NAPLES, Fla. — The door was open for Lexi Thompson, but it quickly shut in her face in the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship on Sunday. Jin Young Ko ended up doing that emphatically to everybody, winning by five.
Thompson stood on the tee of the par-5 No. 14, one behind Ko and tied for second. But Ko birdied Nos. 12 and 13, and Thompson put her approach well short and into a greenside bunker, then couldn’t get up and down.
“I just laid sod over a pitch,” Thompson said. “That’s basically what happened. I hit my layup about 20 yards too far. The wind got it and hit a rock, so I got way too close. No excuse. I just laid sod over it.”
Then she looked at the leaderboard and saw Ko running away with the title.
“I saw she was at 17-under so I’m like, ‘I don’t feel as bad now,’” said Thompson of Ko, who finished at 18 under to win by five. “I was so far behind anyway. It is what it is.”
Thompson, the 2017 Race to the CME Globe winner and 2018 tournament winner in Naples, birdied three of her first eight holes, including Nos. 7 and 8, to move up the leaderboard. But she missed a short par putt on No. 9 to bogey that par-4 for the fourth day in a row.
Following the bogey on No. 14, she had birdie opportunities but couldn’t get any to drop, parring the final four holes. Thursday’s first-round, 7-under 65 seemed long ago. She played the final 54 holes in 4 under.
And her streak of at least one win on the LPGA ended at seven.
Still, she had her best finish since a fourth at the ANA Inspiration in September. Her only other top-10 finish in 12 events was the first one, a tie for seventh at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
And she was coming off a missed cut at the final major, the U.S. Women’s Open. So the finish was a positive, all things considered.
“II mean, I absolutely love it here,” she said. “Not only is it only an hour and a half from my house so I can drive here, which is always nice, but the course is always in great shape for us. We got great weather once again.
“Just the atmosphere of the whole event. Hospitality we get is unbelievable. And unfortunately we didn’t have fans, but we had a few out there, so we did what we could.”
Kang wins Vare Trophy
Danielle Kang tied for 30th, but still easily won the Vare Trophy for the lowest stroke average of the season.
“Feels like a pretty solid accomplishment in 2020, to be honest, to be the low scoring average of the entire tour,” she said. “Beginning of the week we had a lot of interviews about, you know, just media questions about having the opportunity to be Player of the Year with the Vare Trophy as well. With all that in mind, people said that if you do this, you will lock in the Vare Trophy.
Kang did more than that — she helped raise over $37,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After a pretournament interview that included childhood cancer survivor Mary Browder, Kang had pledged $1,000 for every birdie she made this week, and made 16, and there was also a pledge account online that raised additional funds.
“I don’t think there would be like just like season of giving,” she said. “I always say give when you can. I was really inspired by how Mary Browder spoke about St. Jude.
“… Being able to play for something and knowing that we can make a difference and that people — social media can be very negative, but there were a lot of people that wanted to be involved and wanted to do that fun stuff with us.”
Leaderboard of champions
Besides winner Jin Young Ko, the leaderboard was filled with champions — Sei Young Kim (T-2), Lydia Ko (T-5), Lexi (T-5), Ariya Jutanugarn (T-10), Cristie Kerr (T-10) and Charley Hull (T-13) — from Naples.
And there were major championship winners Hannah Green (KMPG Women’s PGA) and Brooke Henderson (also Women’s PGA), and Georgia Hall (Women’s British Open) who finished tied for second, and both tied for second, respectively. Kim, both Kos, Thompson, Jutanugarn, and Kerr also have won majors.
— LPGA (@LPGA) December 20, 2020
Lydia Ko hasn’t got herself back to where she was as the dominant player in the world, but the tie for fifth was the her fifth top-10 of the season, and third in four events; she tied for 13th at the Women’s Open.
“It’s really been uphill for me since after the restart,” she said. “I was able to play really solid. I think my worst finish was the first tournament back at Inverness.
“Overall I played really solid. I had a few weeks especially at the start where I wasn’t finishing off the tournament very well, struggling in the last round, but I think I was able to kind of overcome that and play much better the last few events.”
Hall played with Kim and Jin Young Ko.
“It’s No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, so no better place to be,” Hall said. “I know I had to par the last (Saturday) to get in the final group, which I really wanted to do.
“I think I wasn’t really nervous. I handled the pressure pretty well. It’s just the more, more times I can keep putting myself in a position like that I can gain more experience.”
Lincicome closes with 67
Brittany Lincicome didn’t play well in the U.S. Women’s Open and almost played her way out of the CME Group Tour Championship. But she finished 71st in the Race to the CME Globe, and with three players ahead of her not playing, secured her spot.
Sunday, she fired a 5-under 67 and moved 21 spots into a tie for 13th.
“It’s been such an up and down start, stop, start, stop kind of thing,” she said. “It was nice to finally get one really good round under my belt. Unfortunately it was the last day of the last event. Obviously I wish there was more events now.”
But she has something else to take up her focus. Her daughter Emery is 17 months old.
“It will be cool to hang out with Emery and experience a lot of firsts now that she’s aware of what’s happening,” Lincicome said. “She already opened a couple presents that she wasn’t supposed to. So it’s going to be fun to drive around and let her see some lights.”
Sharp finishes, well, sharp
Alena Sharp had the round of the tournament, closing with an 8-under 64 to beat a pair of 65s earlier in the week by Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko. Sharp started 69th, and moved up into a tie for 46th.
“Coming into today I’ve had eight three-putts, so I hit it well yesterday and just couldn’t make a putt; had a bad attitude,” she said. “Then I came into today and just thinking, ‘OK, it’s the last round of the year. I get to go home tonight. Going to get our Christmas tree tomorrow. I just played with no fear, no worries, and made a few birdies early.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/20/lpga-cme-group-tour-championship-lexi-thompson-danielle-kang/