Only the top nine players in the Race to the CME Globe competition can win this week at the CME Group Tour Championship and capture the season-long Race to the CME Globe title. The top three – Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson – can win it all with a victory in Naples, Fla., no matter what anyone else does, and Nos. 4-9 can still win the tournament and the bigger trophy but must get assistance from those above them.
Here are some other facts about the “Naples Nine:”
- Race to the CME Globe winners have come from the third position (Ko in 2014) and first (Ko last season).
- Players represent seven countries (Thailand, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, China, Australia and Japan).
- The top nine have won 23 times, led by No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn with five victories, in the 33 tournaments on the 2016 schedule. In Gee Chun, the winner of The Evian Championship, is the only top-nine player without multiple wins. Chun is also the only player in the top nine making a first start in the tournament.
- No. 2 Lydia Ko won the CME Group Tour Championship in 2014 to capture the inaugural Race to the CME Globe competition. Last year, Ko finished T7 in the tournament and won the season-long competition. Ten of her 12 rounds over three years at Tiburon Golf Club have been under par and she is a cumulative 25-under par.
- No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn has played in this event once, finishing T30 last season. No. 3 Brooke Henderson finished 13th last year and closed with a 66.
- Ha Na Jang shot the lowest round of the tournament, a 65, last year en route to a T2 finish.
- There are no American players among the top nine for the first time in Race to the CME Globe history. Stacy Lewis (No. 13) and Lexi Thompson (No. 15) are the top Americans entering this week.
Player of Year: Lydia Ko must win this week to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn in the Rolex Player of the Year rankings. Jutanugarn has a 14-point lead (261-247) entering the Naples, Fla., tournament. Since 30 points are awarded for first place and 12 for second, Ko’s only route is a victory.
Jutanugarn is looking to become the second consecutive player (Ko in 2015) to win the Player of the Year, earnings and CME Globe titles in the same season.
Vare Trophy: Lydia Ko has won the CME Globe, the Rolex Player of the Year and risen to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but she has never captured the Vare Trophy, named for World Golf Hall of Fame member Glenna Collett-Vare and given to the player with the lowest scoring average for the season. And she’ll have to work extra hard this week to earn the trophy.
Ko leads the LPGA with a 69.611 stroke average, just a hair ahead of In Gee Chun (69.632). Ko must finish at least one stroke behind Chun this week to win the award. Two back and Chun passes Ko. Chun has played 68 rounds this year – 22 less than Ko – and only has to play a minimum of 70 rounds or 70 percent of the rounds on the season, whichever is less, to qualify for the low stroke-average honor. Chun has already secured the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honor.
Putting leader: Lydia Ko leads the Putting category this season also, a first for her. Her 28.3 putts per round is just ahead of Julie Yang entering the CME Group Tour Championship. Ko would be first player to lead the putting category and to win a tournament since Inbee Park in 2012.
Close to a rare double: Lexi Thompson has had her best year in two notable categories – Driving Distance and Greens in Regulation. Yet, the American star will likely fall short of completing a rare double in those categories.
Thompson is averaging a career-best 277.6 yards off the tee, but that falls second by a great deal to France’s Joanna Klatten, the longest driver in 2015 and holder of a 281.3-yard average this season. The last player to finish longer than 280 yards in a season was Karin Sjodin (284.05 average in 2006).
Thompson is also hitting greens in regulation 77.7 percent of the time, another career best, but Anna Nordqvist is better at 78.7 percent. Only Annika Sorenstam has done better in a season – 79.7 percent in 2001 and 2002 and 78.8 percent in 2004.
In the last 25 years, only two players have led both the Driving Distance and Greens in Regulation categories in the same year – Annika Sorenstam in 2003 and Lorena Ochoa in 2008.
Accurate Mo: For a fourth consecutive season, Mo Martin owns the title of the most accurate driver in golf. Martin leads the Driving Accuracy category by hitting the fairway 85.5 percent of the time. In the last four seasons she has hit the fairway 87 percent of the time, highlighted by hitting the fairway 89.9 percent of the time in 2015. Martin has also increased her Driving Distance average. While among the shorter hitters on the LPGA, she averages a personal best 237.2 yards this season.