Toto Japan Classic 2023 Tips: Four names to note on the LPGA Tour this week

 | October 31 | 

12 mins read

toto japan classic scaled

Our second golf preview of the week comes from Japan where the LPGA makes a stop at the Taiheiyo Club Minori Course.

As always our tipster Jamie Worsley is in situ with his in-depth preview and he has four players he's put up as part of his Toto Japan Classic 2023 Tips...

Toto Japan Classic 2023 Betting Tips:

  • Nasa Hataoka 14/1 – 1/4 5 places – 3 pts ew
  • Yuna Nishimura 28/1 – 1/4 5 places – 1.5 pts ew
  • Erika Hara 40/1 – 1/4 5 places – 1.25 pts ew
  • Chanettee Wannasaen 125/1 – 1/4 5 places – 0.75 pts ew

*Odds accurate as of 18:00, Tuesday 31 October, 2023

France’s Celine Boutier is having a real year to remember. Following a first win of 2023 back in March in the LPGA Drive On Championship, she enjoyed a superb two-week spell in Europe in the summer. First up was a six-shot demolition on home soil for a first major title in the Evian Championship; then backing that up with a win in the Women’s Scottish Open the week after.

Her form has remained excellent since and she recorded her fourth victory last week in Malaysia, winning a marathon nine-hole playoff – the second-longest in LPGA history – over Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, after firing a faultless 64 in the final round to make it into the playoff.

She’s a major player in the race for Player of the Year and at #3 in the world, is edging ever closer to that top spot in the world.

Onto our third-last event of the year and the LPGA concludes its Asian Swing this week, with the Toto Japan Classic at Taiheiyo Club’s Minori Course.

Tournament History

The Toto Japan Classic is a co-sanctioned event between the LPGA and JLPGA with a rich history. It was first staged in 1973 (though only officially an LPGA event from 1976) and has taken place every year since. Though the 2020 and 2021 renewals were solely sanctioned by the JLPGA due to the covid pandemic.

Every edition from 1973 to 2021 took place over 54 holes; switching to the more traditional 72-hole format last year.

The winners list is littered with former major champions. Six-time major winner, Patty Sheehan, became the first multiple winner of the event, regaining the trophy in 1988 - seven years after her initial victory.

A further eight golfers have won the event more than once, with Shanshan Feng’s back-to-back wins in 2016/2017 – at this week’s course - the most recent.

However, nobody can match the incredible achievement of Annika Sorenstam, who won the championship five years on the spin from 2001-2005 – an LPGA record.

After two years away from the LPGA, the event returned to the fold last year and saw a first LPGA win for Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh. She claimed an impressive four-stroke victory over home favourite, Kana Nagai and returns to defend this week, albeit at a different course.

The Course

The Toto Japan Classic has taken place across various courses in its history and returns to the Minori Course at Taiheiyo Club – which opened for play in 2002 - for the fourth time this week.

The first staging here took place in 2016, in an event won by Shanshan Feng with a score of -13; Feng then returned to successfully defend the title the following year in even more impressive fashion, with a score of -19. It then hosted that solely JLPGA-sanctioned edition in 2020, which saw Korea’s

Jiyai Shin match Feng’s -19 winning score. With an average winning score of -17 over those three renewals in the 54-hole days, it’s a place where birdies flow.

This typically flat, Japanese parkland course is a par 72, measuring 6598 yards. It has ten par 4s (329-424 yards), four par 5s (470-537 yards) and four par 3s (164-195 yards).

The densely tree-lined course requires a good level of strategy off-the-tee, with the largely doglegged, narrow fairways getting even tighter the further you go and the trees causing line-of-sight issues if on the wrong side. However, fairway bunkers are sparing and the zoysia rough is not too troublesome.

The bentgrass greens are large with subtle undulations and at 11 on the stimp, speed won’t be an issue. They are well bunkered but the main danger around the putting surfaces comes from water, which is in-play on eleven holes across the course, nine of which are waiting to punish errant approaches.

