NAPLES, Fla. – The Big Three haven’t settled everything yet this year.
Inbee Park may have wrapped up the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year award last week, but there are still a lot of meaningful prizes left to divvy up at this week’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders at Tiburon.
Park, Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack on tour this season. They’ve combined to win nearly half the events played (13/27). They’ve won all the majors, and they’re ranked 1-2-3 in the world.
They tee it up this week with the No. 1 ranking, the money title and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average all still hanging in the balance.
Pettersen can seize the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career this week. She’s also within reach of winning her first LPGA money title and first Vare Trophy. She could haul away a significant load of treasures with a big week.
“The remaining titles, or whatever you want to call them, are still very much on my mind,” Pettersen said.
Pettersen is just four-tenths of a point behind Park in the Rolex world ranking averages. A win will vault Pettersen to No. 1. Even a second-place finish this week might do it, depending on what Park does.
“This is not a short-term goal,” Pettersen said. “I know I’m going to get there, eventually, but I don’t want to get there and disappear. I want to get there and dominate. So, if it happens now, or if it happens in January, or if it happens in two years, I’m really laid back about it because I know I’m good enough to be there. It’s definitely one of my main goals.”
While Park is relishing being the first South Korean to win the POY, she can still sweep all the major awards. She can take home her second money title and second Vare Trophy in as many years. She can also extend her run at No. 1 to 33 weeks.
But after winning Player of the Year, Park said anything else is frosting.
“This was my only goal this year,” said Park, who won the first three major championships of the year. “I played better than last year, and I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve.”
Park leads the LPGA money list with $2,393,513 in winnings. Pettersen is second at $2,284,326 and Lewis is third at $1,894,630. The richest first-place check in women’s golf is at stake in Naples. The winner will take home $700,000.
Lewis became the first American in 18 years to win the Player of the Year last season. She can become the first American in 20 years to win the LPGA money title and the first in 19 years to win the Vare Trophy with a big finish at Tiburon.
Lewis leads the tour in scoring at 69.48, with Pettersen at 69.59 and Park at 69.90.
The Big Three don’t want to just end the year with a statement. They want to send a message into 2014.
“We’ve made each other work hard,” Lewis said earlier this month. “The three of us have definitely made each other better, I can tell you that, and I’m sure it will continue into next year as well.”