Ariya Jutanugarn wins Player of the Year, Race to CME Globe, Money Title
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn won five times on the LPGA Tour this season, and, although she didn’t lift the trophy at the CME Group Tour Championship, she walked away with a little more hardware.
When the dust settled Jutanugarn had captured the Player of the Year title, season Money Title, and the Race to the CME Globe – along with the $1 million prize that goes along with that.
“Winning Player of the Year is like huge for me. I'm very, very happy about that,” she said.
Jutanugarn – who was 11 shots better than Ko over the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club – finished at 14-under-par, tied for fourth.
Even with enough victories on the season to fill a whole hand, Jutanugarn said her goals moving forward are simple.
“Just try to win more tournaments and have some fun,” she stated.
Lydia Ko falls just short
It wasn’t the weekend Lydia Ko was hoping for – especially after a course-record 62 Friday catapulted her to the top of the leaderboard, a spot many thought she would remain come Sunday evening – but the four-time LPGA Tour winner in 2016 took it all in stride, gave her closest competitor, Ariya Jutanugarn, a big hug, and all-the-while, the unmistakable Lydia Ko smile never left her face.
“Im really proud of the good form that came back this week. Coming into this week I really didn't know what was going to happen,” said Ko. “Definitely great to shoot my, I think it's career low on the LPGA on Friday. I tried to battle it out on this back nine (today). I'm proud of that.”
Ko fired a 1-over-par 73 Saturday, and followed that up with an even-par 72 Sunday. She made a double-bogey on the par-4 9th, but then rattled off three-straight birdies on No’s 10-12. But at the end, it was too little, too late.
“Not the greatest weekend that I would've liked, but still proud of the way I fought back this last back nine. Still I think a lot of positives,” she explained. “It was great to see some good form come back. It's been a really fun season. I'm excited for some time off.”
Ko, who played with In Gee Chun – who birdied the final three holes Sunday to nip Ko for the Vare Trophy by less than one full stroke – is now looking forward to some time off.
“I am planning not touch my clubs or look at them for the next month. I've looked at them for the last 11 months. I think they're sick of me, too,” said Ko with a laugh.
“I say this, but I don't know what I would do without golf. That's how much I like it. But I think a little bit of time off is going to be fun.”
Lots of confidence leads So Yeon Ryu to runner-up finish
So Yeon Ryu was battling it out with eventual winner Charley Hull for most of Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship – including holding a piece of the lead late in the afternoon. In the end, it wasn’t enough. But, Ryu will be taking a lot of confidence into 2017.
“I think I have a full of confidence right now. I believe myself I'm a great ball hitter, I'm a great putter, I am so many positive things,” she said.
Ryu also credited her caddy – fabulously named Tom Watson – for being her biggest support system this season.
“He's the one (who is with me) all the time on the golf course. He always gives me the, ‘So Yeon, you're great. Even though you didn't make it, your stroke was great, your swing was great.’ So he just gives me so many positive energy,” she explained. “I really want to be appreciative to Tom. Tom is the one made this happen, to be keep concentrating on my ball no matter what.”
Ryu’s last three finishes on the LPGA Tour have been a tie for third, a tie for fifth, and now, a runner-up. It’s no surprise, then, she admitted Sunday she wished the season was continuing on next week.
“This is the first time I feel like I wish I could play more tournaments. I think it's really great thing. I always feel like end of the season I feel like, ‘Oh, maybe I'm ready, I'm not ready, I'm ready to be rest.’ Finally I felt like I'm completely ready for just win the tournament,” she said. “Even though if I couldn't win, it's still great closing. Then I hope I can have this feel until next year as well.”
In Gee Chun wins Vare Trophy
Thanks to three-straight birdies to finish her final round at Tiburon Golf Club, In Gee Chun nipped Lydia Ko for the Vare Trophy – given to the golfer on the LPGA Tour with the lowest scoring average for the season.
“It was big honor for me, because to have my name next to legends,” she said.
Chun was also the first player since Nancy Lopez to win both Rookie of the Year and the Vare Trophy in the same season, this, on the heels of her victory at The Evian Championship and her six top-5 finishes.
“I know it was big challenging for me. I have big honor, yeah,” she stated.
Brooke Henderson says sister Brittany will be back on the bag in 2017
A whirlwind season for Canada’s Brooke Henderson has come to a close – a season that saw her play more times than anyone else on the LPGA Tour, but also featured two wins, including a major – and one question that remained unanswered until Sunday was whether or not sister Brittany would be back on the bag next year.
The dynamic duo will remain player-caddy in 2017, Henderson confirmed to LPGA.com, after she closed the CME Group Tour Championship with a 3-under-par 69 to finish tied for 24th.
“Next season, definitely, after that, we’ll have to see. I’ll have to try to convince her again,” explained Henderson. “She’s really enjoying it and I love having her here. We make a great team.”
Henderson notched 15 top-10s this year, and ended up third on the Race to the CME Globe. She said she had an ‘incredible’ journey in her first full season as an LPGA Tour member.
“I’m glad to be a part of the LPGA Tour and play” every single week, and I pretty much did that,” she said with a big smile. “Being my first year on tour it was important to see all the different courses and experience the atmosphere in different cities. Next year, it’ll be a little easier. That was really important to me, to get a feel for things out on Tour.”
Despite her robust success in 2016, she’s already looking forward to what next year will bring.
“In this off-season I have a lot of things I want to work on and get better at, and in the next couple weeks I”ll be setting my new goals,” she stated. “Being able to represent Canada at the Olympics, (and have) two wins, it was a really cool year.”
CME Group Cares Weekend
A total of 287 eagles were recorded by LPGA Tour professionals throughout weekend play this season for a grand total of $303,000 in the CME Group Cares Weekend donation pot.
CME Group and the LPGA expanded the Race to the CME Globe weekend charitable program in 2016 to include Bright Pink®, a national non-profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. Bright Pink® joins Wounded Warrior Project® in the expanded partnership, CME Group Cares Weekend.
CME Group Cares Weekend is a season-long charitable giving program that turns eagles into donations. For each eagle recorded during weekend play (Saturday and Sunday) throughout the 2016 LPGA Tour season, CME Group donates $1,000 to the program’s total donation count. During the CME Group Tour Championship the amount contributed per eagle increases to $5,000 throughout the weekend. The money raised will go towards a charitable pool and be split evenly between Wounded Warrior Project® and Bright Pink®.
Throughout the week, veterans of the Wounded Warrior Project were stationed at the 18th green tending the pin donned with the American flag during tournament play.