NAPLES, Fla. — The CME Group Tour Championship is on deck this week for the LPGA Tour as the 2023 season comes to a close in Naples, Fla. The field is stacked as the top 60 players in the Race to the CME Globe take on Tiburón Golf Club and vie for a share of a $7 million purse which features a $2 million winner’s check, the one of the largest first-place prizes in women’s golf. The field is comprised of nine players in the top 10 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and 22 of the 23 winners this season, including four-time champions Celine Boutier and Lilia Vu as well as U.S. Women’s Open winner Allisen Corpuz and KPMG Women’s PGA champion Ruoning Yin. Here’s a look at just a few of the featured groups this week at the CME Group Tour Championship.
Thursday, 11:25 a.m. – Nelly Korda/Yuka Saso
A pair of 2021 major champions are set to go in group 23 on Thursday at Tiburón Golf Club. Nelly Korda won the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club and will be looking to pick up her first win of the 2023 season at the CME Group Tour Championship. This is Korda’s seventh appearance in the event, and in her six previous starts, she has recorded three top-five finishes and two additional top 10s, the best of which was a solo second that came in 2018. The 25-year-old has also finished in a tie for third in 2019, in a tie for fifth in 2021, in a tie for eighth in 2017 and in a tie for 10th in 2022. Her worst result in the CME Group Tour Championship is a tie for 19th that came in 2020. Despite having yet to find the winner’s circle this season, Korda has played solidly in 2023, recording eight top-10 finishes, including a solo third at The Chevron Championship and a tie for ninth at The Amundi Evian Championship. She has earned three other top-20 results, most notably tying for 11th at the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath Golf Club. According to KPMG Performance Insights, Korda sits inside the top 10 in several statistical strokes gained categories this season, ranking sixth in strokes gained driving (+0.81), seventh in strokes gained around the green (+0.37) and eighth in both strokes gained tee to green (+1.35) and strokes gained total (+1.67).
Yuka Saso became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club and has recorded 16 top-10 finishes since accepting the immediate LPGA Tour offered to her after the victory. Eight of those top 10s have come this season, with the 22-year-old most notably finishing solo second at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, tying for third at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational alongside her playing partner Celine Boutier and tying for third at The Amundi Evian Championship. Her most recent top 10 came at the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G, where Saso finished in a tie for fifth. This is her third appearance at the CME Group Tour Championship, and she has never finished better than solo 48th in her two previous starts, only managing to card one score in the 60s at Tiburón Golf Club in eight total rounds, a 66 on day one of the event in 2021. Statistically, Saso is seventh in average driving distance on Tour this season at 272.72 yards and ranks eighth in strokes gained driving (+0.79).
Thursday, 11:45 a.m. – Charley Hull/Hae Ran Ryu
Englishwoman Charley Hull is one of the four past champions in the field at Tiburón Golf Club, having won the CME Group Tour Championship in 2016 by two shots over So Yeon Ryu. Hull has only won one other event on the LPGA Tour, the 2022 The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, and will be looking to finally pick up that third victory this week in Naples, Fla., after coming oh-so-close more than a few times this season. Hull kicked off her ninth year on Tour with a T2 result at the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, finishing four shots behind champion Brooke Henderson. After grabbing a T7 result at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain, the 27-year-old had another near-miss over the summer at the U.S. Women’s Open, once again tying for second at Pebble Beach Golf Links after an impressive final-round, 6-under 66. Just a few weeks later, Hull finished solo second at the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath Golf Club, and then in September, she lost in a playoff to Minjee Lee at the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G to record her fourth runner-up result of the 2023 season. This is her ninth appearance at the CME Group Tour Championship, and in addition to her victory, Hull has recorded five other top-15 finishes, one of which was a solo second in 2019.
Republic of Korea native Hae Ran Ryu clinched Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors after her T12 performance at last week’s ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican and is making her debut this week at the CME Group Tour Championship. The 22-year-old rookie became a Rolex First-Time Winner earlier this year at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G, winning by three shots over Linnea Strom. She has earned five other top-10 results this season, two of which were top fives that came at the Cognizant Founders Cup, where Ryu finished solo fourth, and at the Mizuho Americas Open, where she finished solo third. Ryu ranks second on the LPGA Tour this season in greens in regulation (75.72%), third in birdies (314), third in sub-par holes (323), eighth in strokes gained approach (+0.95) and 10th in rounds under par (46).
Thursday, 12:35 p.m. – Celine Boutier/Lilia Vu
Three of the five 2023 major championships were won by the two players comprising group 30 on Thursday at the CME Group Tour Championship. Celine Boutier became the first French player to win The Amundi Evian Championship in July, defeating Brooke Henderson by six shots en route to her first major title. That win was one of four victories that the 30-year-old claimed this season as Boutier also won the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain, the FREED GROUP Women’s Scottish Open and the Maybank Championship. She enters the week at No. 1 in the Race to the CME Globe standings and is trailing Lilia Vu by 27 points in the Rolex Player of the Year race, a deficit that could easily be wiped away with a victory this week. The Frenchwoman is also one of many players eying the money title as she currently sits in fourth on the official money list with $2,730,340 earned this season and could surpass the $4 million mark in season earnings if she were able to track down the $2 million winner’s check this week in Naples, Fla. According to KPMG Performance Insights, Boutier is third in strokes gained around the green (+0.53) and fourth in strokes gained total (+1.83) this season on the LPGA Tour, and she also ranks inside the top 20 in both strokes gained tee to green (18, +1.00) and strokes gained putting (19, +0.65). This is her sixth appearance at the CME Group Tour Championship, and she has recorded two top-10 finishes in her five previous starts, tying for third in 2021 and tying for 10th in 2022.
Vu comes to the CME Group Tour Championship fresh off capturing her fourth victory of the 2023 season at The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, a win that helped her reascend to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. The Epson Tour graduate came from three shots behind on Sunday at Pelican Golf Club to win by three strokes over Alison Lee and Azahara Munoz after carding rounds of 67-66-62-66 throughout the event. Last week’s win joins Vu’s three other victories at the Honda LPGA Thailand, The Chevron Championship and the AIG Women’s Open and propelled her ahead of Boutier in the Rolex Player of the Year standings. In addition to her four wins, the 26-year-old has recorded two other top-10 finishes this season, tying for seventh at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain and finishing solo second at the Buick LPGA Shanghai after losing in a playoff to Angel Yin, whom she beat in a playoff en route to her victory at The Chevron Championship. She currently leads the LPGA Tour in official money this season, sitting at $3,252,303 in career earnings, and could easily surpass the $5 million mark if she were to earn her fifth career victory this week at Tiburón Golf Club, breaking the single-season earnings record on the LPGA Tour. This is Vu’s second appearance at the CME Group Tour Championship, and she will be looking to improve upon last year’s finish of T30 as she works to finish out a banner 2023 season strong.