Naples, Fla._ The CME Group Tour Championship isn’t a major, but there’s enough on the line this week to make it feel like one. The wide-open race to win the coveted $1 Million CME Globe bonus puts an immense pressure on the top LPGA professionals competing in this tournament, with Park, Thompson, Ryu and Feng neck and neck during the first round at Tiburón Golf Club.
All four of those players, including Brooke Henderson, would take the million-dollar bonus with a win. While the top twelve in the CME points race also have a chance of winning the bonus, it’s more than likely that Ryu, Park, Thompson, Feng or Henderson will get to take home that massive prize-money.
Even though Sung Hyun Park is a newbie to the LPGA, she took a huge step towards reaching her goal of taking all the season awards with a 5-under-par 67 to finish one shot behind after the opening round.
If Park can pull this win off, she will be the only other person besides Nancy Lopez (1978) to be Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year in the same season.
Ryu pushed through today’s tournament, but not without a fight. She’s played flawlessly within the past year, including two major victories, but a terrible shoulder injury has brought her to the CME feeling less than 100 percent. She is now more motivated than ever to take back her top spot in the LPGA, but only if her body will cooperate.
While in Malaysia, she suffered an injury to her right shoulder as a result of overuse. Limited to her short-game practice in the days leading up to the tournament, she only played four holes on Tuesday and ended up spending the rest of the time on the putting green. During the first round, there were moments where she didn’t look comfortable after teeing off. She rolled her shoulders back and forth, stretching them out as she walked to the next hole, all the while still having a positive attitude and smile on her face.
Thompson, who leads the Race of the CME Globe, went on to shoot a 1-under 71, trailing Sarah Jane Smith and Peiyun Chien by five strokes.
The first hole didn’t go as she had planned, which added a few unnecessary strokes to her score. Her drive off the first tee landed in a marshy area, where her ball was found submerged. She had to take a penalty drop. What’s more frustrating is on her third shot on the first hole, her ball landed inside the red line of a water hazard just to the right of the fairway. But, Thompson made quickly made up for it, bringing her into the top of the leaderboards fairly quickly.
Besides the $1 million bonus on the line, the Vare Trophy will be given to the player with the lowest scoring average. If Thompson ends the year with her 69.147 average, she’ll be taking home that trophy, which would be the lowest scoring average on the LPGA since 2004 when Annika Sorenstam held an 68.697.
There are three more days left until the CME comes to a close. Who will be Rolex Player of the Year? Who will claim the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average? Who will capture the money title and the biggest question of all: Who will win that million dollar bonus?