NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko took home a fortune Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.
Stacy Lewis was more than happy realizing the promise of a very special fortune cookie.
Ko, just 17, swept the big money prizes at Tiburon Golf Club, claiming the $1 million jackpot as winner of the season-long Race to the CME Globe and a $500,000 first-place check after winning the Tour Championship in a three-way playoff. Lewis swept the tour’s important awards, becoming the first American since Betsy King in 1993 to claim the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring and the official money title in the same season.
Afterward, Lewis reached into her pocket, pulling out a fortune she dug out of a fortune cookie her father handed to her the night before, while they were watching her beloved Arkansas Razorbacks win.
“I never really read into these things at all,” Lewis said. “But ...”
Lewis read the fortune: “Good news of a long awaited event will arrive soon.” She liked it so much she stuck it in her pocket before the final round Sunday.
“Pretty good omen,” Lewis said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”
Lewis claimed the Rolex Player of the Year Award for the second time in three seasons. She claimed the Vare Trophy for the second year in a row. She claimed the official money title for the first time.
“That's what I came here for,” Lewis said. “I went into the week wanting to win these three awards. The $1 million and all would've been nice, but I would take these three over $1 million any day.”
Lewis, 29, relished what the awards mean.
“The coolest part to me is I get to be on the trophies with some pretty amazing women, and be a part of history,” Lewis said. “I've said all along I don't play for the money. The money is nice, but that's not what I play for. I play to win tournaments and to play consistent golf. That's what these awards show, who plays the most consistent throughout the entire year.”
Ko made some big money, but she also made some history as well. She clinched youngest Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year before arriving this week. While the $1 million prize that comes with winning the Globe doesn’t count as official money, the $500,000 Tour Championship winner’s check does. It makes her the first rookie to win more than $2 million in a season.
“This is a pretty special week,” Ko said. “It’s a week I’ll never forget.”
Ko needed overtime to add to her remarkable resume, winning at the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff. She beat Carlota Ciganda with a par after Ciganda pulled her approach into a hazard and after Granada was eliminated when she missed a 5-foot putt for par at the second playoff hole.
Though Ko won’t turn 18 for another four months, she has now won five LPGA titles. It’s her third victory this season, equaling Lewis and Inbee Park for most this season.
At week’s start, Ko was staggered seeing $1 million stuffed into a glass cube. She thought the $16,603 she won in her professional debut here a year ago was a lot of money.
“When I saw that $1 million in the box, I was like, `Wow, I wonder who the winner of that will be?’” Ko said. “It's amazing. I've never seen that much cash in one place before.”
What’s she going to do with the $1.5 million total winnings? Ko says she would like to purchase an expensive purse that her mother has been eyeing, but she says she won’t be making any large purchase for herself.
Ko was thrilled at Sunday’s finish, Lewis relieved.
While winning the Globe and Tour Championship were nice frosting on a brilliant rookie year for Ko, Lewis desperately wanted to sweep those awards, prizes she seemed to have in hand until Park began pushing her hard the last couple months of the season. While Park was heating up at year’s end, Lewis was cooling off.
“I just feel like a ton of weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Lewis said.
Hall of Famer Beth Daniel followed Lewis around Sunday. She has been watching her from afar through this push at season’s end.
“I knew the last month her golf game wasn’t there,” Daniel said. “She gutted it out. I mean, it was a total gut-out. I told her when she walked off the 18th green here, that might have been the hardest round she’ll play her entire life.”
Meg Mallon, the four-time major championship winner, was there Sunday watching Lewis, too.
“It’s just a testament to her character that she kept fighting and didn’t give up,” Mallon said.
For Lewis and Ko, fortunes truly favored them.