2022 U.S. Women’s Open Odds & Picks: Can Jin Young Ko Outlast Lexi Thompson, Others at Major Championship?
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Lexi Thompson.
As the world of golf is all a flutter over this week’s Memorial Tournament and the latest news surrounding LIV Golf, the second major championship on the women’s side begins Thursday in North Carolina.
Things heat up in the small town of Southern Pines, N.C., where the ladies will tee off at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. The winner of the four-day, 72-hole event will walk away with a $1.8 million prize from the record $10 million purse. The total purse has nearly doubled from the $5.5 million awarded at the 2020 championship.
Leading the field is Jin Young Ko, who’s sitting atop the Rolex Women’s World Golf rankings. The South Korean star has won two of the five major titles contested in women’s golf, both coming three years ago at the ANA Inspiration (now called the Chevron Championship) and the Evian Championship.
The great Jin Young Ko, who hit 66 greens in a row with this swing.
For some context the most consecutive greens in regulation ever hit by some notable PGA Tour players:
Justin Thomas 31
Zalatoris 19 pic.twitter.com/fM6C5jVztM
— Brandel Chamblee (@chambleebrandel) May 26, 2022
Ko, who recorded an LPGA-record 34 rounds under par before the streak ended at the Chevron in March, finished tied for seventh at last year’s USWO at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. She tied for second — a career best at the major — at the 2020 event, which was held at Champions Golf Cub in Houston.
However, the latest major will feature the return of Nelly Korda, the No. 2-ranked player with seven career wins. Korda missed several events, including the Chevron, after being diagnosed with a blood clot in her arm early this year. This will be her first start since the Drive On Championship back in the first week of February in Fort Myers, Fla.
Look who's back 👀
(📸: @USGA / Chris Keane) pic.twitter.com/ULHhn25tMl
— LPGA (@LPGA) May 30, 2022
As for notable absences, Inbee Park headlines the list. Park, a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and winner of seven career major titles, withdrew from the field and opted to take a few weeks off to work on her game. The world’s ninth-ranked player was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame with the 2016 class, becoming the youngest (27 years old) to qualify for enshrinement.
That said, let’s take an in-depth look into the field and see where we can find betting value. Needless to say, there is a ton of it.
Jin Young Ko (+800 at BetMGM)
It’s hard to fathom the No. 1-ranked player on the planet might have something to prove to the rest of the world, but that’s probably the case for the South Korean star.
Sure, Ko has 24 career wins, including 13 on the LPGA Tour. She has amassed close to $10 million in prize money via her LPGA dominance, which has come after a stellar career on the LPGA Tour of Korea. She also has those two major titles referenced earlier.
Jin Young Ko's @uswomensopen finishes:
The @ROLEX Rankings #1 has never finished outside of the Top 20. 👀 pic.twitter.com/4QbSbFZ6zk
— LPGA (@LPGA) May 31, 2022
However, her most recent effort at the Chevron still has to be sitting with her entering this week’s event. She wound up finishing in a disappointing — almost unbelievable — tie for 53rd after an opening-round, 2-over-par 74 derailed her title hopes.
Ko has only found the winner’s circle once this season, which came in her 2022 debut at the HSBC Women’s World Championship during the first week of March in Singapore. So, we’re likely going to see some of the best all-around golf Ko has to offer at the biggest women’s event on the planet.
I recommend shopping around for Ko prior to making your bets, but I don’t think we’re going to find anything better than the +800 being offered at BetMGM and Caesars. You can find her a touch below at +750 at DraftKings and PointsBet at the time of this writing.
|STATISTICS (RANK)||Jin Young Ko||Lexi Thompson|
|Scoring Average||69.583 (4th)||69.261 (2nd)|
|Strokes Gained Total/Round||1.980 (3rd)||2.410 (1st)|
|SG — Tee to Green/Round||1.020 (16th)||1.180 (13th)|
|SG — Off the Tee/Round||0.310 (T40)||0.940 (3rd)|
|SG — Putting/Round||0.960 (T13)||1.220 (T4)|
Lexi Thompson (+1400 at DraftKings)
Flashback to 2007 when a 12-year-old amateur approached the first tee at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open right here at Pine Needles.
Now, 15 years later and currently ranked No. 6 in the world, Lexi Thompson will pursue the second major championship of her career this week back at Southern Pines. The American won the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship (now known as The Chevron Championship; formerly called the ANA Inspiration), but has come up empty since then at majors.
Thompson had a huge chance at her second U.S. Women’s Open title last year in San Francisco, but blew a five-shot lead in the final round to finish in third place, a shot out of the playoff.
