The “Jin Young Ko Show” dominates the final day of the LPGA Tour season as a final-round 63 earns her back-to-back CME Group Tour Championship and Race to CME Globe titles and Player of the Year honours.
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 21/11/21 10:06pm
Jin Young Ko fired a high-quality 63 to ensure a successful defence of her CME Group Tour Championship and Race to CME Globe titles in Florida.
Even world No 1 Nelly Korda admitted the final day of the LPGA Tour season turned into the “Jin Young Ko” show, although she was pushed to the wire by Nasa Hataoka, who birdied three of the last four holes to finish one shot behind.
Korda had started the round in a four-way share of the lead with Ko, Hataoka and Celine Boutier, but the American could not keep pace with her playing partners in the final threeball and settled for a 69 and a top-five finish.
Race to CME Globe standings
Korda’s disappointing performance also saw Ko overtake her in the running for LPGA Player of the Year honours, while her $1.5m winner’s cheque was also the largest ever banked in women’s golf history.
Ko got the start that none of her rivals could match as she blitzed the outward nine for six birdies at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, and she was in position to be more conservative on the back nine in order to protect her lead.
The 26-year-old did pick up three more shots at 11, 13 and another at 17 which effectively left closest challenger Hataoka with too much ground to make up, with the Japanese star’s birdie, birdie finish not enough to deny Ko the title.
Ko’s win capped another extraordinary year on the LPGA Tour, with five wins, a further seven top-10 finishes and just one missed cut in her 19 starts, winning over $3.5m in prize money, although she lost out to Korda at the Olympics and in the world rankings, while Korda also landed her maiden major at the Women’s PGA Championship in June.
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“Nelly played really well and had a great year,” said Ko. “Gold medal, major win, and three more wins this year. So I feel a little sad for Nelly, but I was a little luckier than her so I got the Player of the Year this year and that’s a really great honour.
“I played with great other players in Nasa and Nelly, and they had a lot of fans out there but I didn’t get nervous on the course. I hit a lot of great shots and putts.
“So I’m so proud of myself, and being Player of the Year is cool. I would say it is best, and it’s really tough to get Player of the Year, especially this year with Nelly.”
Olympic champion Korda was magnanimous in defeat and insisted there was little she could do to prevent Ko’s march to the title, and she tempered her disappointment by reflecting on a season of outstanding achievements on her part.
“It was definitely the Jin Young Ko Show today, it was really cool to witness,” said Korda. “Obviously I wish I could have kind of given it a better run, but today she just played amazing golf. There is not much you can do apart from just sit back and watch.
“But I’ve I had a good year, and I’m just going to go back and kind of think about my year and kind of let it kind of soak in, which I’m super excited about, and get ready for next year.
“I feel so great about getting to world No 1, winning a major championship, and getting a gold medal. It’s honestly been crazy,” added Korda, who will partner her father and former Australian Open tennis champion Petr in the PNC Championship next month.
“I’m playing the PNC event with my dad in December so I’m not going to get much time off. I told him that I’m going to sacrifice my off-season for him so he better be practising. He’s carrying the team!”
LPGA Tour Golf
November 22, 2021, 2:30pm
Korda finished a shot ahead of Lexi Thompson and two better than Lydia Ko, while 2016 champion Charley Hull raced into the top 15 with a closing 64 that lifted her to 13 under, while Georgia Hall crashed out of the top 20 after a 72.
It was also a disappointing final round for Solheim Cup sensation Leona Maguire as she closed with a 70, but a tie for 12th in her first appearance in the LPGA’s season-finale was a commendable performance.