NAPLES, Fla. (AP) Cristie Kerr was the player of the week. Lydia Ko was the player of the year. Inbee Park will be among the players of all-time.
And just as the LPGA intended, the season finale was brimming with drama until the very end.
Kerr won the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, taking command with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 17th and finishing off her 18th career victory. Her $500,000 first prize almost seemed ancillary, given the stakes that Ko and Park were playing for this week.
Ko won the $1 million bonus for winning the ”Race to CME Globe,” just as she did last year – this time adding player of the year honors to her resume as well. And Park clinched a trip to the LPGA Hall of Fame by winning the 2015 scoring title, the only step that remains between her and induction is completing her 10th season on tour next year, a prerequisite for eligibility.
”It’s been a long season,” Ko said. ”Up and down. Mostly ups.”
Kerr shot a 4-under 68 and finished at 17-under 271 for the week, one shot better than Gerina Piller of the U.S. and Ha Na Jang of South Korea. Lexi Thompson of the U.S. was fourth at 14 under. She and Paula Creamer doused Kerr moments after she tapped home a 2-footer to clinch the victory.
France’s Karine Icher was fifth at 13 under. Park was alone in sixth, good enough to beat Ko by three shots over the course of the entire season for the Vare Trophy and the 27th point she needed for her trip to the LPGA Hall.
”I said the Hall of Fame will be my last goal, but it really came early and I achieved pretty much everything I set so far in my career,” Park said. ”There is plenty other goals to set.”
The pressure was obvious, all over the final back nine of the year.
Thompson had an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 14th, and never got it near the hole. Park missed a 2-footer for par on the 12th, then rallied with consecutive birdies. Stacy Lewis, one of three women who entered the week controlling their destiny in the $1 million race, gave her wedge a smack after needing two shots to escape a bunker at the 16th. Ko had a birdie try at 16 not long afterward, leaving it uncharacteristically short.
But in the end, Kerr, Park and Ko did enough to all come away with big prizes.
Kerr shot four rounds in the 60s, made a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 15 to tie for the lead, then the eagle at the 17th put her on top for good.
Park was second in the Globe chase, pocketing a $150,000 bonus. Thompson was third, taking home $100,000 in bonus money – though spent much of the afternoon in position to sweep both the $500,000 first prize and the $1 million bonus.
DIVOTS: Michelle Wie (67) tied for 32nd place at 285; the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion ended a year in which she didn’t have a top-10 finish. … Sydnee Michaels shot 65, finishing tied for seventh and matching the best round of the week. … Catriona Matthew aced the par-3 8th. … The start of play was delayed an hour because of rain and another storm band crossed the course around 11 a.m., but the sun was out for the finish. … Next season begins in the Bahamas on Jan. 28.