Lexi Thompson made her @uswomensopen debut as a 12-year-old at Pine Needles. She returns at 27, looking to atone for last year's tough loss. https://t.co/nMmlD5euI7pic.twitter.com/f60yWiiSAj
— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) May 31, 2022
Thompson leads the tour in Greens in Regulation (76.81%) and scoring average (69.26) this season. As you saw in the graphic above, her Strokes Gained statistics are gaudy and resulted in her finishing top six or better in four of her six starts. Thompson is coming off a runner-up effort at the Cognizant Founders Cup, which tells me she’s primed for a huge showing.
I recommend jumping on Thompson (+1400) at these odds via DraftKings since I don’t think you’re going to find anything better. My projections have her closer to +1100 to win outright, so you’re getting some good value.
Also, if you’re looking for a bonus wager via the tournament matchups market at DraftKings, I’m backing Thompson (-140) over Korda (+105) in this head-to-head meeting. I think this should be closer to Thompson at -180 when you take into consideration how long Korda has been away from competitive play and the insane form Thompson has displayed of late.
Nasa Hataoka (+2200 at DraftKings)
Another contender looking to avenge some hard luck at the previous U.S. Women’s Open is Hataoka, who’s sitting at No. 7 in the latest Rolex rankings.
The Japanese 23-year-old lost on the third playoff hole of last year’s event to Yuka Saso, despite shooting a 3-under 68 in the final round. Now, Hataoka enters this competition in top form. She brought home her sixth career LPGA title in the DIO Implant Founders Cup after a T6 finish in the Founders Cup.
Lol I love how Nasa Hataoka dials in her wedges😂 pic.twitter.com/3EkxUHtWtR
— Zephyr Melton (@zephyrmelton) April 2, 2022
When it comes to statistics, specifically on the Strokes Gained side, she has put up some solid, respectable numbers. Hataoka is also 25th in GIR (72.92%) and averages 1.74 Putts per GIR, which is good for 13th overall.
Anything +2000 or better on Hataoka to win is solid. That’s right at the number my projections have her, so anything longer is definitely worth playing.
|STATISTICS (RANK)||Nasa Hataoka||Hyo Joo Kim|
|Scoring Average||70.054 (15th)||69.300 (3rd)|
|Strokes Gained Total/Round||1.390 (17th)||1.920 (4th)|
|SG — Tee to Green/Round||0.730 (30th)||1.890 (4th)|
|SG — Off the Tee/Round||0.410 (32nd)||0.310 (T40)|
|SG — Putting/Round||0.660 (30th)||0.040 (76th)|
Hyo Joo Kim (+2800 at PointsBet)
My final top-tier pick comes via Kim, a 21-time tournament winner on the LPGA and KLPGA tours. Her lone major championship came in 2015 when she won the Evian Championship in Switzerland, but she has been knocking on the door for her second at all five major events.
Kim finished in a disappointing tie for 20th place in San Francisco a year ago, but was runner-up at the 2018 edition at Shoal Creek Club in Alabama.
Her numbers are downright nasty in the Strokes Gained stats, which you can see above. Kim also triumphed at the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii less than two months ago, giving her three finishes T8 or better in six starts on the tour this year.
I absolutely love the number we’re getting on a player who’s 14th in GIR (73.61%), 18th in Putts per GIR (1.76) and fourth overall in Putting Average (28.70) this season. Kim has all the tools to be in the hunt at Pine Needles.
Our 7 Favorite Player Prop Bets
|Hye-Jin Choi (Top 10)||+275||Caesars|
|Lexi Thompson (Top 5)||+350||Caesars|
|Hannah Green (Top 10)||+225||Caesars|
|Megan Khang (Top 10)||+325||PointsBet|
|Alison Lee (Top 10)||+900||PointsBet|
|Angel Yin (Top 5 | Top 10)||+2000 | +1000||PointsBet|
Thompson speaks for herself, so there’s no need to elaborate on why she’s among the wagers.
Hye-Jin Choi has 3-T6-T21-T8 finishes in his last four starts on tour, plus she landed in fourth place in the 2017 tournament in Bedminster, N.J. The South Korean, who was T17 at the Chevron, brings an all-around game to Pine Needles and could be in the hunt come Sunday.
Hannah Green, one of the final cuts from my top four, was T8 at the Chevron. The 2019 Women’s PGA Championship winner also had a runner-up effort at the LA Open and a T5 at the Palos Verdes Championship last time out.
If Megan Khang can get through the exhausting Thursday conditions (she tees off at 1:51 ET), she’s a candidate for outright winner. She was T4 last year at Olympic Club, plus she’s coming in hot with a T3 effort at the Palos Verdes and T6 showing at the Founders Cup. Alison Lee has found her game of late, earning T8 honors at the Chevon and was T16 at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open.
As for Angel Yin, I’ve been talking about her for a few years now and feel like she’s on the cusp of a breakthrough. She wound up sixth — four shots behind Hataoka and Saso — at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, despite carding a shocking 7-over 79 in the second round.
