There is much the PGA Tour could learn from their sisters at the LPGA, starting with the format for this week’s CME Group Tour Championship.
Like a proper professional golf tournament, the LPGA’s season ending tournament sees 60 players tee off and, after 72 holes, the golfer with the lowest score wins. Everything.
No handicaps to reward ‘season long performance’, simply win the tournament and win the year long prize.
What a refreshing (and simple) way to end a season.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: She only played four events in 2020 but Jin Young Ko certainly made them count. After a runner-up finish at the U.S. Women’s Open the week before, she blitzed the field by five shots in Florida to take home the US$1.1 million winner’s cheque.
COURSE: The Tiburon Golf Club Gold Course is one of two at the Naples, Florida, resort, both designed by Greg Norman.
RIGHT: Jin Young Ko claimed the spoils in 2020 and is in magnificent form as the final event of the LPGA season arrives. PHOTO: Michael Reaves/Getty Images.
The venue is no stranger to professional golf with the QBE Shootout (formerly the Shark Shootout) played here since 2001.
The first iteration of this tournament was played at grand Cypress Resort but it has called Tiburon Golf Club home since 2012.
The course itself is archetypal Florida in look and playing characteristics despite revetted bunkers being dotted around the course.
The playing corridors are relatively wide for a field of this standard with lots of short grass around the greens offering ground game options (though the Bermuda grass can make that a tricky proposition.)
While there is lots of room to play, those who do miss fairways will usually pay a high price with water, sandy waste areas and pine straw covered scrub the options.
While the course doesn’t sit hard up against any waterways it is near enough to the Gulf of Mexico to feel the effects of constant breezes which can get gusty at times.
For all that, scoring tends to be good with the winner each of the last three years reaching 18-under-par and all nine tournaments held here retuning winning totals double digits in the red.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: All year we have waited for the Nelly Korda/Jin Young Ko showdown and what a fitting end to the year it would be if it was to unfold here.
With four tournament wins apiece for the year and constant swapping of the World No.1 ranking, it’s hard to split these two for Player of the Year.
Korda holds a slight edge courtesy of winning the Olympic Gold medal but would a successful title defence for Ko trump that achievement? It would certainly make it interesting.
Much as most in the golf world would like to see a face-off between the world’s top two ranked players history tells us there are plenty of others who could spoil that particular party.
Our own Hannah Green, already US$1 million richer thanks to winning the AON Risk/Reward challenge last week, was runner-up here last year and arrives well rested after a three week break.
While it has been a lacklustre second half of the season, the West Australian will be keen to finish the year strong and has to be in the conversation this week.
2019 winner Sei Young Kim was also at less than her best for most of 2021 but after some superb golf last week to make a four-way play-off she comes to a familiar venue with plenty of confidence.
She shared runner-up honours with Green last year and in current form it would be a surprise if she wasn’t contending for the title late Sunday.
Also part of that play-off was the resurgent Lydia Ko, a winner in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago and a former champion here also.
Ko has put her much talked about slump well and truly behind her in 2021 and a victory in the final event of the season would be a fitting exclamation point.
She was T5 here last year and the winner in 2014 so the course is to her liking, the only question mark may be fatigue from a hectic recent schedule.
72-HOLE RECORD: 269 (-19, Charley Hull, 2016)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No Australian has won this event.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Hannah Green, Minjee Lee and Su Oh.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 12pm –2pm)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 12pm –2pm)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 11.30am – 1pm)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 503 11am – 1pm)
*AEDT, check local guides