That water makes up the biggest dangers here but as we’ve seen in previous renewals, it hasn’t been enough to stop the low scoring. The par 4s are especially gettable, with seven of them coming at under 400 yards, including the drivable 7th; a good little risk/reward hole, with water protecting the front of the green.

The Stats

Key Stats:

  • § SG: Approach
  • § SG: Off-the-tee or Driving Accuracy
  • § SG: Putting (Bentgrass)
  • § Birdie or Better %

Precision ball-striking will be key this week, with quality approach play into these sizable greens of the greatest importance. This necessity is backed up by two-time winner here, Shanshan Feng, who was a quality ball-striker throughout much of her career and had become more accuracy than power off-the-tee when winning her two Toto Japan Classic titles in 2016 and 2017.

Players who can get hot with the putter are also favoured, particularly those who have displayed a liking for bentgrass. Whilst due to the low scoring nature of the competition, we should also look to those most prolific birdie makers on the LPGA.

Correlating Events

This is a tricky event to correlate but there are a couple of courses that share similar characteristics, that set them up for low scoring: the Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club and the host of the Founders Cup since 2022, Upper Montclair Country Club.

Fairways are more generous in Arkansas but as a watery, tree-lined course with zoysia fairways and large bentgrass greens, the parallels outweigh that difference.

Upper Montclair is also tree-lined and compares closely in terms of the tightness of the fairways. The poa/bentgrass greens are large and it has water in-play on close to half of the holes.

The Weather

The players should be faced with ideal golfing conditions this week. It is forecast to be warm and clear throughout the entire week and whilst the winds kicks up a touch over the weekend, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

The Field

This week’s field has a mix of LPGA and JLPGA stars in action, with the 78-woman field made up of 43 LPGA players and 35 from the JLPGA. Though we are lacking a little of the star power of recent weeks.

World #7, Hyo Joo Kim is the top ranked player in attendance and the only member of the world’s top 10. She is joined by a further four of the top 20: #12 Xiyu Lin, #15 Jiyai Shin, #17 Nasa Hataoka and #20 Miyuu Yamashita.

Yamashita has been the star of the JLPGA in the last two years, topping the rankings there last year with five wins and is once again sat at the top this year, thanks to another four victories. She is joined by each member of the JLPGA top 23.

This includes #2 on the rankings there, Akie Iwai, who has three wins on tour this year and eighteen-time JLPGA winner, Ai Suzuki, who won this event back in 2019.

Selections

Hyo Joo Kim’s persistent excellence in 2023 sees her in here as a 13/2 favourite this week. She is followed by recent LET winner, Xiyu Lin at 12s and the Japanese duo of Yuka Saso and Nasa Hataoka at 14/1; it is with Hataoka that I start this week.

Nasa Hataoka - 14/1 (1/4 5 Places)

Those who have followed this year will know I’ve been big on Hataoka in 2023 and for all she hasn’t quite delivered the win, she’s far from disappointed. Her form was particularly strong in July, as she recorded back-to-back major top 5s when finishing 4th in the US Women’s Open and 3rd in the Evian Championship; overall, with six top 10s and just one missed cut in twenty-three events, she’s been ultra consistent.

Having said that, she had suffered a bit of a dip in form over recent starts, missing her first cut of the year six starts ago in the Portland Classic; then recording an underwhelming 38th-place finish when back home on the JLPGA and two consecutive 41st-place finishes in the first two events of the Asian Swing in China and South Korea.

Signs were encouraging last week in Malaysia however, as Hataoka finished 11th – her best finish since finishing in the same position in the Women’s Open in August – and with strong form here and in comp events, as well as a positive statistical profile for this test, she should be a big player this week.

The Japanese star possesses all-round quality and is gaining strokes in all areas this year, but it’s with her irons that she excels most, ranking 15th in approach. She’s a solid, relatively accurate driver and ranks 20th in birdie or better %, whilst it was also a positive to see her find something with the putter last week, as she ranked 11th on the greens.

Hataoka finished 33rd here on debut in 2017 and went better in the JLPGA-sanctioned event in 2020, finishing 3rd. As a two-time winner in Arkansas and possessing top 10s in each of the editions of the Founders Cup at Upper Montclair, her comp form is as strong as anyone and further strengthens her already strong case for a winning home performance.

