By Ron Sirak
In the depths of the Great Recession, when the LPGA schedule dipped to 23 events, veteran tour pro Janice Moodie memorably noted: "I now have a part-time job." And she was correct.
Now, not only has commissioner Mike Whan gotten the schedule back to 32 tournaments for 2014, he's adding the Race to the CME Globe, a year-long points race formally announced Jan. 7 that will bring a $1 million bonus to the top player after the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
The top 72 players on the Race to the CME Globe points list will qualify for November's Tour Championship plus anyone who has won an LPGA event in 2014. Only LPGA members, however, are eligible for the $1 million bonus, a significant sum considering the leading money winner in 2013, Inbee Park, earned $2.5 million.
The Race bonus will be unofficial money. Anyone who makes a cut in a full-field event gets points; 500 for the winner of a regular tournament, 625 for a major victory. The top 40 in limited-field events get points as do the top 20 at the Lorena Ochoa tournament, which at 36 entrants is the smallest field of the year. Majors are worth 25 percent more points overall.
The top three players in the points race will control their own destiny at the Tour Championship -- win it and you get the $1 million bonus. Only the top nine entering the event at the Tiburon GC in Naples, Fla., will have a chance to win the $1 million. Bonuses will also be paid to the second-place ($150,000) and third-place finishers ($100,000) on the points list.
It's possible, according to Whan, that the $1 million first prize could be decided in a sudden-death playoff after the Tour Championship has concluded. "We wanted to make our season-ending event even more fun and more dramatic," Whan said. "The points will be reset but not to zero. There is no doubt season leaders will have a significant advantage, but they won't have it locked up."
The Wounded Warrior Project, which assists injured service members and their families, is expected to receive up to $250,000 from the season race, with CME Group donating $1,000 for each eagle during the season and $5,000 for each eagle at the Tour Championship. The points race starts with the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Jan. 23-26.
[Photo: Getty Images]