One of the best aspects of golf has to be the tradition, knowing that those who have come before you have also met the challenges of the game. For some women, who have overcome those obstacles and made history, they are now legends with records that last a lifetime.
For the LPGA founders, their journey has been recognized through a Tour event since 2011 with this year marking the 12th edition. Seventy-three years ago, 13 women believed in themselves and their love of golf, creating a women's tour that has grown to a global tour for the best female players in the world.
This year's Cognizant Founders Cup tournament at Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey will be another tribute to those women who are leaders and heroes to the current players on the LPGA Tour.
Last year’s champion Minjee Lee won the tournament with her impressive tee-to-green performance against the field. She ranked first in strokes gained tee to green average at 4.42, which was a stroke and half better than the player who ranked second in this performance statistic, Peiyun Chien.
According to the KPMG Performance Insights, Lee excelled in her accuracy from the fairway with more than four strokes gained in her approach shots. She led the field in average proximity to the hole from 100-125 yards and 150-175 yards in a combined 28 shots over these distances. Lee dialed in her 13 approaches from 100-125 yards to an average distance of 8 feet compared to the field average of 20 feet.
Once on the green, Lee had 50 birdie chances within 20 feet, which was the most of any player and six better than the next players in this stat, Peiyun Chien, Na Yeon Choi and Megan Khang. Lee averaged 27.5 putts per round, which ranked second in the field, and made 55 of 56 putts within five feet.
|Minjee Lee - Average Proximity to Hole|
|2022 Cognizant Founders Cup|
|Approaches from 100-125 yards||8 feet||20 feet|
|Approaches from 125-150 yards||20 feet||26.1 feet|
|Approaches from 150-175 yards||15 feet||32 feet|
Since 2018, five players have defended their title a combined eight times at a tournament on the LPGA Tour schedule. Jin Young Ko has accomplished this feat three times, including two wins at the Cognizant Founders Cup, followed by Nelly Korda with two successful title defenses.
Lee has an opportunity to add her name to that list this week and later this summer when the U.S. Women’s Open is played at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
|Defending Champions to Win|
|LPGA Tour Since 2018|
|Brittany Lincicome||2017-18 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic|
|Brooke Henderson||2018-19 LOTTE Championship|
|Danielle Kang||2018-19 Buick LPGA Shanghai|
|Nelly Korda||2018-19 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA|
|Jin Young Ko||2019, 2021 Cognizant Founders Cup|
|Jin Young Ko||2020-21 CME Group Tour Championship|
|Nelly Korda||2021-22 Pelican Women’s Championship|
|Jin Young Ko||2022-23 HSBC Women’s World Championship|
Confidence is built with wins
Lilia Vu is the only American player to win on the LPGA Tour this year and she has done it twice in true comeback fashion.
After recording eight top-10 finishes in 2022 and a tie for 30th at the CME Group Tour Championship, Vu began her third season on tour with her best performance to date. At the 2023 Honda LPGA Thailand, she overcame a six-stroke deficit in the final round to win for the first time and record three out of four rounds of 66 or better in a single event.
At the 2023 Chevron Championship, Vu climbed the leaderboard from four back and made two birdies on the last two holes to position herself atop the leaderboard. She won with a birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole, No. 18, against Angel Yin.
Vu has demonstrated poise and patience in her ascent to becoming the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings World No. 4. In 2019, her tournament starts resulted in only one cut made on the LPGA Tour for the year. Once re-established on the Epson Tour in 2021, her three victories solidified her skill set, which led to her second more successful appearance on the LPGA Tour.
|Year-End Rolex Rankings|
|2020||1330 in August; Unranked by the end of the year|
Course design favors player’s strengths
This will be the second year that Upper Montclair Country Club hosts the tournament. The course is set up as a par 72 with a length of 6,536 yards.
Lexi Thompson was in contention last year heading into the weekend. Through two rounds, she was 11-under par and three strokes off the lead. Thompson had a solid weekend making seven birdies and one bogey to finish two strokes behind the leader. Her performance statistics showed her to be the most consistent player across all three areas of the game: driving, approach and putting. She converted 17 of 18 putts from 5-10 feet and was the only player to record four rounds in the 60s.
Thompson has recorded the most second-place finishes since the start of 2020 with seven followed by Danielle Kang and Xiyu Lin each with four.
|Most Second-Place Finshes|
|Since Start of 2020|
“Golf is a very mental sport,” says Dr. Julie Amato, sports psychologist of Elite Mindset and part of the LPGA athlete development team. “Players in the LPGA have made it to that level in part because they are so switched on mentally.”
A mental framework focused on the process and execution of individual shots has resonated with Caroline Inglis. “On the golf course, it’s more just getting so into the process that I don’t even know what I’m shooting,” she said working with a new sports psychologist this year. “It’s really taking in the wind, the shot, the lie, the distance, whatever, and then just committing and accepting the shot before you even hit it.”
Inglis is off to a good start to the season. Her performance is similar to how she began her first full season on tour in 2018, which led to her only career top-10 finish at Wilshire Country Club.
“Establishing a post-shot routine that is the same regardless of whether the shot is good or bad is a good mechanism of moving on from the previous shot and onto the next one,” Dr. Amato explains.
Putting helps to predict winners
Korda has averaged 1.72 putts per greens in regulation this year, which is currently her best average for any year on tour since 2017. She is one of two players making birdie or better more than 37% of the time after hitting the green with the other player being Ruoning Yin. In 2023, Korda has recorded six top-six finishes in seven events played.
At her last victory, the 2022 ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, she had a putting average of 1.62 putts per GIR with a 40% birdie or better conversion rate.
|2023 Putting Performance|
|Putts Per Round||28.71||T27|
|Putts Per GIR||1.72||T7|
|Birdie or Better Conversion||37.50%||2|
|Strokes Gained Putting Average||+0.84||19|