The 2013 LPGA Tour season comes to an end this week at the CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla. The Tiburón Golf Club located at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort will be the backdrop of this season’s event where the top-three finishers from each of the 28 events on the tournament schedule come together to make up a star-studded field for the season-ending tournament.
The unique season-long qualifying format allows for the world’s best female golfers a chance to compete for the largest winner’s check at $700,000.
Headlining the field this week is a trio whose stunning performances this year have earned them the top positions on the LPGA Tour: No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and No. 3 Stacy Lewis.
It has been a historic season for Park, who entered the season ranked No. 4 in the Rolex Rankings after a 2012 season that produced 12 top-10 finishes and two victories. She made her first statement of the season when she clinched the Honda LPGA Thailand title and after that the South Korean was simply unstoppable. She went on to capture five additional victories, including the first three majors of the season. She became the first player since Babe Zaharias in 1950 to do capture this feat.
Park made history again at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational when she became the first South Korean player on the LPGA Tour to win the coveted Rolex Player of the Year award. With her fourth-place finish, Park earned seven points to put her 39 points ahead of No. 2 Suzann Pettersen heading into this week’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders, mathematically securing her the title.
Lewis is coming off a career best 2012 season when she clinched four victories and became the first American since 1994 to win the Rolex Player of the Year Award. She carried her relentless performance through 2013, earning top-player stats early on in the season when she captured back-to-back victories at the HSBC Women’s Champions and the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. She was No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings for four weeks until Inbee Park took over in early April.
Lewis went on to win her second-career LPGA major championship at the RICOH Women’s British Open in early August. Lewis will end the season with 18 top-10 finishes, securing the Kia Drive to the Top award, which is given to the player with the most top-10 finishes of the season, for the second consecutive season.
While Park seemed to be silent for the last half of the season, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen stepped in and dominated the second half. With back-to-back wins at the Safeway Classic and the Evian Championship, the LPGA Tour’s fifth major, Pettersen went on a streak that saw three top-5 finishes and a successful title defense at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. She secured the No. 2 spot in the Rolex Rankings and trails Park by a small fraction with the potential to take over with a solid finish this week.
There’s plenty left on the line this week, as Pettersen, Lewis and Park are looking to secure the top position on the Official Money List with a $700,000 check going to the winner this week. The trio sits within less than $500,000 of each other.
The Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year will need to be decided at the conclusion of the CME Group Titleholders on Sunday as only 11 points separate current leader Germany’s Caroline Masson and runner-up Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn. There are still plenty of points left to be rewarded this week, as a win at CME Group Titleholders would award 150 points. The top-6 in this year’s rookie class will be in the field this week.
Defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 6 Na Yeon Choi qualified for the season-ending event at the HSBC Women’s Champions where she finished second to Stacy Lewis. At last year’s event held at TwinEagles Golf Club, the South Korean clinched her seventh-career LPGA Tour victory after firing rounds of 67-68-69-70 to finish with a 14-under 274. She finished two shots ahead of fellow countrywoman and 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu. While it’s been a rather silent season for Choi, she has still managed to secure eight top-10 finishes and ranks No. 9 on the Official Money List with $920,158.
The Titleholders name dates back to the Titleholders women’s golf tournament held from 1937 to 1966, and one additional year in 1972 in Southern Pines, N.C. The tournament was originally staged at Augusta Country Club in Augusta, Ga., prior to the formation of the LPGA in 1950. Past Titleholders champions include LPGA founders Patty Berg, Louise Suggs and Babe Zaharias.