How the LPGA awards races stack up entering the season finale in Naples

NAPLES, Fla. – As if playing for a record $2 million winner’s check isn’t enough pressure for players competing in CME Group Tour Championship, some performances will dictate season-long awards.

The LPGA season finale is has a 60-player field, determined by the Race to the CME Group points standing. With points being reset this week, every player in the field has a chance to claim the top prize.

However, only a handful of players can secure the biggest honors on tour: Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy and the money title. And those will be determined come Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Breaking down the race for CME Group Tour Champ.

Here is a closer look at who is in the hunt for those awards:

Rolex Player of the Year

Unlike the PGA Tour, which determines its Player of the Year by member vote, the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year relies on a points-based system. Heading into the final event of the year, four players have a mathematical chance of earning this year’s title: Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee, Brooke Henderson and Atthaya Thitikul.

Ko, who won Player of the Year in 2015, tops the standings with 150 points and holds a one-point – yes, one point! – lead over Minjee Lee, who is a two-time winner this season. Lee won the U.S. Women’s Open in June but has struggled in the latter half of the year and hasn’t finished in the top 10 since August. Ko leads Henderson and Thitikul by 20 points.

Henderson withdrew from last week’s Pelican Women’s Championship, making her road to capturing the Player of the Year more difficult. Here are the scenarios for each of the four players who are in contention heading into the season finale:

  • Ko or Lee would win with a victory at the CME Group Tour Championship

  • Lee must finish no worse than 10th to have a chance of winning POY

  • Henderson or Thitikul could win POY with a victory at the Tour Championship, if both Ko and Lee finished third or worse

Should Thitkul win Player of the Year, she would become the first player since Sung Hyun Park in 2017 to win both Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in a single season. Thitikul secured the rookie title before the season’s conclusion with her two victories so far this season.

Should LPGA adjust CME Group Tour formula?

Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average)

After much controversy in 2021, in which top-ranked players like Nelly and Jessica Korda didn’t play enough rounds to qualify for the Vare Trophy, the criteria was changed for '22. This season, the requisite number of rounds needed to qualify was lowered from 70 individual rounds to 60, but with 70 total rounds needing to be played. In other words, a player must complete 70 total rounds, but 10 of those rounds can be completed in team competitions like the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the Bank of Hope Match Play, or the Olympics during the years the Games are staged.

Ko, who won the Vare Trophy last year based on the old qualifying criteria, leads the tour in scoring average again this year. She holds a sizable 0.386 lead over Thitikul with an average of 69.049. Thitikul would need to average an unlikely 60.176, or 35 strokes better than Ko in the finale, to have a chance of winning. Hyo Joo Kim is No. 2 in the Vare Trophy standings but is ineligible for the award, having not met the requisite number of rounds.

Money Title

That $2 million winner’s check could go a long way toward determining who will earn the money title. With purses at an all-time high, Lorena Ochoa’s single-season record of $4,354,994, set in 2007, will likely be eclipsed this year. The top eight players on the money list have both a chance to surpass Ochoa's mark and also earn the season-long title.

Lee tops the money list, at $3,759,835, thanks in large part to her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open. That victory grossed Lee a then-record $1.8 million, which will be surpassed this week. She leads In Gee Chun ($2,623,735) at No. 2 on the money list by $1.1 million. Ko sits at No. 3 ($2,364,403), Henderson at No. 4 ($2,307,584), Thitikul at No. 5 ($2,110,142), Hye Jin Choi at No. 6 ($2,034,571), Jennifer Kupcho at No. 7 ($1,905,406), and Lexi Thompson at No. 8 ($1,867,218).