BELLEAIR, FLORIDA | They aren’t on television, at least not this weekend with Lexi Thompson, Nelly Korda and Jennifer Kupcho battling for the win. But what’s on the line for a cluster of players entering the final round of the Pelican Women’s Championship presented by Konica Minolta and Raymond James is at least as important, if not more vital than the trophy. They are fighting to finish in the top 100 in the Race to the CME Globe, which will ensure status on the LPGA Tour for 2022 without a return to Q-Series in December.
Annie Park, who is four-under par at Pelican Golf Club after rounds of 68-69-69 and in a projected position of 98th in the Race, knew where she stood before she stepped out of the scoring tent on Saturday. “I started checking this week,” Park said. “I realized that if you go on the LPGA website it tells you your projected (finish). I was like, ‘Wow, how do I calculate the new system?’ But it's nice now that there is the projected ranking, so I know where I'm at.”
Stephanie Meadow, who entered the week projected at 101, shot four under on Saturday to move just under the wire at 99.
“I just looked it up two seconds ago,” Meadow said after walking out of scoring. “You know, there is so much golf (left). I have 18 more holes (on Sunday), and it's not just me, it's everybody else. There are other girls that can move me out, too.
“So, I think the most important thing is just do my best and go as low as I can. You know, I had 10-under (for the week) in my head after yesterday. That leaves it not to chance. I'm going to try to do my job (tomorrow).”
Few are watching them. Their galleries are friends and family and a few fans who have parked to watch the whole field play through. But the intensity is unmistakable. Watch these players and you’d swear they are battling for the title.
“I'm not going to lie, it's very stressful,” Park said. “I did take two months off (in the middle of the season) and I knew that I was going to be in this position. I don't regret my decision. But at the same time, it is stressful. I'm just glad to be out here again and playing.
“I'm hitting it good so far. Just need to drop some putts, and that's been the (situation the) last two days. So as long as those putts are dropping tomorrow, I think I'll be fine. After this week I go back to Dallas. That's where I'm based. Then going to, you know, play my heart out tomorrow and see what happens.”
Unsaid was the hope that she can decorate for Christmas and take a few weeks off without worrying about the two-week grind of Q-Series.
“It's been hard,” Meadow said, referring to having your job next year come down to a single round on Sunday. “It's been up and down. I mean, I had a couple of good finishes in the beginning of the year. The ANA (Inspiration), I played good there. And then just really struggled for that middle part and towards the end.
“I think mentally it becomes a real grind. Trying to pick yourself up and get out of it is the most important thing. I'm finally starting to do that.”
One player who came in with no expectations now finds herself checking her Race to the CME Globe status in spite of herself.
“I’ve been trying not to pay attention to it,” Lauren Coughlin said. “Just trying not to give myself any added pressure. I mean, I've tried not to. This week especially I've tried not to (look). But I have a little bit.”
Coughlin has made the best move of the bubble players so far. She entered the week at number 106 in points. Rounds of 65-68-68 have her projected at 95th with one round to go.
“My husband knows what I need to finish but I told him not to tell me because I didn't want to know. I'm just trying to keep making birdies.”
Meadow is taking a different approach. “Chill and pray that I don't have to go to Q-Series,” she said of her plans. “But it is what it is. I'll do my best and then I'll enjoy the off-season with my fiancé and doggy and get some work in. Hopefully, I’ll have a much better year next year.”