Ko, Park battle for millions, awards at LPGA finale


Lydia Ko vs. Inbee Park

They just might win all the big prizes at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.

It seems right that so many of the important awards and honors that will be handed out this week come down to these two, because their shadows have fallen hard over the season.

With her victory Sunday at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Park claimed her fifth LPGA title of the year, equaling Ko for most on tour. Park’s victories include two majors, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Ko’s includes her first major victory, the Evian Championship, where she closed with a final-round 63, maybe the greatest round ever played in a women’s major.

Ko and Park aren’t just 1-2 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. They’re 1-2 in every statistical category or competition that really matters to LPGA pros with Ko in front of Park in all of those except scoring.

With everything that’s at stake for these two this week, including the $1 million Race to the CME Globe jackpot, you could argue there’s more pressure on them than there was in any major this year.

There are also significant LPGA Hall of Fame ramifications in play.

While Park brings winning momentum to Tiburon Golf Club, Ko brings her own good vibes after taking off last week to gain some extra rest for the season finale. Ko won the CME Group Tour Championship last year and also claimed the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

Here’s an overview of what’s at stake in Naples:

Rolex Player of the Year Award – The LPGA doesn’t decide its Player of the Year by a vote among tour membership the way the PGA Tour does. The LPGA’s award is decided in a points-based competition.

Ko, 18, will be looking to make more history this week as she bids to become the youngest LPGA Player of the Year. She became the youngest Rolex world No. 1 back in February and the youngest woman to win a major in September at Evian.

Ko will be in the driver’s seat at Tiburon as she leads Park by three points in the Rolex Player of the Year race. A victory is worth 30 points with second place worth 12 points, third worth nine and points awarded down to a single point for 10th place.

Park, 27, is seeking to win her second POY award. She also claimed it in 2013, when she won the first three majors of the year. Park has to finish at least eighth this week to have a shot at the award. If she finishes eighth and Ko doesn’t record a top-10 finish, they’ll tie for the POY award.

Vare Trophy – With back-to-back birdies to close out a 64 in her victory Sunday in Mexico City, Park moved ahead of Ko with the LPGA’s best scoring average. With a 69.43 scoring average, Park is .016 points ahead of Ko.

Ko is seeking to become the youngest winner of the Vare Trophy while Park is seeking to win the award for the second time in her career. Park won her first in 2012.

Money title – Ko tops the money list with $2,758,417 in earnings. Park is second with $2,570,096. The first-place check Sunday is $500,000. Park won the money title in 2012 and ’13.

Race to the CME Globe – The $1 million jackpot goes to the winner of the season-long points race.

Ko won the CME Group Tour Championship last year and also claimed the CME Globe jackpot, walking away with $1.5 million, the biggest single payday in the history of women’s golf.

Only the top nine point earners coming into the CME Group Tour Championship have a shot at the $1 million jackpot. The points are being re-set for this week.

Here’s the top nine in points in the re-set:

1. Lydia Ko: 5,000
2. Inbee Park: 4,500
3. Stacy Lewis: 4,000
4. Sei Young Kim: 3,600
5. Lexi Thompson: 3,200
6. So Yeon Ryu: 2,800
7. Amy Yang: 2,400
8. Anna Nordqvist: 2,000
9. Shanshan Feng: 1,600

By virtue of ranking among the top three in points, Ko, Park and Lewis have guaranteed that they will win the $1 million jackpot if they win the CME Group Tour Championship.

A victory in Naples is worth 3,500 CME points, second place is worth 2,400 points, third is worth 2,200 points, fourth is worth 1,800 points ... with points awarded down to 10 for finishing 72nd.

Yang, Nordqvist and Feng must win the CME Group Tour Championship to have a shot at the jackpot. If Feng wins the tournament, she needs Ko to finish 55th or worse to claim the jackpot, Park to finish 10th or worse, Lewis to finish 7th or worse and on like that for the eight players ahead of her in the points standings.

Hall of Fame – Park’s victory Sunday earned her another LPGA Hall of Fame point, moving her to 26 HOF points, one short of qualifying for induction.

Park doesn’t even have to win this week to reach the 27-point requirement. She has three ways to get the point she needs. A victory is worth one point, the Rolex Player of the Year Award is worth one point and the Vare Trophy is worth one point.

If Park reaches 27 this week, she will still have some work to do to meet all the LPGA Hall of Fame criteria. She needs to be an active member of the LPGA for 10 full seasons to be eligible for induction. This is her ninth full season.