It’s a CME Cinderella story. Four players slept on the 54-hole co-lead, but only one came out on top with the $1.5 million winner’s prize.
After battling a wrist injury that kept her from practicing at the CME Group Tour Championship, Jin Young Ko still proved nothing can hold her back. Ko scorched Tiburon Golf Club with a sizzling 63, which tied her career-best score for 18 holes and set the new tournament scoring record at -23. The win also secured Ko her second Rolex Player of the Year award, as she becomes the first Korean player to achieve the feat twice. It is her 12th career victory and fifth of the season, becoming the first player to record five wins in a season since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016. She is the third Korean to win five or more times in an LPGA Tour season, along with Sei Re Pak and Inbee Park.
“I don’t have pressure on the course. I just want to better play than the other players. So, I did it, and, yeah,” said Ko, who had more wins (five) than rounds in the 70s (four) in her last nine events. “Also, I’m happy to make like my best career score today, 63; 64 was my best score, record, but I crushed it and it’s so happy.”
Ko hit 63 straight greens in regulation to finish the week, with her last missed green in regulation on No. 9 in the first round. She recorded only one bogey over her last 63 holes played with 24 birdies in that stretch. Nine of those came on Sunday, including six on her front nine, closing with a 30 as she made the turn. When asked about the most important shot from the day, Ko said there were three.
“Number one is No. 3 hole, second shot with the 7-iron. And number two on No. 8, par-3. I got maybe three feet. Yep, with a controlled 9-iron,” said Ko. “And No. 17, second shot with the 6-iron. I got two on so two-putt and made birdie.”
Ko’s season was one for the ages. Despite no major championship titles, Ko walks away with the largest prize in women’s golf, a scoring average of 68.774, five victories and Rolex Player of the Year. But, the 26-year-old only has one thing on her mind this offseason. “I want to keep the golf clubs at a distance and not think about golf and get a good sleep. Just want to put potato chips in my stomach and watch Netflix.”
Nasa Hataoka put up a fight on the final day to finish second at -22 after posting an 8-under 64 that included nine birdies. It was her second-consecutive 64 of the event. Mina Harigae and two-time LPGA Tour winner Celine Boutier finished in a tie for third at -18. Megan Khang, along with 2021 major champions Nelly Korda and Minjee Lee, tied for fifth at -17. Korda, who was among the 54-hole co-leaders with Ko, Hataoka and Boutier, finished her season averaging 4.90 birdies-or-better per round. It’s the best single-season rate for any player with 40 or more rounds played in the last 30 LPGA Tour seasons.