The cherry on top of a season well played belongs to the 63 athletes who punched their tickets to compete in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. The sprinkles on top of that sundae? A historic $2 million payday to the winner of the season finale.
Nelly Korda headlines the field at the final event of the season at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida. Korda’s bittersweet year, one in which she was sidelined from competition for four months with a blood clot in her arm that pushed her out of the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings, came full circle as she successfully defended her title at the Pelican Women’s Championship on Sunday. Korda cemented her comeback status with her second worldwide win of the year, she won in August on the Ladies European Tour, and returned to the top of the world rankings.
“It's just been such a rollercoaster. I mean, I guess that's life though,” Korda said through tears about her last few months, having missed the cut in her last two starts. “There have been more downs than ups this year I think, and I think that's what makes this so much sweeter to me.”
Korda wasn’t the only one who came away satisfied at the season’s penultimate event.
Upon conclusion of the Pelican Women’s Championship, the top 63 players in the Race to the CME Globe Standings confirmed their spot in the field at the CME Group Tour Championship. Points reset for the final event of the year, giving every player in the field a chance to take home the record $2 million winner’s check, which is a first in the women’s game. Final spots in the field were picked up by major champions like Patty Tavatanakit at No. 57, Anna Nordqvist at No. 58, Stacy Lewis at No. 62, and Ariya Jutanugarn, who grabbed the final spot in the field, at No. 63.
Players finishing between Nos. 64-100 in the Race to the CME Globe point standings also had plenty to celebrate on Sunday. The top 100 in the Race to the CME Globe Standings retained their LPGA Tour card for next season.
As if a seven-figure payday isn’t enough to put pressure on the world’s best competing in Naples, they’ll also be vying for the biggest honors of the year.
The Rolex Player of the Year, which uses a points-based system unlike the PGA Tour which determines its player of the year by vote, will be determined by the outcome of the season finale. This year’s race is likely to come down to Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee, and rookie Atthaya Thitikul who has already locked up the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year. Thitikul will look to make history in Naples where she’ll try to become the first player since Sung Hyun Park in 2017 to win both the Rookie and Player of the Year awards in a single season. The Vare Trophy, awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average at season’s end, also remains up for grabs in addition to the Money Title, which won't be determined until the final putt drops on Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship where a record winner’s check is on the line.
There’s something sweet about having played well enough to qualify for the final event of the year. It’s certainly the cherry on top of a season well-played. But the super-delicious, rainbow sprinkles on top of that sundae? Being named winner of the Race to the CME Globe, Player or Rookie of the Year, coming away with the Vare Trophy, or even the Money Title.
In addition to $2 million bucks, the biggest awards of the year await those who play well at the final event of the season. And that is pretty sweet.