South Korea’s Sei Young Kim remained atop the leaderboard at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, shooting 5-under 67 Friday to keep her two-shot lead in Naples, Fla.
Kim, 26, carded one bogey and six birdies at Tiburon Golf Club to lead at 12-under par, two shots better than Germany’s Caroline Masson and three shots ahead of both Canada’s Brooke Henderson and American Nelly Korda in the 60-player, no-cut competition.
“I shot pretty solid round today,” said Kim, a nine-time LPGA title winner and already a two-time winner in 2019. “My shots and putting wasn’t anything bad today. Yeah, I think I had a lot of chances for birdie today, but I couldn’t make a couple last holes. Yeah, pretty good today.”
Masson, who finished tied for second at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA in her last outing three weeks ago, followed up her opening round 68 with a bogey-free 66.
Henderson, who is second in the Race to the CME Globe — a season-long points competition decided this week — rebounded from a double bogey on her opening hole to card seven birdies, including five over six holes on the back, and finish with a 67. She stands tied for third at 9 under with Korda, who shot 68.
“Yeah, you know, it was really unfortunate, No. 1,” said Henderson, who currently resides in Naples. “It wasn’t very much fun, but I wanted to get it back on the front nine, wanted to get it back to even, and that was really key for me, I think.
“I wasn’t hitting it that great, but then on the back nine I made a long putt on 12 and that really started to get things rolling, and I had a great crowd out there today, as well, which is always really fun. And I started to make some birdies there, and it just seemed like I could make everything. So the last like six holes were really fun.”
World No. 1 and CME Globe race leader Jin Young Ko of South Korea shot 69 on Friday and stands tied for 23rd at 4 under. Not only is Ko leading the CME Globe standings, but also she is poised to win the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average of the season. According to the LPGA, Ko needs to finish 1-over par or better in Naples to finish the season with the lowest scoring average by a Korean player in LPGA Tour history. Sung Hyun Park currently holds the record with an average of 69.2471 set in 2017.
Ko also has a chance to capture the 2019 money title. All top 10 players on the 2019 LPGA official money list have a chance at the title this week, but Ko leads fellow South Korean Jeongeun Lee6 by more than $720,000. Lee6 could win the title with a victory at the season finale, which features a $1.5 million first-place prize.
Defending champion Lexi Thompson, who is in ninth in the Race to the CME Globe, shot 67 to move into a tie for sixth place at 7 under with China’s Yu Liu (66) and Jessica Korda (67).