With a five-stroke win in the Kia Classic in March, Inbee Park tied Marilynn Smith for 25th on the LPGA’s career wins list. This weekend at the Bank of Hope Match-Play, the 21-time winner will aim to pass Smith and pull within three wins of South Korea’s all-time winner Se Ri Pak, though she’ll need to emerge from a loaded field at Shadow Creek.
Park is headlining a 64-player field at the inaugural match-play tournament, sponsored in part by BetMGM, starting on Wednesday, May 26. It’s the LPGA’s first match-play event in more than four years and the first-ever LPGA event hosted at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas. And it’s the second LPGA event since BetMGM was announced as the Official Betting Operator and Partner of the LPGA Tour.
“The PGA Tour, when they were here for the CJ Cup, everybody talked about how incredible this golf course was, the condition of this golf course, the way it’s designed,” Danielle Kang told the Las Vegas Journal-Review. “They just drooled over this entire place.”
Kang, a Las Vegas resident and ambassador of MGM Resorts, is three weeks removed from a 13th-place finish at the Honda LPGA Thailand, and, entering last weekend, was sixth in the Rolex Rankings. Four of the five golfers ahead of her will join her at Shadow Creek for the first LPGA event in Nevada since the Takefuji Classic in 2006: Jin Young Ko (1), Park (2), Sei Young Kim (3), and Brooke Henderson (5).
“You have to play it a lot. This golf course is very tricky,” Kang added. “One day you could shoot 8-under, the next day 8-over. It’s very moody.”
The world-renowned course, owned by MGM Resorts and host of The Match: Tiger vs. Phil in 2018, showcased that moodiness at the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup in October. Of the 157 rounds completed by golfers Friday through Sunday, 107 (68 percent) featured scores at least four shots higher or lower than the golfer’s previous round. Twenty-four rounds had scores at least eight shots higher or lower than the previous round, and five rounds had scores at least 10 shots higher or lower.
Runner-up Xander Schauffele owned one of those rounds with a 10-shot difference (and one round with an eight-shot difference). The 27-year-old five-time PGA winner shot 66-64-74-66 en route to an 18-under 270 to finish two shots behind winner Jason Kokrak.
“If you don’t have control of your ball, as firm as the greens are, you can make a lot of bogeys, too,” Justin Thomas said of Shadow Creek during his volatile tournament that included a second-round 66 and final-round 74. Earlier in the week, Thomas said it “might be the most manicured course” he’s ever played.
Named the 27th-best course in the United States by Golf Digest, Shadow Creek will challenge Ko, Park, Kim, Henderson, Kang, and other elite golfers over the five-day tournament that begins on Wednesday with three days of round-robin matches. Single-elimination rounds are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
As of Monday, those five golfers sit atop LPGA betting odds for the Bank of Hope Match-Play. Led by Ko at +700, the quintet is separated by only 700 points:
- Jin Young Ko: +700
- Inbee Park: +800
- Sei Young Kim: +900
- Danielle Kang: +1000
- Brooke Henderson: +1400
Ko is seeking her first win since a five-stroke victory at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in December. With a birdie on the par-4 18th, she tied Kim for the second-lowest score in tournament history, falling one shy of Charley Hull’s 19-under performance in 2016.
The two-time major winner opened her 2021 season with four straight top-10 finishes, including seventh at the ANA Inspiration – her sixth career top-10 major finish – but shot a second-round 76 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship en route to a 24th-place finish.
Ho Joo Kim (+1500) isn’t far behind Henderson, nor is Hannah Green (+2500), as she plays her best golf in nearly two years. Shortly after winning the Women’s PGA Championship in July 2019, Green also won the Cambia Portland Classic but spent much of the next 18 months laboring through cuts and poor finishes.
Starting at the ANA Inspiration in April, Green improved her finishing position in five consecutive events, including back-to-back top-three finishes at the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open and HSBC World Championship. And in the last eight weeks, the 2019 PGA champion has climbed from 21st to 13th in the Rolex Rankings.
“I feel like I’m pretty close. My caddie [Nate Blasko] and I have been talking about it, and we feel like we are not far off a win,” Green said after the LA Open. “I’m excited to get over there and see what can happen. I am really keen about seeing a new golf course. A fresh course to me might actually help me a little bit.”
The fresh course helped Green in Singapore (Sentosa Golf Course) a week later; that was the second of her back-to-back top-three finishes. And following a seventh-place finish in Thailand three weeks ago, Green will get another fresh course this week at Shadow Creek.
Visit BetMGM to browse updated golf odds for Green, Park, and every other golfer in the star-studded Bank of Hope Match-Play. And with up-to-the-minute live sports betting, you can place live bets on the tournament and other events worldwide.