Lilia Vu’s odd Major double: two titles, two missed cuts

Lilia Vu, 2023 AIG Women's Open,(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Lilia Vu, 2023 AIG Women's Open,(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) /

The 2023 season of Lilia Vu has been filled with some of the highest possible highs. So why does it average out to be so ordinary?

In her second full season on Tour, the former UCLA star won three tournaments, two of them Majors. She is second in the race to the CME Globe, sixth in the Rolex World Golf rankings, she leads the Rolex Player of the Year standings, and with $2.5 million is second in official money.

And yet if you look objectively at Vu’s Major Championship season, which concluded Sunday with her decisive victory at the AIG Women’s Open, it is strikingly uneven. For every dominating showing at the Chevron or the AIG, there’s an utter collapse at the Women’s U.S. Open or the Women’s PGA crying out, ‘not so fast.’

An obscure but interesting factoid puts Vu’s strange Major season – two wins, two missed cuts, and a tie for 42nd – into dramatic historical perspective.

Since the women’s side of the game began conducting what came to be called ‘Majors ‘ – that’s back in the 1930s – Lilia Vu is the 27th to win at least two Major titles in the same season. In that respect, she joins a Hall of Fame list: Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Yani Tseng, Inbee Park, and nine more of the game’s greats.

In the last decade, only Tseng, Park, and J.Y. Ko have done so.

That’s not the remarkable part; this is. Lilia Vu is also the first of those dual major champions to miss the cut in a Major in one of those dual championship seasons…and she missed in both the Women’s PGA and the U.S. Open.

That leads to this unprecedented dichotomy. Judging purely by Major championships won, Vu is clearly the winner of the Annika Major Award. Her victory at the Brit gives her 120 Major points on the season, laps ahead of Allisen Corpuz back in second place with 84.

Yet, if you use the average standard deviation of each player’s performance in Majors to determine who had the best overall season, it’s U.S. Open champion Corpuz – with an average of -1.26 – who comes out ahead. And her closest competitor isn’t Vu but Hyo Joo Kim, who failed to win any of the five major titles but finished top 20 in all of them.

As for Lilia Vu…

The standard deviations of her five Major performances don’t read like the same player posted them.

She followed her Chevron win – at -1.89 standard deviations better than the field– with those two missed cuts, both generating scores in the range of 2.4 standard deviations worse than the field average.

Her tie for 42nd at the Evian amounted to about three-tenths of a standard deviation worse than the field, yet her AIG win came at a breakneck -3.36 standard deviations better than the field.

That AIG score is not only the best performance by a Major winner in 2023, it’s the second best since the Open became a Major in 2001, and the 10th best in the history of women’s Major championship golf.

But with those two missed cuts offsetting the two titles, it still only averages out to -0.04 standard deviations for the year, ranking Vu a surprisingly ordinary 17th.

Let’s put that into historical perspective as well. Since 1998 – that’s a solid quarter-century – only one of the 11 previous two-time major winners failed to also compile the best standard deviation for the full Major season. In 2010, Yani Tseng ranked second behind Cristie Kerr.

In sports, we tend to measure greatness over time by championships won, and for that reason, it’s no surprise that Lilia Vu is being lauded today as the Queen of the 2023 Major season. But a more holistic analysis might yield different conclusions, those two trophies notwithstanding.

Next. The British Open, where the exceptional has become the routine. dark

In fact, uneven performance was rather a hallmark of the 2023 Women’s Major season.

Women’s PGA champ Ruoning Yin tied for 41st at the Chevron, missed the Evian cut, and tied for 61st at the AIG. U.S. Open champion Corpuz tied for 54th at the Evian. Evian champion Celine Boutier tied for 30th at the Women’s PGA and for 45th at the U.S. Open.

So while Vu’s season-long line was certainly the oddest for any of the 2023 Major champs, it had company in that strangeness.