Charley Hull and Justin Rose
Another pairing of compatriots who know each other well and in terms of team golf experience, these two are probably at the head of the field owing to their respective Solheim and Ryder Cup exploits. Both have enjoyed strong years, Hull coming agonisingly close to adding to her collection and contending in a couple of majors, and Rose returning to winning ways en route to Rome. Hull’s short-game is a big plus in the format as is the fact she’s a course winner who has played some mixed events in the past. All eyes then on Rose, who putted horrendously on the DP World Tour but found something in the Bahamas last week. More of the same makes them a threat.
Rose Zhang and Sahith Theegala
The youngest team in the field and two players who really could be superstars. Zhang already is, owing to a stellar amateur career and then victory in her first professional start, the first player to do that on the LPGA Tour since the 1950s. The fact that she’s been a bit underwhelming since then tells you how high the bar is set for this future major champion. As for Theegala, his popularity soared as a rookie and his style of play is as endearing as his personality. He won this event with Tom Hoge last year and can be a dynamite putter, so with Zhang having played well on her first start at Tiburon last month, they’re certainly to be respected.
Lexi Thompson and Rickie Fowler
It had been a generally rotten year for Thompson until she was selected for the Solheim Cup, where she played some good stuff at times. She’s been better either side of that event, considerably so, and threatened to make the cut in the Shriners when shooting 69 in round two of that PGA Tour event. A course winner, she loves Tiburon and the format should mean far fewer chip shots. Fowler however wasn’t good at the Ryder Cup, albeit with illness put forward as an excuse, and he was down the field last week. Maybe that’ll sharpen him up, but it’ll have to.
Brooke Henderson and Corey Conners
Canadian duo who may benefit from the fact that Henderson is rock-solid through the bag. Vastly experienced at Tiburon, where she has three top-10s in her last five visits, she’s one of the more reliable LPGA players in the field. The same could be said of Conners, who returned to action with a customarily strong ball-striking performance in the RSM Classic. The worry would be that his short-game holds them back and with Conners having made little impact in this event previously, not to mention struggled in pairs golf at the Presidents Cup, they might be up against it.
Celine Boutier and Harris English
It’s been a career year for Boutier, winner of the Evian Championship along with three more titles, although you could probably argue the tank has emptied over her last three starts. That may sound harsh, 16th and seventh in the latest two certainly no disgrace, but she’s just been a step below where she was when winning her fourth title in October. On the other hand her short-game will be a big weapon in this event and so might her partner, English, a three-time champion who is among the best putters in the field. The languid southerner can hopefully put Boutier, by no means one of the louder characters on the circuit, at ease.
Ruoning Yin and Nick Taylor
Yin has been one of the stars of the season on the LPGA circuit, rising to the top of the world rankings after two wins culminating in the PGA Championship. After a brief blip she’s been back in form lately, finishing sixth at Tiburon last time, and her long-game is unmatched on the women’s side. That could pair nicely with Taylor, a neat, tidy player who can putt the lights out on his day. It’s his debut in the event and Yin has no comparable experience, but they do share a short-game coach, and Yin’s caddie used to work for Taylor, so there should be no issues gelling. Possibly underestimated just a little with Taylor arriving in good nick.
Lydia Ko and Jason Day
New Zealand and Australia join forces in the only team here made up of two major champions and past world number ones. At their best this pair would be heading the betting, but Ko has had a quiet season following an exceptional 2022 which ended with her second win at this course. There have been better signs lately but with Day’s form also questionable, they do have a bit to prove. The latter showed up for a while in the Bahamas but his long-game was abysmal on Sunday and leaves backers hoping that his previous win in this event is a sign of better to come.
Leona Maguire and Lucas Glover
Maguire’s weakness is her driver, or it can be, and in Glover she’s found a rock-solid partner in that regard. Similarly, the American is still questionable with putter in hand, despite a golden run in August, so he’ll lean on Maguire plenty. Perhaps they’ll make a good twosome and Maguire was second at the course in 2022, but Glover was unspectacular last week and debuts here. I don’t see a great deal of upside bar Maguire’s team experience.
