Strokes should determine the winner of the ISPS World Invitational HANDA | LPGA | Association of Women’s Golf Professionals

Imagine playing an LPGA Tour event alongside DP World Tour competitors. A tournament with multiple cuts, two completely different venues and against players from two of the premier women’s professional tours. Welcome to its third year ISPS HANDA World Invitational.

Before we can begin to influence this groundbreaking event, we need to understand the format. A field of 144 LPGA and Ladies European Tour (LET) members will compete in a 72-hole stroke-play tournament on two very different golf courses. The field will be cut in the low 60s and tied after 36 holes. After 54 holes, the field is reduced back to the top 35 and tied. The remaining players for Sunday will compete alongside the DP World Tour men.

It is a joint event combining the LPGA, LET and DP World Tour. The $3 million purse is split evenly between the men and women as both play for a $1.5 million purse with $225,000 going to each winner. The constant thought of a piece really looming increases the excitement for the fans and the pressure for the players.

The first and second rounds are divided into two courses. New to the rotation is Castlerock Golf Club on the upper coast of Northern Ireland. A shoreline course, the par-73 layout measures 6,231 yards, but doesn’t blow you away with length. The wind of the North Atlantic controls play on these links and therefore the tournament officials cannot exceed the score.

The main part is Galgorm Castle Golf Club, which is 30 miles inland. Located west of Belfast, this parkland route could be the exact opposite of Castlerock’s scenery. Galgorm plays in 72 and is 6,527 yards long. Winding through waterways, the wet stuff comes into play on 14 holes and the course has 58 bunkers. Competitors will play here in one of the two first rounds over the weekend as well. This is important because the weather looks very fun for the spectators but scary for the players as strong winds and rain are predicted.

Temperatures will remain in the 60s inland and lower along the coast at Castlerock. Twenty-two mph winds are forecast for Galgorm. Imagine these conditions next to the harsh north sea. Predicting who will win a combined LET-LPGA event in tough conditions will be very difficult, so narrow your choices down to just a few. Simply put, don’t go betting a bunch of favorites.

Finding a player to support and add to your weekend fun is fun. Finding the best fit to win in Northern Ireland depends on two key factors. The LPGA has been competing against elite LET players for about a month now. Comparing recent form, look out for Olivia Cowan, Esther Henseleit and Emily Kristine Pederson. Pederson and Cowan both finished in the top 11 here last year, and Henseleit has three top-20 finishes in her last four starts.

Maja Stark won the ISPS Handa World Invitational a year ago and her score was based on her par-5 performance. That ability will be even more important this week as Castlerock has five par 5s. In the combined field clock for Georgia Hall, Ryann O’Toole and Pederson. All three averaged 4.65 strokes under par for the season on the par 5s.

Considering the conditions, the change in venues and the overall uncertainty, the contenders must hit the greens. Leona Maguire, Cowan, Lee-Anne Pace and Henseleit hit over 70% of their green rates. To succeed on Sunday, a player will need to create birdie opportunities from all kinds of situations. But once they hit the green, it’s time to put the ball in the hole. The winner must average under 30 putts over all four rounds. Maguire and Hall use their flatstick well, as do Mina Harigae and Stephanie Meadow. Their chances of winning are increased as you don’t want to waste any hits.

There is great excitement surrounding this innovative event. Remember to keep those betting accounts under control, stick to a budget and enjoy the fun on TV. Castlerock Golf Club is an awesome addition. Wait until you see the views from this setting. It will make you appreciate golf and how well these players can adapt to changing conditions.

Keith Stewart is an award winning PGA Professional. Covers the LPGA and PGA Tour for Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, LPGA and PGA TOUR. If you want to increase your golf acumen and love the inside scoop on the game, check out his weekly newsletter called Read the Line.

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