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LPGA: Season-long race for 2014; $1M bonus

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Luis Figo on the second tee during the second round of the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the Championship Links at Carnoustie on October 3, 2014 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)  - 

The LPGA’s new Race to the CME Globe was unveiled Wednesday as a season-long competition for the biggest winner’s prize in women’s golf.

A $1 million check will await the winner of a new points-based race that will run from start to finish of the 2014 season.

The race begins with the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in two weeks and continues until its conclusion at the re-named season finale, the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. The season finale was played as the CME Group Titleholders the last three years.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan delivered expanded playing opportunities with the release of the 2014 tour schedule late last year, a schedule that features 33 events, five more than were played in 2013. The Race to the CME Globe comes as a bonus.

“It’s a bow on the present,” Whan said.

The CME Group Tour Championship will continue to be played as a 72-hole stroke-play event with $500,000 going to the champion. The Race to the CME Globe will conclude as a separate competition within the tournament, one that will be decided by total points rather than strokes.

The LPGA isn’t calling its new points race a playoff, but the season-finale will have a post-season feel with two trophies at stake in Naples Nov. 20-23.

“We’ll sort of have a one-game playoff, a win or go home playoff,” Whan said.

LPGA pros will have more incentive to make every finish count with points meaning so much at season’s end.

“I love the concept,” said Paige Mackenzie, a player director on the LPGA Board and "Morning Drive" contributor. “It’s amazing how far the LPGA has come in the last few years, and to be able to play for $1 million, and potentially walk away with $1.5 million, is incredible.”

Here are the Race to the CME Globe highlights:

• The LPGA will award 500 points to all the winners of its regular events with 625 points going to the winners of its major championships. Points will be awarded to the top 70 players and ties at every event with a cut. Points also will be awarded to the top 40 and ties at events without a cut and to the top 20 and ties at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, the smallest field on the tour schedule.

• The top 72 players on the race’s points list after the Lorena Ochoa Invitational (Nov. 13-16) will earn the right to play in the CME Group Tour Championship. Only the top nine in points, however, will go to the season finale with a chance to win the $1 million top prize.

• Only the top three point winners at the conclusion of the CME Group Tour Championship will take home money. The race’s second-place point earner will take home $150,000 with the third-place finisher taking home $100,000. Money won through the race will be unofficial for the purposes of the money list.

• Before the start of the CME Group Tour Championship, the season-long points will be reset, with the season-long leader reset to 5,000 points, second place reset to 4,500 points, third place to 4,000 with fewer points continuing down the line.

The CME Group Tour Championship winner will earn 3,500 points, second place will receive 2,400 points, third place will receive 2,200 points, with point distribution continuing to fall the lower players finish.

Whan said the reset guarantees the points race will be decided at the CME Group Tour Championship. It prevents someone from clinching the big prize before the season finale.

“We wanted to have a balance that valued season-long performance, but, obviously, we wanted to create drama and excitement for the final event,” said Jon Podany, the LPGA’s chief marketing officer. “You’ve got to play well all year. You have a clear advantage if you do, but you’ve got to finish it off at the CME Group Tour Championship.”

• Only the top three point earners going into the season finale control their destiny. If a player who is first, second or third in points wins the CME Group Tour Championship, she is guaranteed of winning the CME Globe.

• If the new Race to the CME Globe would have been in place in 2013, Inbee Park would have won the it with Shanshan Feng second and Stacy Lewis third, according to the LPGA. Feng won the CME Group Titleholders in ‘13. Na Yeon Choi would have won the CME Globe in 2012 and Yani Tseng in 2011.