Megan Khang and Denny McCarthy
Speaking of teams who might complement each other, here we have one of the best ball-strikers on the LPGA circuit coupled with arguably the best putter of his generation on the PGA Tour. That’s quite a compelling start and there’s more to like through Kang’s top-five at the course, and McCarthy’s excellent share of fifth alongside Korda last year, when he didn’t feel he holed much. Funnily enough it was his putter that let him down at the RSM Classic but that could serve as an ideal primer for this event and his sole pro win to date came in Florida.
Lilia Vu and Joel Dahmen
Vu won the Women’s British Open in August and made it four wins for the year at The ANNIKA back in November, before adding fourth place here at Tiburon. That makes her not only the world number one but the form pick coming in, and certainly one of the most dangerous putters in the event. That leads us to the problem: Dahmen might be the worst putter here, and historically this format demands plenty from players on the greens. His form has at least improved, with 13th and seventh on his last two US starts, and if you want one of the best players in attendance on-side at a big price, then they’re the team for you.
Cheyenne Knight and Tom Hoge
Knight is an accurate driver who has enjoyed a successful enough year, but she’s outside the world’s top 50 and therefore one of the weaker women’s players on paper since more than half of them are ranked 20th or better. She did at least go unbeaten in the Solheim Cup and playing in the southeast is probably to her benefit. Hoge won this last year with Theegala and was third in The PLAYERS when last teeing it up in Florida, but there are form concerns for both of them.
Mel Reid and Russell Henley
The nappy factor is at play here with Reid recently having become a parent, but she’s played five competitive rounds since mid-September’s back-to-form fifth place in Ohio. That hint at better to come isn’t especially compelling and one start at Tiburon saw her struggle badly. Henley is the best male player in the field according to DataGolf and closed with a round of 62 at the RSM Classic. He’d look a likely champion here granted a better pairing but Reid does have plenty to prove despite some good team experience.
Allisen Corpuz and Cameron Champ
Corpuz is a really good iron player at her best and won the US Women’s Open back in July. She’s generally struggled a bit more recently and hasn’t done much at Tiburon in two starts, but her strength is Champ’s weakness and she could do some damage after his drives on Friday and Saturday. Champ has found a little something lately, too, and he seems to be putting well, so with a good spin in this event to his name they’re among the more interesting outsiders.
Andrea Lee and Billy Horschel
Lee was meant to be the next big thing in US women’s golf when turning professional but so far has just the one win, more than a year ago, to show for her efforts. Solid enough and a quality iron player who seldom misses a fairway, she should prove a reliable partner for Horschel, but her Tiburon form suggests it’s not an ideal course. Horschel has six top-fours in the QBE Shootout to his name, plus a Zurich Classic pairs win, and his form prior to the RSM Classic was encouraging. He can be relied upon to give this everything and I wouldn’t totally rule them out.
My shortlist for this event consisted of four teams and I can’t escape the favourites first of all.
NELLY KORDA and TONY FINAU are two world-class players, they both arrive in-form and, crucially, they’ve both played with members of the opposite sex in this event before.
That could be an advantage and Korda’s debut effort was eye-catching, while Finau and his former partner Lexi Thompson performed respectably, too.
My only negative is Finau’s putter but 13/2 about a 5/1 shot has to be taken regardless. The Aberg factor is fully understood but I have Korda and Finau down as a far stronger pairing than the Swedes.
MEGAN KHANG and DENNY MCCARTHY are the preferred each-way bet, narrowly shading Ruoning Yin and Nick Taylor, whose personal connections are part of an interesting case.
McCarthy is the best putter on the men’s side and Khang hits the ball really well, so they should make a nice tandem. McCarthy played with Korda last year, finishing T5 against 10 all-male teams, comfortably ahead of the other LPGA player involved, and he’s deadly on bermuda greens when at his best.
He’s sharp following his return to action in the RSM and Khang has been in decent form, so they made loads of appeal, with Corpuz and Champ the only other pairing who looked potentially overpriced and in some way enticing.
Posted at 1325 GMT on 05/12/23
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