The Preview: CME Group Tour Championship – Golf Australia Magazine
While the LIV Golf spectacle has overshadowed so much in the game – including the achievements of its best women – that doesn’t detract from the feats themselves.
From Lydia Ko’s stunning play all year (21 starts, 21 cuts made and 13 top-10 finishes) to the emergence of Thai teen superstar Atthaya Thitikul, the LPGA has once again dished up a compelling year of golf.
And this week it comes to a conclusion with the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida where the Player of the Year will be crowned.
Ko leads that race by a single point from Australia’s own Minjee Lee while Brooke Henderson and the aforementioned Thitikul are both mathematically in with a chance of claiming the crown.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Lydia is the Ko of the moment in 2022 but 12 months ago it was another Ko, Jin Young, who seemed invincible.
The then World No.2 put on a final round clinic to come from behind and win both the tournament and the Player of the Year honours.
RIGHT: Jin Young Ko continued her hot run to claim the trophy at this event last year. PHOTO: Michael Reaves/Getty Images.
Ko’s nine-under 63 on Sunday capped one of the more memorable runs in golf with the Korean finding 63 consecutive greens for the week and posting 15 birdies in a 31 hole stretch.
COURSE: There is some irony in the fact that both the DP World Tour finale in Dubai and the LPGA season ending event are both being played on Greg Norman designed courses given the Shark’s controversial position as CEO of LIV Golf.
This layout, the Gold Course at Tiburon Golf Club, is one of two on site, both designed by Norman.
The Gold course has played host to the LPGA finale since 2012 and it is a layout the players clearly have a liking for.
Jin Young Ko’s 63 on Sunday last year was only one shot better than three other players with Lydia Ko, Charley Hull and runner-up Nasa Hataoka all signing for eight-under 64.
The tournament scoring record prior to 2021 was set by Charley Hull in 2016 at 19-under-par but Ko easily surpassed that, finishing the week at 23-under the card.
There’s no reason to expect anything less than a low scoring affair again this year, particularly given some of the recent form shown by the game’s top players.
RELATED: So-called expert tips for this week
PLAYERS TO WATCH: After a stunning 2021 season things have been a struggle for Nelly Korda in 2022. Until last week, that was.
The American’s win at the Pelican tournament puts her right in the discussion for this week as her record at Tiburon is enviable, to say the least.
While yet to win here she has four top-10 finishes in five starts including a runner-up and T3 in 2018 and 2019.
With her confidence boosted after last week’s victory, she is likely to be a threat this week.
However, it is New Zealand’s Lydia Ko who will rightly attract most of the attention this week after what has been a truly remarkable season.
A former winner of the tournament, Tiburon is a course where she is comfortable with six top-10 finishes in her nine starts here.
The motivation to grab Player of the Year honours will be strong and with such a narrow lead over Minjee Lee she will be ‘on’ from the first tee Thursday.
Lee is not without a chance herself, of course, despite a slow second half of the season and a less than stellar record at this course.
Seven times she has qualified for the field but has a best finish of T5, that coming last year, so she will be keen to improve on that.
While the big names will rightfully attract the bulk of the attention there are some lesser known players worth keeping an eye on, chief among them Mina Harigae.
T3 last year and fourth in 2020, Harigae is statistically among the five best performers at Tiburon.
Though her recent play has been less than her best, players at this level often find another gear when returning to a site where they have played well before and Harigae certainly fits that mould.
72-HOLE RECORD: 265 (-23, Jin Yong Ko, 2021)
18-HOLE RECORD: 62 (-10, Lydia Ko, 2016)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No Australian has won this event.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Minjee Lee and Hannah Green.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 506 6am – 9am)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 506 6am – 9am)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 506 6am – 8am)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 506 5am – 8am)
*AEDT, check local guides