Our 6 FRL Best Bets
|Lexi Thompson||+2500 | Caesars|
|Nasa Hataoka||+3500 | DraftKings|
|Yuka Saso||+4000 | Caesars|
|Maja Stark||+5000 | DraftKings|
|Ariya Jutanugarn||+6000 | DraftKings|
|Angel Yin||+9000 | DraftKings|
If there was ever a time you needed to track the weather forecast before placing your bets for the tournament’s First-Round leader, this is it.
To say things are going to be downright awful weather-wise for the opening 18 holes is a gross understatement. The National Weather Service in Raleigh is predicting brutal conditions Thursday in the Southern Pines area, with temperatures hitting 94 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat index is projected to crack 100 degrees.
Making matters worse is the fact that only a slight breeze is projected, with humidity and dew-point levels reaching extremely uncomfortable conditions. So, knowing that, I feel you have to target players teeing off in the early morning when the elements are more comfortable.
*Graphic courtesy of weather.gov
For those reasons, I’ve targeted six players with my FRL wagers, none of whom tee off later than 8:54 a.m. ET. Thompson, who is playing with Ko and Chevron winner Jennifer Kupcho, has an 8:39 a.m. ET start time. Saso goes off in the 8:32 a.m. ET group, before the Thompson-led trio.
Hataoka is in a threesome teeing off at 8:28 a.m. ET, while Stark is part of a group featuring 2011 Women’s Open champion and golf legend/fellow countrywoman Annika Sörenstam in that 8:54 a.m. ET time slot.
And then there’s Yin, who tees off at 8:43 a.m. ET and boasts the longest odds (+9000) of my picks. She shot a 4-under 68 in the first round of last year’s event at Olympic Club that put her behind Mel Reid and amateur Megha Ganne after 18 holes.
Our 6 Live Longshots
|Hae Ran Ryu||+5000||PointsBet|
|In Gee Chun||+6600||PointsBet|
We have a couple of Swedes not named Annika among our live longshots, highlighted by Madalene Sagström. Fresh off a T3 finish at the Founders Cup, the reigning Women’s British Open champion wound up T20 last year at Olympic Club. She’s seventh on the tour in Driving Distance (274.88 yards) and third overall for rounds under par (76.92%) this season.
As I mentioned earlier, Khang has a legitimate shot at winning her first career title at Pine Needles. Throw in the fact that if she finds herself in a two- or three-player battle on Sunday’s back nine, I’d feel pretty confident in her chances with her Solheim Cup experience on the 2019 and 2021 USA teams.
- Maja Stark (+5000): This will be the third Open for the other Swede on the list, but her first as a professional. The Oklahoma State product finished T13 and T16 in her first two appearances, which gives us confidence in this play. Stark has been absolutely tearing it up on the Ladies European Tour this season, winning twice in seven events. She has finished inside the top 7 or better five times, with no finish worse than T11 on her résumé.
- Hae Ran Ryu (+5000): The South Korean, who finished T13 at the 2020 event in Houston, could be sitting on a huge effort. She struggled her past two times out on the KLPGA Tour, but threw down a six-tournament stretch that saw her finish inside the top 3 or better in four competitions, including two wins. This tournament is well know for producing winners of Asian descent, including the past five champions and nine of the past 11.
- In Gee Chun (+6600): The two-time major winner is one good week of putting away from her fourth career tour title and 17th worldwide. Just take a look at her advanced metrics. Chun is No. 2 on the tour in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (2.100), sitting just behind world No. 4 Minjee Lee. However, the issue has been with the flat stick, where Chun ranks a dismal 139th in SG: Putting (-0.980) out of 158 players on tour. If she gets the putter going, watch out.
- Angel Yin (+12500): If you couldn’t tell from everything mentioned above, I’m all over the 23-year-old and two-time Team USA Solheim Cup member. She finished T3 at the Cognizant Founders Cup on May 15. That early Thursday tee time is going to be a huge factor, so this could be a massive opportunity for her.
Let me preface this summarization by saying I’m usually against betting the chalk. I’d rather take a swing at players just below the top tier, then sprinkle in some live longshots with the hope of catching a massive price.
However, I truly believe we’re going to see two of three players teeing off together Thursday duking it out on the back nine in Sunday’s final round. And that high-profile showdown I’m forecasting is a duel between Ko and Thompson.
Both have their own motivation, with Ko looking to rebound off that T53 finish at the first major of the season and Thompson hoping to shoo away the ghosts that have haunted her since that collapse in San Francisco a year ago.
I have multiple wagers on the pair (see above if you missed them), but I’m leaning toward Thompson at the better price. She has been in great form this season, with her first win of the campaign sitting just around the corner.
Bottom line, I think she gets it done at the same place where she made her first U.S Women’s Open appearance 15 years ago.
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