Spreading the Wealth


LPGA Tour _newORLANDO, Fla. – Na Yeon Choi made a run at winning all five of the big prizes up for grabs Sunday in the LPGA’s season-ending event, but otherworldly forces were too formidably stacked against her.

Domination just wasn’t going to be allowed this season.

The golf gods spread the wealth all year, and Sunday’s LPGA Tour Championship finish would be no different.

Choi arrived at Grand Cypress as the only player who could win the LPGA Tour Championship, the Rolex Player of the Year award, the Vare Trophy, the LPGA money-winning title and claim the No. 1 world ranking.

She did well walking away with two of the prizes: the money title and the Vare Trophy.

A sweep wouldn’t have made sense in a season in which nobody could pull away as the game’s next dominant force.

With Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa having dominated the women’s game the last 16 seasons, the LPGA looks like it’s going to remain a free-for-all for awhile longer.

Though there was much hype about all the hardware up for grabs this week, Maria Hjorth offered up the only surprise in Sunday’s finish. The players who arrived holding the top positions in the world ranking, Rolex POY race, Vare Trophy standings and money list all ended up prevailing in those categories.

Here’s how the day’s big prizes Sunday were doled out:

LPGA Tour Championship – A shot behind Amy Yang at day’s start, Maria Hjorth must have felt like she had to beat Yang twice Sunday to claim the $225,000 first-place check. After Yang quadruple bogeyed the third hole, Hjorth had a three-shot lead. Yang, though, came back strong. When Yang birdied the 13th and Hjorth bogeyed there, they were all even. Hjorth ultimately had to make a 10-foot putt for par at the final hole to avoid a playoff after Yang made birdie there. It’s the fourth and most important victory of Hjorth’s 13-year career.

Rolex Player of the Year – Cristie Kerr and Choi needed to win Sunday to claim the award, but Yani Tseng hoisted the trophy at day’s end when neither player could win. Kerr tied for third, Choi tied for fifth.

Choi was trying to become the first South Korean to be the LPGA’s Player of the Year. Kerr was trying to become the first American to win the honor since Beth Daniel in 1994. Instead, Tseng’s the first Taiwanese player and the second youngest player to win it.

Tseng won three times this season, two of them majors (Kraft Nabisco and Ricoh Women’s British Open). Lorena Ochoa won the last of her four POY titles with three victories last season.

At 21, Tseng’s the second youngest player to win the award. Nancy Lopez was six days younger when she claimed the award in 1978.

Afterward, Tseng gave special thanks to her parents as she accepted her award. She cried wrapping her arms around her mother, Yu-Yun Yang, with her father, Mao Hsin, looking on.

“In our family, we never say, `I love you’ to each other,” Tseng said. “I couldn’t remember the last time we hugged so tight.”

Rolex No. 1 world ranking – Jiyai Shin will be No. 1 for the sixth consecutive week. Since Ochoa retired and lost the top ranking at the end of April, the No. 1 world ranking’s changed hands nine times. Shin’s held it 16 weeks, Miyazato 11 weeks and Kerr five weeks.

Vare Trophy – Choi won the award, finishing two hundredths of a point ahead of Kerr.

LPGA money-winning title – When Shin missed the cut Saturday, Choi locked up this honor. Choi finished with $1,871,166 in official earnings.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell