21 November 2022: The biggest winner’s check in the history of women’s golf belongs to Lydia Ko after her wire-to-wire victory at the 2022 season-finale CME Group Tour Championship. Ko, who is now a 19-time LPGA champion, shot a 2-under 70 on Sunday to finish at -17 overall and two strokes ahead of third-round co-leader Leona Maguire. With her win, the Kiwi also clinched the 2022 Player of the Year award for the second time in her career and the Vare Trophy for the second consecutive season.
“To be the Player of the Year and to win the Vare Trophy again and to win the CME Group Tour Championship, it’s a dream come true. To be able to do it in front of family and my team, you know, it’s a very special one,” said Ko, who is also now only two points shy of the necessary 27 for induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame. “As much as I’m excited that I have won, I’m also excited for some time off and get ready to become a bride soon.”
It took just one round for Ko to set herself apart as she led from day one, managing the gusty conditions that plagued the field throughout the week better than anyone. It looked like the Kiwi could easily run away with it after shooting 65-66 in the first two days, until Maguire made the most of Moving Day with a 9-under 63, the best score of the week.
Tied at the top heading into the final day, Ko’s bogey on No. 1 on Sunday gave Maguire an early lead, but the Kiwi made up for it with two birdies on the front while the Irishwoman kept it level. With Ko just one stroke ahead at the turn, both players made pars until they ran into trouble on the par-5 14th, each making bogey after hitting their second shots into the water and taking drops. Ko made two final birdies on 16 and 17 to edge out Maguire for her third title of the season.
“I think internally I was excited, but I tried to stay calm. Even down to the last hole, I just wanted to play my golf and make sure that it gets handled in my hands and not, like, somebody else’s,” said Ko.
Anna Nordqvist landed herself a solo third finish after a 5-under 67 to close out her 11th appearance in the Tour’s season finale. After making just one birdie on No. 7 on the front nine, the Swede posted six birdies, one par and two bogeys in her season-closing nine holes to get best result on Tour since her win at the 2021 AIG Women’s Open.
“I’m not going to lie, this year has been a hard year on the greens. I feel like ball striking-wise it’s probably been the most consistent year I’ve had in my career. But, the last couple of weeks wasn’t really going a good direction,” said Nordqvist. “So my husband helped me a little bit earlier in the week and just focusing on speed. I think it slowed down the greens a little bit today because of the wind. I left myself a little bit short on a few of those, but I feel like I just put myself in good positions into the greens, so I had some good looks.”
Georgia Hall’s Sunday 67 was enough to close out the CME Group Tour Championship in a tie for fourth with fellow major champion, Jeongeun Lee6. LPGA Tour winner Pajaree Anannarukarn finished with a 2-under 70 in the final round to reach double digits at -10 overall, while Hyo Joo Kim, Brooke Henderson and Gemma Dryburgh each finished in a tie for seventh at -9, while Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda tied for 10th at -8 along with the reigning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Atthaya Thitikul and Tour winner Celine Boutier. Defending champion Jin Young Ko finished in a tie for 33rd at -1, after carding rounds of 72-75-69-71 throughout the final week of the season.
Player of the Year
Lydia Ko also won the 2022 Vare Trophy for recording the season’s lowest scoring average of 68.988. Her season-long scoring average is the second-lowest Vare Trophy-winning scoring average in Tour history, behind Annika Sorenstam’s 68.70 in 2002. Sorenstam and Ko are the only two players to win the Vare Trophy with a scoring average in the 68s. Ko is the 12th player in LPGA Tour history to win the award in consecutive seasons and the 15th player to win the trophy more than once.
With the CME Group Tour Championship victory, the Rolex Player of the Year honor and the Vare Trophy, Ko now has 25 points toward qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame, two points shy of the 27 needed to be inducted.
“I feel like it’s really difficult to compare, like, when I won the Player of the Year in 2015 to now. I don’t even — I don’t do stats very much, so I don’t even know what it is actually by numbers, but this year has been special,” said Ko following her win at the CME Group Tour Championship. “To win again at the Gainbridge so early in the season after winning in LOTTE last year, especially when I didn’t feel like I was ready, it kind of came to me as a surprise. Winning in Korea was special at a place where I was born, and it was my goal to have won there once. And to kind of do that, it was like a bucket-list thing.
You know, coming into these two events in the Florida stretch because I had won in Korea, I wanted to not have too high expectations. And obviously I wanted to end the season on a high but, you know, know that whatever happens and even though there’s a lot of things on the line, just know that it’s been a great season. And to be the Player of the Year and to win the Vare Trophy again and to win the CME Group Tour Championship, it’s a dream come true. To be able to do it in front of family and my team, you know, it’s a very special one.”
Ko entered the week in Naples, Fla. as one of four players with a mathematical chance of winning Player of the Year, leading the standings with 150 points, one clear of Minjee Lee and 20 ahead of Brooke Henderson and Atthaya Thtiikul. She also led Thitikul by 0.386 of a stroke heading into the final event, meaning the Thai rookie would have needed to score 35 strokes better than Ko to have a chance at the Vare Trophy.
The Kiwi set herself apart from the first day of play, managing the windy conditions throughout the week better than anyone to earn her second wire-to-wire victory of the season and of her career. By the end of the second round, Ko had a five-stroke lead on the field, but Irishwoman Leona Maguire made the most of Moving Day to tie things up before the final day. A 2-under 70 was all Ko needed on Sunday to finish -17 overall, two strokes ahead of Maguire, and secure the three season-ending titles.
Ko won her first Rolex Player of the Year award in 2015 after earning five victories that season, including her first major championship title at the Amundi Evian Championship. She earned her first Vare Trophy last year with a season-long scoring average of 69.329. Her accolades include the 2021 Founders Award and the 2014 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year honor.
Along with her three victories this season, Ko notched 11 additional top-10 finishes, including third-place finishes at the Palos Verdes Championship presented by Bank of America, the Amundi Evian Championship and The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America.
Ko is now a 19-time LPGA Tour winner (ranked T29 on the LPGA Tour’s All-Time Wins List), with major titles at the 2015 Amundi Evian Championship and the 2016 Chevron Championship. She is a former World No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, first achieving the top spot in February 2015 as the youngest player ever to be ranked No. 1 in professional golf. Ko is also the only amateur in history to win two LPGA Tour events, and officially joined the Tour as a 2014 rookie after petitioning for Membership in October 2013. Ko is a two-time Olympian representing New Zealand, winning the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The prestigious Rolex Player of the Year award was introduced to the LPGA in 1966. LPGA Tour players are awarded points at each official LPGA tournament based on top-10 finishes with the top points earner taking home the prestigious honor each year. Points are doubled at each of the LPGA’s five major championships – The Chevron Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica, the Amundi Evian Championship and the AIG Women’s Open.
The Vare Trophy was presented to the LPGA by Betty Jameson in 1952, in honor of the great American player Glenna Collett Vare. Vare Trophy scoring averages are computed on the basis of a Member’s total yearly score in Official Tournaments divided by the number of official rounds she played during a season.