2019 LPGA TOUR SEASON ENDS WITH THE CME GROUP TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
After 32 weeks of competition and thousands of miles traveled around the globe, the 2019 LPGA Tour ends this week at the CME Group Tour Championship, the culmination of the season-long Race to the CME Globe.
The Race to the CME Globe is a season-long points competition in which LPGA Members accumulate points in every Official LPGA Tournament to gain entry into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. The player who wins the CME Group Tour Championship will be named the “Race to the CME Globe Champion.” Following the TOTO Japan Classic, the CME Group Tour Championship field was set to the top 60 players in the Race to the CME Globe. All 60 players are in this week’s field, with a 72-hole, no-cut competition.
Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko leads the 60-player field after earning an LPGA Tour-best 4,148 points in the Race to the CME Globe. She is joined by 18 of the top 20 players in the Rolex Rankings, including No. 2 Sung Hyun Park, who has two LPGA Tour victories in 2019 and sits sixth in the Race standings, and No. 3 Nelly Korda, the world’s leading American with two 2019 victories of her own. Defending CME Group Tour Championship winner Lexi Thompson is also in Naples in search of her second win of 2019.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CME GROUP TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
- This is the sixth playing of the CME Group Tour Championship and the sixth consecutive year it will be played on Tiburon Golf Club’s Gold Course
- Four past champions are in this week’s field – Charley Hull (2016), Ariya Jutanugarn (2017), Lydia Ko (2014) and Lexi Thompson (2018)
- Shanshan Feng won the CME Titleholders on this same golf course in 2013
- The tournament’s low 18-hole score is 62, set by Lydia Ko in the second round in 2016
- The tournament’s low 72-hole score is 19-under 269, set by Charley Hull in 2016
LEXI THOMPSON EAGER TO DEFEND TITLE IN NAPLES
Returning to the site of her 10th career LPGA Tour victory, Lexi Thompson is set to defend her CME Group Tour Championship crown this week at Tiburon Golf Club.
Last year, the 24-year-old had brother Curtis on the bag and introduced golf fans to a furry, four-legged Havapoo friend named Leo. This time around, some things are different and yet others remain the same. She will tee it up on Thursday working with caddy Benji Thompson (no relation), while Leo is back as part of the family entourage cheering for the Coral Springs native in southwest Florida.
“This week in general, I have a lot of family that comes out to the tournament, a lot of friends that come out, so I have a big support group every single day,” said Thompson, who captured seven top-10 finishes across 20 starts this season, including a win in the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. “Golf is such an up and down game. I had a lot of great tournaments especially in the middle of the year. Two five-week stretches was a lot different for me. I usually never play five weeks in a row.”
Thompson also worked through a few swing changes and putting techniques this year with coach Joe Hallett. They fine-tuned aspects of each component prior to the start of the Indy Women in Tech Championship driven by Group1001 in September. The approach that Thompson brings to Collier County provides a confidence of where her game is ahead of the season’s final event, which boasts a $1.5 million winner’s share.
“I worked with Joe a lot on chipping and he’s always been out there for me, looking at my golf swing and everything,” Thompson said. “We’ve worked together quite a bit and it’s been going well. With my golf swing, just trying to be more on the ground. I know it’s pretty much impossible with how hard I swing but trying to get a little bit tapered down and timing more right. I think I’ve done that overall in the last few weeks, just a matter of engraining it and more repetitions on the range.”
SHORT GAME WORK PAYING OFF FOR JIN YOUNG KO
The question to Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko was simple – growing up, did you have a favorite golfer who is not Korean? The surprising answer sent the CME Group Tour Championship media center into peals of laughter. Ko’s favorite golfer? Eight-time PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon, long known as one of the best putters in golf history.
“I met him at the U.S. Open last year, and then I had handshake with Brad Faxon before the round,” said Ko, who added that as a teenager, she watched clips of Faxon on YouTube to better her own putting stroke. “Then I got one putt, No. 1, 2, 3 holes, and then I told to my caddie, I don't want to like hand wash.”
Those YouTube lessons, plus extensive work this year with her short-game coach Gareth Raflewski, certainly paid off, as the 24-year-old Korean has one of the best short games on the LPGA Tour. She leads the Tour in greens in regulation at 79.1% and has a Tour-best 69.052 scoring average, not to mention four victories in 2019. In August, Ko even went on a streak of 114 consecutive holes without a bogey.
