Pro golf's best iron player this past season was on the LPGA Tour—and it wasn't even close

December 01, 2022

Kevin C. Cox

When debating the best iron players in golf today, there are always a few familiar names. Collin Morikawa. Justin Thomas. Hideki Matsuyama. Will Zalatoris. But while these usual suspects all have strong cases, one golfer stands out from the 2022 season. And she doesn't play on the PGA Tour.

Of course, it's difficult to compare athletes across different leagues, but that got easier in 2022 when the LPGA tracked advanced stats for the first time over an entire season. The strokes-gained metrics we've grown accustomed to seeing on the PGA Tour in recent years are now available on the women's side, and Lydia Ko's Player of the Year campaign was backed up by her 2.5 strokes gained total leading by more than half a stroke. Per round.

However, when you isolate strokes gained/approach, another player was arguably even more dominant. And that player is Minjee Lee.

The Aussie finished runner-up to Ko for POY after winning two times in 2022, including a four-shot runaway victory at the U.S. Women's Open in June. But considering she gained a remarkable 2.02 strokes just on approach shots, it's a wonder that she didn't win even more.

Lee finished more than .3 ahead of No. 2 In Gee Chun in that category and nearly .8 ahead of No. 3 Andrea Lee. By comparison, Zalatoris led the PGA Tour at 1.063, or nearly half of Minjee's advantage over her competition.

But her iron mastery gets even more impressive when examining the proximity stats. The LPGA keeps track of its leaders in four categories, from 100-125 yards, 125-150, 150-175, and 175-200. And Lee led the LPGA Tour in every category.

And as Will Haskett noted on Twitter, she also would have led the PGA Tour in all four of those distances.

As you can see, Lee's +2.02 strokes gained/approach also put her alone with Tiger Woods in the ShotLink Era. Yeah, Tiger Woods. In other words, the next time you have that best-iron-player debate, you should probably start the conversation with her name.