Women’s World Championship 2024 Tips: Lilia has Vu on win in Singapore

 | February 28 | 

14 mins read

jamie LPGA

The LPGA Tour returns with the HSBC Women's World Championship and as ever, we have our LPGA specialist Jamie Worsley on board with a preview and four more each way predictions. 

Women's World Championship Tips

  • 3 pts Lilia Vu each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 14/1 
  • 1.75 pts Yuka Saso each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 30/1
  • 1 pt Ariya Jutanugarn each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 70/1 
  • 1 pt Albane Valenzuela each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 100/1

After looking at a loss at times during the last two years, Patty Tavatanakit has announced her return to form in a big way at the start of 2024.

Following completion of a demolition job on the field in the Saudi Ladies International two weeks ago, winning by a huge seven strokes, Tavatanakit produced a composed final-round display to claim an emotional victory in her native Thailand in last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand for back-to-back victories.

That driving game that served her so well early in her pro career - including looking imperious with the club when she won the 2021 Chevron Championship - has been key to those wins and sets the talented Thai star up to be a major player in 2024.

The tour’s journey around East Asia continues to Singapore this week, with the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong Course.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The HSBC Women’s World Championship was established in 2008 and played at Tanah Merah Country Club until 2012. The event moved to Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong Course in 2013, before beginning its association with the newly-renovated Tanjong Course in 2017, where it has remained ever since.

This limited-field event has often attracted an elite group of players and as such has produced a top-class list of winners. Which includes Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa as the winner of the inaugural 2008 edition; seven-time major champion, Karrie Webb took home the title in 2011; and it was the scene of what turned out to be the last professional victory for Michelle Wie in 2018.

Inbee Park – herself with seven major wins to her name – was the first multiple winner of the event; initially winning in 2015 and regaining the trophy in the first renewal here at the Tanjong Course in 2017.

That first win for Inbee has set about a period of dominance for Korean golfers in this event, with seven of the last eight renewals heading in their direction.

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Jin Young Ko (-17); runner-up: Nelly Korda (-15)
  • 2022 – Winner: Jin Young Ko (-17); runners-up: Ingee Chun, Minjee Lee (-15)
  • 2021 – Winner: Hyo Joo Kim (-17); runner-up: Hannah Green (-16)
  • 2019 – Winner: Sung Hyun Park (-15); runner-up: Minjee Lee (-13)
  • 2018 – Winner: Michelle Wie (-17); runners-up: Brooke Henderson, Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Jenny Shin (-16)

*2020 edition cancelled due to covid

Jin Young Ko is our defending champion having become the first player to successfully defend the trophy in 2023; matching Inbee Park’s tally of two titles. She looks to become the first player to get to three wins this week.

THE COURSE

The Tanjong Course at Sentosa Golf Club – which hosted the 2018 Women’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship - was first laid by Frank Pennink in 1974. Though after being tweaked with several times in the intervening years it was completely redesigned by Andrew Johnston – who also happens to be the course superintendent – in 2016.

There has been another change to the course prior to this week’s event, with a strategically-placed bunker added to the left of the landing area on the par 4 18th.

The tour moved the event to the new course in 2017 and it has provided a firm but fair test, averaging a winning score of -17 over the six renewals when the event has been staged here.

This lengthy, modestly tree-lined course is a par 72 and measures 6775 yards. There are 10x par 4s (348-424 yards), 4x par 5s (501-559 yards) and 4x par 3s (174-199 yards).

It features largely generous, undulating and gently doglegging fairways that often tighten the further down you go, and whilst the use of bunkers is conservative, it is highly strategic, regularly pinching the landing areas.

Elevation changes are commonplace, especially into the large, sloping and fast bermudagrass greens. There are several examples of redan greens, with false fronts and large bunkers that hug the putting surfaces offering protection. With some potentially tough pin placements, it’s a place that requires precise approach play or else you better have a sharp short game.