Yuna Nishimura - 28/1 (1/4 5 Places)

Yuna Nishimura has been trending strongly in recent weeks, as she looks to finish her rookie season on the LPGA in style. Her precise ball-striking game looks a good fit for this test and with a 9th-place finish on her one-and-only try at the course in 2020 backing up this belief, she was a must for me this week.

Nishimura had been having a consistent year but has really stepped up her quality of results over her latest starts. After finishing 3rd in the Ladies Tokai Classic on a return home five starts ago, she carried that form back over to the LPGA, recording consecutive finishes of 3rd in the Arkansas Championship, 13th in The Ascendant LPGA and 8th in the Buick LPGA Shanghai; before finishing 38th in Malaysia last week.

That finish in Arkansas was the result of her best approach display of the year, as she led the field. This quality has been maintained over recent starts, as she’s ranked 10th, 8th and 20th in this area over her last three starts and is 28th for the season overall. As the 18th straightest driver on tour and ranking top 40 on the greens – where she has shown a good ability on bentgrass – her stats stacked up encouragingly for the Minori Course.

As mentioned, Nishimura was 9th here on debut in 2020, shooting no round worse than 3-under-par. Her 3rd in Arkansas this year is another big positive and I’m hoping that she can rely on her impressive winning habit in Japan over recent years – with five wins in 2021/2022 - to help her to a first LPGA-sanctioned title this week.

Erika Hara - 40/1 (1/4 5 Places)

Erika Hara has been in good form in Japan over recent weeks and with some encouraging stats for this challenge, I’m expecting her to be one of the leading contenders from the JLPGA.

Hara turned pro in 2019 and has won regularly on the JLPGA in the following years, racking up five wins. Her 2023 had been solid if unspectacular but she has burst into life over her last three starts. She won her second Japan Women’s Open Championship title with an impressive three-shot win three starts ago; following that with a 28th-place finish and after a three-week absence she returned to finish 6th last week.

I’m confident she can continue that recent run of form this week as her stats are ideal for this challenge. She ranks as the best ball-striker on the JLPGA this year, leading both the total driving – where she’s long and accurate – and the greens-in-regulation stats. It’s no surprise that with the high standard of her long game, she ranks 7th in birdie average too.

Hara was 18th at the Minori Course in 2020, opening and closing the event with rounds of 68. Her wins in the prestigious Japan Women’s Open show she’s a player for the big stage and I felt she was the pick of the home-tour contingent.

Chanettee Wannasaen - 125/1 (1/4 5 Places)

The form figures of young Thai star, Chanettee Wannasaen don’t look too impressive following her excellent breakthrough win in the Portland Classic in September. However, her quality approach play has remained and coming here off the back of a 13th in Malaysia last week – her best finish since that breakthrough win – I fancy Wannasaen to enjoy the birdie-laden test that Minori Golf Course typically throws up.

Though she’d looked good when finishing 2nd on the Epson Tour on her prior start and had shone on the LET in previous years, the quality of her win in Oregon still came as a huge surprise from the 19-year-old. Wannasaen shot -26 for a four-stroke success over Xiyu Lin there, firing thirty birdies-or-better and shot an incredible 16-under-par over the weekend. It was a particularly lethal approach display that engineered much of that score, as she gained over fifteen strokes with her irons.

This quality of approach has been replicated several times since her victory. She ranked 6th in approach when finishing 48th in Arkansas five starts ago and was 7th when 50th in the Buick LPGA Shanghai three starts ago. Following a subpar effort at the BMW Ladies Championship in Korea, she bounced back with that 13th-place finish in last week’s Maybank Championship, ranking 8th in approach.

That high-level approach play will serve Wannasaen well this week and with evidence that she enjoys these low scoring events taken from her Portland Classic win, she looks a nice price to go well in Japan.

You can check out all Jamie's previews for the PGA, LPGA and DP World Tour on our Golf Betting Tips hub page...

Share Article

(Visited 690 times, 1 visits today)