World No. 2 Jin Young Ko was No. 1 when it mattered most, as the South Korean held off Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in Sunday’s final round to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the season-long Race to the CME Globe title.
Ko fired a 9-under 63 with nine birdies and no bogeys at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., to emerge from the pack and win the record $1.5 million grand prize. She entered the day tied for the lead with Hataoka, Nelly Korda and France’s Celine Boutier before wrapping up with a 23-under 265.
Ko entered as the defending champion after winning the event by five strokes last season. The win also earned Ko the Rolex Player of the Year award.
“I played with great other players, Nasa and Nelly, and they has a lot of fans out there, so I (wasn’t) nervous on the course,” Ko said. “I hit a lot of great shots and putts as well. So it’s so proud of myself … I would say Player of the Year is best, and it’s really tough to get Player of the Year, especially this year with Nelly.”
It was Ko’s fifth win of the season, four of which have come in the past 10 weeks between the U.S. and South Korea. Earlier this season, Ko broke a record held by Tiger Woods by playing 114 straight holes without a bogey or worse.
Ko made just one bogey over her final three rounds at Tiburon.
She was also fighting through a wrist injury. She called herself “eight out of 10” on Sunday, saying the pain level had gone down compared to Saturday.
“I didn’t practice at all for this week before the tee off, even Monday or Tuesday,” Ko said, “but I had — I still played really well this week, so I couldn’t believe how (I was) hitting so straight every shots and every putt made it.”
Hataoka made three birdies over her final four holes to put pressure on Ko. Hataoka carded a 64 for the second straight day to finish 22 under, one behind Ko.
“I have one thing in my mind, routine,” Hataoka said. “There were few times where there was a lot of pressure, but I was able to think simple, which helped me a lot today.”
Boutier (68) and Mina Harigae (67) tied for third at 18 under. Korda, the world No. 1, had the highest final-round score of the four co-leaders, coming in with a 69 to tie for fifth at 17 under with Megan Khang and Australia’s Minjee Lee.
“Honestly it was definitely the Jin Young Ko Show today,” Korda said. “It was really cool to witness. Obviously I wish I could have kind of given it a better run, but in all, I think I had a great year. So I’m just going to kind of look back on that and enjoy it. But today was — she just played amazing golf. There is not much you can do. Just sit back and watch honestly.”
Lexi Thompson (68) finished alone in eighth place at 16 under.
The tournament’s field of 60 was determined via the LPGA Tour’s season-long points race. Then, the points were reset and all 60 players had a shot to win the Race to the CME Globe crown.