Water is a constant threat, in-play on twelve holes overall and protecting each of the par 3s. It also features heavily down the closing stretch, in-play in five of the final six holes.

Whilst the length of the course may appear daunting, it will play shorter than that throughout the week, with tees moved up on the 545-yard par 5 5th to 506 yards and the 517-yard par 5 13th to 469 yards; additionally the 366-yard par 4 14th will be drivable over the course of the week, at just north of 300 yards. This gives the setup a fine balance between birdie holes and “par is a good score” holes.

THE WEATHER

There could be an issue with the weather this week, as the warm and dry conditions prior to the start of the event are forecast to turn into thunderstorms and rain on the tournament days; accompanied by gusting winds of over 20mph during every round.

Hopefully the worst of these predicted conditions don’t arrive and we get a stoppage-free tournament in Singapore.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation

With large sloping greens on which pins can be tucked into unenviable positions, and edges that will repel the ball off the putting surfaces, a high level of precision is required in approach at the Tanjong Course.

Jin Young Ko displayed this in last year’s renewal, leading the field in approach and ranking 2nd in greens-in-regulation on her way to a two-shot victory. This was following her ranking 2nd in GIR and 20th in approach in 2022; a year that saw runners-up, Minjee Lee and Ingee Chun rank 1st and 7th in approach respectively.

Tournament-specific stats aren’t available prior to 2022, although other former winners: Hyo Joo Kim (2021), Michelle Wie (2018) and Inbee Park (2017) are/were all strong with their irons.

  • SG: Off-the-Tee

This is an all-round challenging ball-striking test and I’d want to have good drivers on side; whether that be longer, more explosive players OTT or those who rely on accuracy, it’s an event that has had a real mixture of contenders.

Most of last year’s top 5 were solid OTT but Nelly Korda in 2nd was the strongest of them, ranking 2nd with the driver. Jin Young Ko was 9th OTT when winning in 2022, with Atthaya Thitikul in 4th ranking 2nd.

Michelle Wie in 2018 and Sung Hyun Park in 2019 represent winners with that more power-based driving game.

  • SG: Putting (Bermudagrass)

There’s been no shortage of eye-catching putting performances from the leading players here over the years, no surprise considering the demands that these speedy, sloping surfaces put on the field.

Ayaka Furue putted her way to a 3rd-place finish last year, ranking 1st on the greens, whilst Nelly Korda in 2nd ranked 9th.

Jin Young Ko was 6th in this area in her 2022 victory; Sung Hyun Park is also a player who is decent on the greens and 2017 winner, Inbee Park has been one of the best putters on any tour in the last decade or so.

  • Par 5 Scoring

Finally, scoring well on these par 5s should prove to be one last key to success. Jin Young Ko has indeed taken it to these holes in the last two years, ranking 1st in par 5 scoring last year and 4th in her 2022 victory.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

Honda LPGA Thailand (Siam Country Club – Pattaya Old Course)

I’m going to begin with last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand host, Siam Country Club’s Old Course. Not only climate and location that are similar to this week but with large bermudagrass greens and generous fairways that are protected by strategic bunkering hugging the playing lines, there are several reasons as to why form-ties between these two events stand firm.

Notable correlating form:

Inbee Park:

HSBC WWC (1st, 1st) / Honda LPGA (1st)

Ariya Jutanugarn:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Honda LPGA (1st, 2nd)

Hyo Joo Kim:

HSBC WWC (1st) / Honda LPGA (5th, 6th)

Jin Young Ko:

HSBC WWC (1st, 1st) / Honda LPGA (6th, 7th)

Ingee Chun:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Honda LPGA (2nd, 4th)

Jenny Shin:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Honda LPGA (4th)

Minjee Lee:

HSBC WWC (2nd, 2nd) / Honda LPGA (2nd, 4th)

Xiyu Lin:

HSBC WWC (3rd) / Honda LPGA (2nd)

Patty Tavatanakit:

HSBC WWC (3rd) / Honda LPGA (1st, 3rd)

Chevron Championship (Mission Hills Country Club – Dinah Shore Course)

As a long course where ball-striking is key and possessing large, speedy bermudagrass greens, the host of the Chevron Championship up to and including 2022, Mission Hills CC’s Dinah Shore Course, should serve as a good guide to this week.

