It’s now or never for players in the running for season-ending awards and those trying to make the LPGA Tour’s finale
Maria Fassi is currently out of the LPGA's top 60 points earners.
As the LPGA Tour begins play at the BMW Ladies Championship this week in Busan, South Korea, the reality of the season’s end is undeniable. Under normal circumstances, the BMW wouldn’t be the second-to-last event before the LPGA Tour’s finale: the CME Group Tour Championship. But complications with travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused the other three tournaments in the Asia Swing to be removed from the LPGA Tour calendar. Now, only two events remain (BMW and the Pelican Women's Championship in Florida Nov. 11-14) before the Tour Championship, Nov. 18-21. Players qualify for the CME by amassing points throughout the year, with the top 60 points earners playing in the final event. Getting a spot is a big deal: The winner’s check at the CME is the biggest in women’s golf at $1.5 million.
Right now, there are a few notable players outside of that top 60. European Solheim Cup standout Mel Reid is 70th, former World No. 1 amateur Allison Lee is 74th and Maria Fassi, who gained instant fame as an amateur finishing runner up at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019, is 85th. A player’s position on the list can change quickly. With a win, a player receives 500 points. Second place gets 320 points, with 230 for third, 180 for fourth and 145 for fifth. (The points go all the way down the leader board, with players finishing 80th or higher getting one point.) A top finish for any player near the top 60 could result in her earning a chance to compete in the CME in November. (Neither Reid nor Fassi are in the field at the BMW.)
Jin Young Ko has 10 top-10 finishes on the LPGA this season.
With the end of the season also comes the final sprint for big awards, notably Rolex Player of the Year, Leaders Top 10 competition and Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year.
If Jin Young Ko, the No. 2 player in the world and the tour’s most recent winner, finishes in the top 10 at the BMW, the Leaders Top 10 competition will be over. In 16 events, Ko has recorded 10 top-10 finishes. The prize comes with a $100,000 bonus. In a tiebreak, she won the award in 2019.
The Rookie of the Year race could also be clinched at the BMW. Patty Tavatanakit, who won the ANA Inspiration in April, is leading the competition by 360 points over Leona Maguire. Tavatanakit made the decision to not travel to Busan for the BMW, while Maguire is playing there. In order for the competition for Rookie of the Year to continue, Maguire has to finish sixth or better. If she doesn’t, the tour projects Tavatanakit will have won the honor regardless of the outcome of the final two events.
Rolex Player of the Year honors are more complicated than the previous two awards. Only two players have won on the LPGA Tour three times in 2021: Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko. (Korda had another win in 2021, the Olympics, which doesn’t count towards Player of the Year points.) One of Korda’s three wins is a major, the KPMG Women’s PGA, which is worth double the points for Player of the Year honors. She leads Ko by 15 points. The points system awards 30 points for a win, 12 for second place, nine for third, seven for fourth, and decreases by one point down to one point for 10th place. With Korda not playing the BMW, Ko has the opportunity to close that 15-point gap, or overtake Korda.