Despite a late 3-over stretch on Friday, Lydia Ko is in position to win both the CME Group Tour Championship and the Race to the CME Globe for the second year in a row.
Ko shot 5-under 67 at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., to trail Ha Na Jang by two shots heading into the third round of the LPGA Tour’s season finale. Jang, who finished tied for second with Ko in the season-opening Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Fla., leads on 10-under 134 after a second-round 65.
The Kiwi came out tense on Thursday, perhaps aware all of the LPGA’s season-long titles hung in the balance. However, she didn’t play timidly early on Friday, going out in 4-under 32. Ko made the turn with two more birdies to reach 6 under on the round. The round turned sour with a double bogey on the par-4 15th and another dropped shot on the 16th. Ko rallied with birdies on the final two holes.
Looking back, Ko said she tried not to dwell on the bad stretch.
“It wasn’t ideal, but I just try and not think about it anymore and kind of go to the next hole, thinking it’s a whole new hole,” she said.
If Ko wins for the sixth time this season, everything pretty much takes care of itself. She already leads Inbee Park for the points-based Player of the Year award and by almost $190,000 on the money list. Ko has to beat Park by two strokes to win the Vare Trophy, which goes to the lowest scoring average. Ko also came into the season finale in the lead in the Race to the CME Globe points race, so a win on Sunday would come with a $500,000 check for the tournament and a $1 million bonus for winning the points race.
That all gets more complicated if Ko doesn’t win. However, Ko leads Park by four strokes through 36 holes and is projected to sweep everything on the line at this point.
Park, who shot 69 on Friday, isn’t a big fan of the course and its grainy Bermudagrass greens. The South Korean 27-year-old realizes she’ll need an attitude adjustment for the weekend.
“[Ko] seems like she really likes this golf course,” Park said. “I’ve got to start liking it a little bit more for tomorrow.”