Notable correlating form:

 

Jin Young Ko:

HSBC WWC (1st, 1st) / Chevron (1st)

Hyo Joo Kim:

HSBC WWC (1st) / Chevron (6th, 8th)

Sung Hyun Kim:

HSBC WWC (1st) / Chevron (6th, 9th)

Nelly Korda:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Chevron (2nd, 3rd)

Ingee Chun:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Chevron (2nd)

Brooke Henderson:

HSBC WWC (2nd, 4th) / Chevron (2nd)

Minjee Lee:

HSBC WWC (2nd, 2nd) / Chevron (3rd)

Ariya Jutanugarn:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Chevron (4th, 4th)

Jeongeun Lee6:

HSBC WWC (4th) / Chevron (6th)

Azahara Munoz:

HSBC WWC (3rd) / Chevron (7th)

Founders Cup 2011-2019 (Wildfire Golf Club)

Wildfire Golf Club was the host of the Founders Cup from 2011-2019. This desert setting, with its large bermudagrass greens and generous fairways developed some strong correlating form with the Tanjong Course during this time.

Notable correlating form:

 

Jin Young Ko:

HSBC WWC (1st, 1st) / Founders (1st)

Hyo Joo Kim:

HSBC WWC (1st) / Founders (1st)

Inbee Park:

HSBC WWC (1st) / Founders (1st)

Nelly Korda:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Founders (2nd)

Ingee Chun:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Founders (2nd, 5th)

Ariya Jutanugarn:

HSBC WWC (2nd) / Founders (2nd, 2nd)

Azahara Munoz:

HSBC WWC (3rd) / Founders (2nd)

 

THE FIELD

We have an excellent field teeing it up in Singapore this week, with four of the world’s top 5; eight of the top 10 and sixteen of the top 25. They are all headed by world #1, Lilia Vu.

Jin Young Ko returns to Sentosa Golf Club in search of the threepeat and is one of three former winners in the field, along with 2021 champion, Hyo Joo Kim and 2008 winner, Jiyai Shin.

Patty Tavatanakit is back in action looking for a treble of her own, whilst Minjee Lee and Alison Lee both make their first start of the year. Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and Celine Boutier are among the other players competing in this elite 66-woman field.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Lydia Ko 11/1, Brooke Henderson 12/1, Hyo Joo Kim 12/1, Minjee Lee 12/1, Jin Young Ko 14/1, Lilia Vu 14/1, Xiyu Lin 14/1

I found it a little tricky to separate those at the top of the market this week and there was actually a temptation to back Patty Tavatanakit at just outside these market leaders at 18s. Though she is probably due a slight lull after the last couple of weeks and I preferred someone flying in a little more under the radar.

Brooke Henderson continued her promising start to the year in Thailand, but the same is true about world #1 Lilia Vu and priced as the fifth-favourite this week, I felt she was the pick of those at the top.

3 pts Lilia Vu each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 14/1 

What else is there left to say about Vu’s incredible performances in 2023? After entering that year without an LPGA win to her name, she finished it with four; including two majors won in rather different fashion, as she bettered Angel Yin in a playoff in the Chevron Championship and then in contrast, destroyed the field in the Women’s Open by six strokes. All resulting in her finishing the year as the best player in the world.

These performances shouldn’t have come as a total to surprise to those paying attention. Vu was, after all, a former #1 amateur prior to turning pro in 2019 and then won three times on the Epson Tour in 2021, earning her that upgrade to the LPGA in 2022.

