What to look for at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions |: LPGA

The LPGA gets their 2023 campaign started in stylish fashion at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. Twenty-nine winners from the past two seasons highlight the field at this unique season-opening tournament. Hosted by the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club last year, the event returns to the same venue with equal star power. Whether you want to see the world’s number-two ranked player Nelly Korda or Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, both are here to compete and win.

Speaking of winning, how can one successfully tame this beautiful Tom Fazio design? Lake Nona opened in 1987 to critical acclaim. It was Fazio’s first independent work. The course hosted the Solheim Cup in 1990 and continues to push the edge of the women’s game today with the Tournament of Champions. Measuring 6,608 yards, the Par 72 layout challenges you with 57 bunkers and 12 bending doglegs from the tee.

The course presents a northern feel with tree lined fairways and precisely placed bunkers. The par 3s are challenging while the par 5s will give the ladies and pro-am participants an opportunity to score. Eleven holes have water in play including the final six. That’s quite a nervous and narrow finishing stretch for these competitors. What will it take to hold the trophy just like Danielle Kang did last year? Just take a moment and consider this analysis.

  • Lake Nona presents a varied set of par 4s. Any contender will need to navigate these 10 holes carefully to differentiate themselves. The top par-4 players from 2022 in this field are: Brooke Henderson, Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Charley Hull, and Ayaka Furue.
  • The tee shots on those par 4s are critical as seven of the 10 holes have fairways that bend. Of those seven, six move left to right, which favors a right-handed fader from the tee box. The best strokes-gained-off-the-tee players in this field from last season are: Nelly Korda, Yuka Saso, Brooke Henderson, Ally Ewing, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, and Jennifer Kupcho.
  • You cannot just attack Lake Nona off the tee. Successful contenders will take advantage with their irons as well. Over 55% of the approach shots fall in the 125-175-yard range. The best 2022 approach champions in this field are: Andrea Lee, Celine Boutier, Danielle Kang, Ally Ewing, and Brooke Henderson.
  • Fazio gave the greens at Lake Nona so many subtle movements. Mastering these putting surfaces takes a careful touch. Walking the course one can easily see they are in perfect condition. Taking advantage of your opportunities when they come is one thing Danielle did on her way to victory last year. In this field, here are the best ladies with a flatstick from the ’22 campaign. Ayaka Furue, Paula Reto, Celine Boutier, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Charley Hull, and of course the defending champion Danielle Kang.

It’s easy to look at the entire field and quickly assume the top-ranked player will win. Nelly may do that, but the reality is watching this week unfold will probably tell a different story. Keep an eye on the ladies listed above and your favorite player(s).

The weather is perfect for scoring in Orlando. Temperatures will reach near 80 degrees each day with wind in the low teens. The forecast is dry, and the course is immaculate. We’ve waited 60 days for the LPGA to return. Walking the practice range, I can feel the excitement. It’s difficult to say who will win the tournament of champions. One thing’s for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the names mentioned more than once up above.

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