo missed cut came last week in Arizona, however with her form excellent prior to that, including three top 10s in her first five starts this year, I’m happy to forgive it at a course at which she has plenty of positive memories.

Her lack of length means that she struggles to gain too much off-the-tee but she has been accurate with the driver, ranking 9th in driving accuracy this season. She has shone across her short game completely, ranking 24th ATG and 38th in putting, though it’s the iron play, for which she ranks 28th this season, that I draw most encouragement. Looking especially good in recent starts, ranking 3rd in approach when finishing 5th in the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship two starts ago.

Lee lost to eventual champion, Eun Hee Ji at the semi-final stage of this event on debut in 2022 and looked solid enough again last year. Her win in Portland strengthens that potential form-line and adds to her looking an attractive price to bounce back from last week’s disappointments this week.

Albane Valenzuela

Albane Valenzuela has been in good form this year, recording her best LPGA finish to date when finishing 2nd in the Honda LPGA Thailand four starts ago. As one of the strongest tee-to-green players on tour she can once again go well at Shadow Creek.

Valenzuela hasn’t missed a cut across her six starts this year and aside from that runner-up finish in Thailand, she recorded another top 20 when 15th in the Blue Bay LPGA four weeks ago.

She ranks 4th on tour T2G, owing particularly to her impressive ball-striking game, for which she ranks 3rd in approach, 11th in GIR and 25th OTT, as well as possessing a decent amount of power. Though the putter hasn’t quite fired, she is a strong 38th ATG, something that should serve her well in these tough chipping areas.

Valenzuela took just 0.5 points from the group stages on her debut in 2021 but improved on the following two visits; taking two points to just miss out on the knockout stages in 2022 but made up for that last year by advancing all the way to the quarter finals, before losing out to Linn Grant. Coming back in arguably the best form of her career, she looks to have every chance of improving her finish at the event once more.

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

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