Her start to 2024 has been solid, finishing 18th in the season-opening Tournament of Champions and following a 55th-place finish on her next start in the Drive On Championship with a finish of 7th in last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand.

I feel we can upgrade last week’s performance a touch. Vu hit the ball poorly in round one there to record a 1-over 73 but bounced back well over the next three rounds, firing scores of 67, 67 and 65 to climb inside the top 10. She did everything well, which was reminiscent of the quality of golf that took her to those wins last year, as this strong ball-striker ranked 29th tee-to-green and 10th in putting.

Vu hit the ball well and putted these greens well to finish 14th on debut last year and it’s noticeable that three of her four wins last year came on bermudagrass, including a win in the Honda LPGA Thailand that should act as an excellent comp for this week.

1.75 pts Yuka Saso each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 30/1

Yuka Saso has had positive experiences of the Tanjong Course going back to her amateur days and after a good start to this season, she looks a likely contender this week.

There was a lot to like about Saso’s performances in 2023, as she recorded eight top 10s in twenty-four appearances, which included going close to a second major win when finishing runner-up in the Women’s PGA Championship.

She’s started this year much in the same form over the last two weeks, finishing 7th in the Saudi Ladies International before a 16th-place finish in Thailand last week, firing every round in the 60s.

Saso drove and putted well in Thailand; the areas in which she excelled most in last year, ranking 7th off-the-tee and 30th in putting. Though I was encouraged by her promising final-round approach performance too and am hopeful she can carry it over into this week.

Her history here stretches back to that 2018 Women’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, where she finished 2nd to Atthaya Thitikul. She couldn’t replicate that when finishing 43rd on her first pro start at the venue in 2022 but improved considerably last year, finishing 6th and shooting a closing 66 – the best round of the day – she clearly has the ability to perform on this layout.

1 pt Ariya Jutanugarn each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 70/1 

Ariya Jutanugarn has an attractive series of results in this event and after recovering well from a slow start in Thailand to finish 13th, she looks in good enough shape to bely her lofty price in Singapore.

Ariya’s start last week was representative of her start to the year as a whole, as she missed her first two cuts of 2024 in the Drive On Championship and Saudi Ladies International. Something finally clicked in round two at Siam Country Club, as she shot a 7-under 65 and followed with two further rounds in the 60s to record that 13th-place finish.

Her putting and approach play were key there and it is these areas that have helped forge many of the better performances on her C.V in recent years, as she ranked 14th in putting and 26th in approach on tour last year.

It’s these qualities that enabled Jutanugarn to finish a close runner-up to Inbee Park on debut here in 2017. She hasn’t finished outside the top 25 in five further visits, including recording another top 10 when 8th in 2019 and with the promise she showed from round two onwards last week I felt this class act looked a big price.

1 pt Albane Valenzuela each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 100/1

A best-of-the-week final-round 63 took Albane Valenzuela to a runner-up finish in Thailand and signalled that this former amateur star could be set to realise her potential in the pro game. She looks a big price to follow up on that effort this week.

Valenzuela enjoyed a successful time of it in 2023, recording a first major top 5 when finishing 4th in the Chevron Championship, which played a huge part in her hitting the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time.

She started this year solidly, finishing 42nd in the Drive On Championship and 29th in Saudi, before that excellent 2nd-place finish last week.

Valenzuela hit the ball as well as anyone there, ranking 5th in approach and 5th OTT. Indeed the irons have been the most consistent area of quality for her over the previous two years but I was especially encouraged by the driver, which was her biggest asset in 2022 as she ranked 17th and packed plenty of power. Appearing to lose confidence with the club in 2023, I’m hoping her early-season driving is a sign that she’s now regained trust in the club.

The runner-up finish last week should serve as an indicator of her ability to perform here on debut and as a former #2 amateur - during which time she twice finished as runner-up in the US Women’s Amateur – she certainly has the pedigree to win at this level.

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

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