With just two weeks left in the LPGA season, much is still uncertain in the battle for some of the tour’s biggest prizes.
The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and even a potential Hall of Fame qualification hang in the balance.
Inbee Park can still claim the LPGA’s most important season-long awards, but she needs a good showing at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational this week to have a chance to wrestle them away from Lydia Ko.
Christina Kim is back in Mexico looking to rekindle the form that helped her win there last year.
Sei Young Kim is also at Ochoa’s event looking to add a bonus prize to her already successful debut as the LPGA’s Rolex Rookie of the Year.
Brazil’s Candy Hannemann is in Mexico looking to find her way to the Olympics next year.
Some LPGA news and notes with just two events remaining in the 2015 LPGA season:
Inbee vs. Lydia for all the marbles – Ko is in position to have a monster finish at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., next week, but Park could still end stealing it, instead.
All the big awards are down to these two players.
Ko is the Rolex world No. 1 with the lead in Rolex Player of the Year points, the race for the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title. Ko is also the leader in CME points in her bid to win the season-long battle for the $1 million jackpot for the second year in a row.
Park is second to Ko in all those races, but Ko isn’t playing this week. She withdrew from Ochoa’s event to gain an extra week of rest for the big finale.
Park needs to finish tied for eighth or better in Mexico City to have a chance at the Rolex Player of the Year Award. If Park finishes worse than T-8, Ko will clinch the award before going to Naples.
Park, by the way, reports she is feeling just fine after having a cyst removed from the middle finger of her left hand in South Korea early last week.
Kim looking for more magic in Mexico – Christina Kim won her third LPGA title claiming the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last year, her first LPGA triumph in nine years.
Kim, 31, crafted one of the feel-good stories in 2014. She was a broken player who put herself back together, overcoming a back injury, a torn tendon in her right elbow/forearm and bouts of career-threatening depression to win. She arrived back in Mexico this week saying she wasn’t able to take that winning momentum into this year.
“I just completely lost everything in terms of any sort of sensibility with the golf swing,” Kim said. “It’s been a tough year. I haven’t been nearly as calm . . . I’ve been really anxious with everything, and more demanding on myself.”
Kim is looking for her first top-10 finish this season. She’s 69th on the LPGA money list and has secured a spot in next week’s CME Group Tour Championship.
What will it take for Kim to win again this week?
“A hot putter,” she said. “And just playing to the level that I know I can.”
Sei Young Kim looking for a bonus – Kim clinched the Rolex LPGA Rookie of the Year award last week, but she can still add some tasty frosting to her successful LPGA start.
Kim is fourth on the CME Globe points list, but she would like to leapfrog Stacy Lewis for the third spot after Sunday’s conclusion of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. The top three in points going to Naples are guaranteed winning the $1 million CME jackpot if they win the Tour Championship.
Ko has locked down the top spot for the points re-set at Naples, and Park has locked down the No. 2 spot, but Lewis can still be passed. Kim is 343 points behind Lewis, but Kim has to win in Mexico to overtake Lewis, who is not playing this week.
Top nine eyeing $1 million CME Globe prize – The top nine players on the CME points list in the re-set at Naples have a shot at winning the $1 million CME Globe jackpot, but only the top nine.
Ko, Park, Lewis, Kim, Lexi Thompson, Amy Yang, So Yeon Ryu and Anna Nordqvist have secured spots among the top eight, but No. 9 Shanshan Feng is still vulnerable this week. Feng isn’t playing in Mexico.
Minjee Lee, Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi, Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen could jump into the top nine with victories. Lee and Kerr can also get among the top nine with runner-up finishes.
The top 72 in points earn the right to play in the CME Group Tour Championship. Those spots have been secured with Min Lee holding the 72nd spot.
Hannemann’s Olympic dream – At 35, Hannemann made a return to professional golf this year looking to qualify for the Olympics in Brazil next year. The dream has a special dimension to it because Hannemann is from Brazil and grew up in Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympics will be staged.
As the host nation, Brazil is assured that one woman from that country will have a place among the 60 players in the golf competition.
Hannemann is playing the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on a sponsor’s exemption. She won the NCAA Women’s Championship while at Duke in 2001, and played the LPGA for nearly six seasons before a wrist injury and surgery led her to leave the game. She moved to Boston, married a Red Sox executive and gave birth to two daughters.
The Olympics wooed her back to the Symetra Tour this year.
“It’s been very humbling, but I don’t feel like I’ve lost that edge you need to compete,” Hannemann told the New York Times. “It’s still there, but it’s taking time to get the physical and the mental parts to match up.”
The Olympic field is based on the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, with the field set in July of next year. Victoria Lovelady is the highest ranked Brazilian woman in the world at No. 544. Hannemann was once ranked as high as 109th but isn’t among the top 1,000 today. She is headed to LPGA Q-School’s final stage next month looking to climb into Olympic consideration.