Accolades aside, Ko comes to the CME Group Tour Championship with a little hesitation in her step. She injured her left ankle making a swing at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA on Nov. 1 and withdrew from the final two tournament of the Fall Asia Swing. The ankle is still a little tender, but not enough to keep her from competing this week for the $1.5 million winner’s prize.
NELLY KORDA HOPES TO END BREAKOUT SEASON ON HIGH NOTE
Between three worldwide victories and her first appearance in the Solheim Cup where she finished with a 3-0-1 overall record for Team USA, Nelly Korda has enjoyed a breakout campaign in her third year on the LPGA Tour. She comes to the CME Group Tour Championship hoping to end the season on a high note, especially after finding previous success here at Tiburon Golf Club, finishing second in 2018 and tied for eighth in 2017.
Currently at No. 3 and the highest American in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda defended her crown at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA presented by CTBC earlier this month and completed the “Korda Slam” when she raised the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open trophy in February, joining her father Petr, sister Jessica and brother Sebastian as winners Down Under. A win and $1.5 million payday at the season finale in Naples, Fla., would undoubtedly be the defining moment in a year filled with incredible achievements.
“Gosh, yeah, I’ve had a lot of moments,” said Korda, who also won the Lacoste Ladies French Open on the Ladies European Tour. “I’m really proud of myself and how consistent I’ve been this year, but I think probably playing with my sister at Solheim Cup. I’m going to look back on that moment for the rest of my career and life actually. I think I’ve learned that I can compete with a lot of these girls and I can win multiple times. I’m going to learn every year, every tournament about myself.”
CARLOTA CIGANDA WINS INAUGURAL AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE, TAKES HOME $1 MILLION PRIZE
Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, and the LPGA announced that Carlota Ciganda has won the inaugural Aon Risk Reward Challenge and a $1 million prize.
Throughout the season, the Aon Risk Reward Challenge showcased how the world’s best golfers are among the world’s best strategic decision makers. The competition, which measured the performance of LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR golfers on a series of holes across multiple tournaments, tested players’ ability to analyze risk, utilize data-driven insights to identify opportunities and maximize performance in the moments that matter most.
“Being the first LPGA Tour player to win the Aon Trophy is such an honor,” said Ciganda, who became emotional in her press conference when speaking of what this honor means to her. “We face so many great competitors and I worked closely with my team, specifically my caddie, to give me opportunities to deliver the best possible performance.”
Ciganda was a leading contender from the beginning, but it wasn’t until the end of the season that she really started to make a move on the leaderboard. Her eagle-birdie scores on the Aon Risk Reward Challenge holes in consecutive weeks (Buick LPGA Shanghai in Shanghai and BMW Ladies Championship in Busan) stretched her lead on the way to becoming the Champion.
Aon and the PGA TOUR previously recognized Brooks Koepka as the winner of the inaugural Aon Risk Reward Challenge trophy. Both Koepka and Ciganda received equal $1 million prizes.
“It sends a powerful message for Carlota to win the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, receive the same prize money and share the title with Brooks,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “This inaugural season was extremely exciting as our players competed week in and week out across the globe. It came down to the wire, and we have so much respect for the way Carlota rose to the challenge.”
For more information, please visit www.lpga.com/news/2019-ciganda-wins-inaugural-aon-risk-reward-challenge.
SOCIAL MEDIA - #DriveOn
Tournament: @CMEGroupLPGA (Twitter); @CMEGroupTourChamp (Instagram)
LPGA: @LPGA, @LPGAMedia (Twitter), @lpga_tour (Instagram)
TV TIMES (all times Eastern)
Nov. 21 – 4-7 p.m. (tape delay) on Golf Channel
Nov. 22 – 4-7 p.m. (tape delay) on Golf Channel
Nov. 23 – 4-7 p.m. (tape delay) on Golf Channel
Nov. 24 – 1-4 p.m. (live) on NBC
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 62, Lydia Ko, 2016
36 holes: 132, Sung Hyun Park, 2017; Lydia Ko, 2016; Lexi Thompson, 2018
54 holes: 200, Lexi Thompson, 2018
72 holes: 269, Charley Hull, 2016