Monday, November 13, 2017

CME Group Tour Championship Preview, Pairings, and Much More

I would like to start off by congratulating Shanshan Feng on winning the Blue Bay LPGA. For a full recap on that tournament press here.

Image result for CME Group Tour Championship

This week the LPGA returns to the United States with the playing of the CME Group Tour Championship. This is the final tournament on the 2017 LPGA schedule. Last year's exciting finish saw Charley Hull and So Yeon Ryu tied for the lead with just two holes to play. Hull would birdie the 17th hole while Ryu bogeyed it, sending Hull home with a two stroke victory and the championship trophy. Ariya Jutanugarn who finished tied for fourth, hung on to win the one million dollar bonus.

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Charley Hull won this Championship (and the $500,000 first place check) in 2016

This will be tournament #33 of 33 on this year's LPGA schedule.

Here are the key details:
Course:  Tiburon Golf Club
Location:  Naples, Florida
Defending Champion:  Charley Hull
Winning Score:  67-70-66-66 = 269 (-19)

Final Field:  74 players (72 plus non LPGA member winners Jin Young Ko and Ha Na Jang)
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,540
Purse:  $2,500,000

My strength of field rating is 68% (down from 73% last year). Forty of the top 50 players from the LPGA Priority List (not used for this event) and twenty-one of the top 25 players from the Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. Unlike previous years, a number of top players who qualified for this event will not be teeing it up. Those players include: Haru Nomura, Hyo Joo Kim, M.J. Hur, Chella Choi, Inbee Park (injury), Su Oh, and Laura Gonzalez Escallon. 

There is a lot at stake this week besides the CME Trophy:

  • I million dollars will go to the winner of the Race to the CME Globe. Lexi Thompson currently leads (see below for current standings).
  • The Rolex Player of the Year is still up for grabs. So Yeon Ryu currently has the lead by a very narrow margin over Shanshan Feng, Sung Hyun Park, and Lexi Thompson. The winner receives a Hall of Fame point.
  • The Vare Trophy is about as tight as could be as Lexi Thompson has a very narrow lead over Sung Hyun Park.
  • It still remains a mystery as to who will finish the season as #1 in the Rolex Rankings. Shanshan Feng (the current leader), Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, and Lexi Thompson are all tightly bunched up and have mathematical chances of finishing on top.

Here are the first round pairings.

Here are the television times:
GC    Thurs. Nov 16,  4:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. ET  (tape delay)
GC    Fri.      Nov 17,  4:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. ET  (tape delay)
GC    Sat.     Nov 18,  4:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. ET  (tape delay)
ABC  Sun.    Nov 19,  1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. ET

Players most likely to win: (Top players in the field)
1- Shanshan Feng - Looking for 3rd consecutive win to go along with Bonus
2- Sung Hyun Park - Looking to take back the #1 spot
3- So Yeon Ryu - Ditto

Players to watch out for: (I'm feeling it this week)
1- Lexi Thompson - A win will get her the bonus and the Vare Trophy
2- Brooke Henderson - A win gets her the million dollar bonus

Longshot picks: (Not likely, but not impossible)
1- Moriya Jutanugarn - Eventually she will have to finish one. Why not here?
2- Lizette Salas - She is playing the best golf of her career

In 2017 The Race to the CME Globe has made the following changes this year:

1- The top five (5) finishers entering Naples will control their own destiny at the CME Group Tour Championship, meaning if they win in Naples they will also win the $1M CME Globe.

2- The top twelve (12) finishers entering Naples will have a mathematical chance to win the $1M CME Globe.

Previously the top 3 finishers controlled their own destiny, and the top 9 had a mathematical chance to win the $1M CME Globe.

Other Tidbits:
The 2020 KPMG Women's PGA Championship will be held at the Aronimink GC in suburban Philadelphia.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
Shanshan Feng rises two spots to become the new #1 player in the world.
Moriya Jutanugarn jumps up 4 more spots to #17, while Megan Khang jumps into my field rating by moving up from #102 to #96.

Race to the CME Globe:   (1 million dollars)
The points have been reset and here are the top 5 players that hold their fate in their own hands.
  • Lexi Thompson = 5,000 points
  • Sung Hyun Park = 4,750 
  • Shanshan Feng = 4,500
  • So Yeon Ryu = 4,250
  • Brooke Henderson 4,000
The above five players will win the 1 million dollar bonus if they win the tournament.

Seven other players have an outside chance of winning the 1 million dollar bonus.
  • In Gee Chun = 3,600 points
  • Cristie Kerr = 3,200
  • Moriya Jutanugarn = 2,800
  • Ariya Jutanugarn = 2,400
  • Anna Nordqvist = 2,100
  • Stacy Lewis = 1,800
  • Lydia Ko = 1,600
The above seven players can win the bonus if none of the top 5 players win the tournament.

Who's Hot:
Lizette has 5 top tens in her last six starts (the other finish was 13th). 
Moriya Jutanugarn has 4 top fives in her last five starts.
Sarah Jane Smith has three consecutive top 15 finishes.

Who's Not:
Haru Nomura has not finished in the top twenty in her last 13 starts.
M.J. Hur's last seven starts have failed to produce a single top thirty finish.

This Week's Trivia Question: 

This is the fourth year for the CME Group Tour Championship. In the previous three years only 1 player has finished in the top 10 each time. Can you name her?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

Here are the leaders after round 3:
1 Kim Kaufman -10
1 Michelle Wie -10
1 Ariya Jutanugarn -10
1 Suzann Pettersen -10
5 Stacy Lewis -9
5 Karine Icher -9
5 Lexi Thompson -9
5 Austin Ernst -9
5 Jessica Korda -9
5 Pernilla Lindberg -9
5 Sung Hyun Park -9
12 Amy Yang -8
12 Jin Young Ko -8
12 Charley Hull -8
12 Jenny Shin -8
12 Eun-Hee Ji -8
12 Pornanong Phatlum -8
12 In-Kyung Kim -8
19 Cydney Clanton -7
19 Anna Nordqvist -7
19 Nelly Korda -7
19 Sarah Jane Smith -7
23 Shanshan Feng -6
23 Candie Kung -6
23 Minjee Lee -6
23 Brooke Henderson -6
23 Marina Alex -6
23 Lydia Ko -6
23 Ha-Na Jang -6
23 Madelene Sagstrom -6
23 Caroline Masson -6

Be sure to check back here daily for any LPGA news or updates.  They will be posted here at the bottom of this blog. 
Tournament results will be posted here at the end of each round. Links to all Women's Tour scoreboards can be found at the top of this page.
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