NAPLES, Fla. – The stakes were high and the odds would have seemed long for anyone other than Jin Young Ko.
Her only chance for this year’s LPGA player was to win the CME Group Tour Championship. In her way, Nelly Korda was the No. 1 player in the world. If that wasn’t enough, Kos ’left wrist was ailing to the point where she only took full turns with a gap wedge on the training ground.
And then she delivered a performance that was close to perfect.
Cow putted for birdie on each hole (she went the last 63 holes on the Tiburon without missing a green in the regulations), shot 30 on the top nine to take control and closed with 9 under 63 for the tournament’s low round and a one-shot victory Sunday.
For the victory, it was some serious prey.
Ko won the richest award in women’s golf at $ 1.5 million and overtook Korda to claim the LPGA’s biggest award as player of the year.
“I can not believe it [it], “said Ko about winning the tournament again.
Cow opened with a 25-foot birdie putt that looked as light as a tap-in, and she was on her way. She hit 7-iron to 8 feet for birdie at No. 3, took the lead forever with a 10-foot wedge on the next hole and did not come close to a bogey.
She ended up winning with a shot over Nasa Hataoka from Japan that never came closer than two shots on the back nine until a birdie on the final hole to a 64.
Ko could not help but smile on the 18th green when she received the crystal trophy to win the tournament and a silver trophy as player of the year. The win was worth $ 1.5 million. The price was worth even more to her.
“So proud of myself,” Ko said. “Player of the year, it’s cool. I would say the player of the year is the best. It’s really hard to get to the player of the year, especially this year with Nelly.”
Korda’s big year of becoming a great champion, an Olympic gold medalist and reaching No. 1 on the world rankings ended with a bang. The 23-year-old American could not keep up at the start and was never a serious factor when Ko pulled off on the back nine.
“It was the Jin Young Ko show today, and honestly, it was cool to watch,” Korda said. “I just sat back and watched all day.”
Korda, whose four wins this year included the Women’s PGA Championship, finished with a 69 and looked like number five, six shots behind.
“I’m a little sad on Nelly’s behalf,” Ko said. “But I was a little luckier than her.”
A little determination helped. Ko won the season finale for the second year in a row and it took everything she had.
She started the final round in a four-way draw leading with Korda, Hataoka and Celine Boutier and quickly left everyone in her wake with four birdies on the first six holes.
Hataoka tried to stay with her early with a couple of birdies, but her chances were damaged on the par-5 sixth hole. Cow was about 15 yards over the green and hit a beautiful pitch to get the birdie. Hataoka was right on the green and dumped a delicate pitch into the bunker, leading to bogey.
But she was the only one who challenged Ko. Hataoka earned $ 480,000 as second place. She earned $ 594,000 in second place at the US Women’s Open.
Cow injured her left wrist for the first time in May due to what she described as too much exercise. She continued to play and it got worse, and she said earlier in the week that she might have withdrawn if it was not the last event of the year.
It made the performance even more remarkable. She never seemed to miss.
Kos’ tee shot on the ninth hole Thursday went into a bunker near the lip and she could only burst out to the fairway, leading to bogey. That was the last time she missed a green on the Tiburon.
It was a relentless achievement. She chose a goal. She hit the shot. And then she let her clean cuddle take care of the rest.
Lydia Ko finished with a 64 to finish the Item Trophy for the lowest scoring average. Jin Young Ko and Korda had lower averages but did not meet the required minimum of 70 rounds.
The South Korean star finished at 23 under 265 for his 12th career victory. The LPGA Hall of Fame is her ultimate goal, which requires 27 points. She picked up one point to win and one point as Player of the Year, giving her 17 points in just four years on the LPGA Tour.
It was a resounding end to the year for Ko, who along with her wrist injury had to cope with the loss of her grandmother in the spring, which made her briefly look for motivation.
She found it in style. Ko won five of the last nine tournaments she played on the LPGA Tour, becoming the first five-time winner on the LPGA since 2016.