2022 marked the first full season in which KPMG Performance Insights was deployed for every stroke-play event on the LPGA Tour. With each tournament, deeper and more comprehensive insights have revealed themselves, telling the best statistical stories ever available on the world’s premier women’s golf tour.
More than ever, fans, broadcasters and players themselves are learning about these incredible world-class athletes and what fuels their performances at a detailed, shot-by-shot level.
The on-course action in 2022 was again second-to-none, from the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions through Lydia Ko’s thrilling CME Group Tour Championship win. With more thorough numbers available than ever before, let’s dive into some of the key stats and stories behind the 2022 LPGA Tour season.
Balanced brilliance fuels Ko
On her way to her second Rolex Player of the Year trophy, Lydia Ko led the LPGA Tour in scoring average (68.988), bogey-free rounds (17) and top-10 percentage (63.6%). And while her spot atop the leaders in strokes gained putting (+1.41 per round) comes as no surprise, it was her improved play through the bag that pushed her to one of her best seasons as a professional.
Ko averaged a stout 1.20 strokes gained approach per round in 2022, the fourth-best average on the LPGA Tour. That was an improvement of 0.29 strokes gained approach per round compared to 2021 – or 1.16 strokes per 72 holes. For someone as lethal on the greens as Ko, that translates to a steep jump that led to 68 more birdies-or-better (388) than the previous season (320).
In her last 10 starts of the season, Ko won as many times (twice) as she finished outside the top-10. During that span, she gained an average of 3.12 strokes on the field per round – about seven-tenths of a stroke better than any other qualified player. During that stretch, she ranked fifth on the LPGA Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green per round (+1.94). This week, she moved back to number one in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
The approach play of U.S. Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee was so exceptional in 2022, it earned its own section in this year-end breakdown article. Consider this: Lee’s average strokes gained approach per round (+2.02) wasn’t just first on Tour, it was more than three-tenths of a stroke better than any other player. In total, Lee gained an incredible 145.7 strokes with her approach play alone in the 2022 season – 28 more than anyone else (In Gee Chun, 117.7 and 1.68 per round, ranked second).
When diving into her proximity to the hole numbers, things get even more impressive. There were 170 players with 20 or more rounds officially measured by KPMG Performance Insights in the 2022 LPGA Tour season. Of that group, Lee led the entire pack in proximity, regardless of the distance to the hole: 100-125 yards, 125-150 yards, 150-175 yards, and 175-200 yards away – Lee led in every category. From 175 to 200 yards out, her average proximity for the season was 22 feet, 6 inches – nearly 4 full feet better than any other qualified player.
In Lee’s victory at Pine Needles, she recorded the lowest 72-hole total score (271) in U.S. Women’s Open history. Her 23.41 strokes gained total for the week were the most by a U.S. Women’s Open champion since Inbee Park in 2013 (24.28). She joined Jan Stephenson and Karrie Webb as the only Australian women to win multiple professional majors.
One of the interesting aspects of deeper, increased insights in the women’s game is the ability to compare specific disciplines on the LPGA Tour to men’s professional golf. When it comes to one of those specific insights, the women’s game had a slight advantage over their male counterparts last season.
In the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, players made 56.3% of putts from 5 to 10 feet away. On the LPGA Tour last season? That make rate was 56.6%. Chalk a statistical win up for the supremely talented players of the LPGA Tour.
Where the best gain their strokes
The old golf anachronism “drive for show, putt for dough” definitely rose to prominence before the advent of strokes gained. While performance off the tee and on the green can go a long way, there’s another facet of the game that truly separates the best players on the LPGA Tour: approach play.
Let’s take the top-20 finishers this season on the LPGA Tour in strokes gained total per round. When breaking down where those players gained their strokes against the field, just 5.1% came on strokes around the green. 16.8% came on tee shots, while 28.5% came from putts. The other 49.5% of strokes gained by the best players on the LPGA Tour last season – so nearly half – came from approach play. Of the top-20 in strokes gained total, only two players lost strokes with their approach shots in the 2022 season. Six finished with negative strokes gained off-the-tee.
How does that compare to the men’s game? Looking at the top-20 finishers in strokes gained total on the PGA Tour last season, 38% of those players’ strokes came from approach play, the highest of the four primary strokes gained disciplines – but not quite as weighty a percentage as the LPGA Tour. On a tour where players hit more than 70% of their fairways overall, the best players on the LPGA Tour often distance themselves from the pack with elite approach shots.
Notable statistical leaders
Even after missing significant time due to a blood clot in her arm, Nelly Korda finished the season as the leader in strokes gained off-the-tee per round (+0.93). The traditional metrics validate that new-era number for Korda: She ranked 10th on the LPGA Tour this season in average driving distance and fifth in total driving.
One more for the Lydia Ko files: this season, she made a remarkable 213 putts of 10 feet or longer, 14 more than any other player. Ko made 40.5% of her putts this season from 10 to 15 feet away. The LPGA Tour average from that range? 29.5%. Not to be outdone, Ayaka Furue racked up 132 putts made of 15 or more feet – 19 more than anyone else.
From 5 to 10 feet away, no player made a higher percentage of their putts this season than Lexi Thompson, at 70.3%. Thompson finished the season ranked 10th on the LPGA Tour in strokes gained putting per round (+0.74).
Looking for a player on the rise? How about Andrea Lee, who finished the 2022 season with four top-10 finishes in her last seven starts, including her first LPGA Tour win at the Portland Classic. More than 100 players had at least 20 KPMG Performance Insights-measured rounds in both 2021 and 2022. Of that group, no player improved her strokes gained total average than Lee (+1.77 per round over last season).