Like practically everybody else in the US, I’ve spent the past few days inside, waiting for the Arctic Vortex to spin back up to Canada, watching Zach Johnson play his way to a stunning victory in warm and sunny Hawaii, and counting down the days until the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Right now Paradise Island sounds pretty good. The pre-tournament festivities, practice rounds, and pro-am tournament begin on January 20 and the 1st round of the tournament tees off at 7:30am on Thursday, January 23. I’m ready! I’m more than ready! With 4 days of live Golf Channel coverage I’ll be able to sit back and watch the girls swing their sticks in the opening round of a year-long Race to the CME Globe, the LPGA’s newly minted version of the PGA’s Fed Ex Cup and the men’s European Tour Race to Dubai. Race to the CME Globe Now women’s pro golf fans will get to monitor both individual tournament sprints and a season-long marathon that begins with the Pure Silk Bahamas and comes to a close at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex. We’re going to need a spreadsheet! Players will accumulate points at each official LPGA event and will be playing for tournament purses as well as a million dollar payout for the Race to the CME Globe. All tournaments will have the same point values in the Race to the CME Globe except for the five major championships, which will carry 25 percent more value. The winner of all official LPGA events leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship will earn 500 points and the winner of each major championship will earn 625 points. Only LPGA Tour members are eligible to earn points in the Race. For those who want to track the players’ progress, for all LPGA events with a cut, points will be awarded to LPGA members who make the cut. For all events without a cut (except for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational), points will be awarded to members who finish among the top 40 and ties. And for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, points will be awarded to members who finish in the top 20 and ties. The field at the $2 million CME Group Tour Championship will consist of: (1) the top 72 players on the Race to the CME Globe Points Standings at the conclusion of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex; (2) any LPGA member – not otherwise qualified – with at least one official LPGA win during the season; and (3) any non-member with at least one official LPGA win during the year. Points will then be reset for the CME Group Tour Championship to ensure that the points race will be won at the season-ending tournament. Reset Points will give top yearly performers an advantage but will not guarantee victory.
The points that a player earns at the CME Group Tour Championship will be added to her Reset Points, and the player with the highest points total will win the Race to the CME Globe. How do the players feel about the Race to the CME Globe? Inbee Park, Rolex Ranked No. 1 and 2013 LPGA Player of the Year is delighted.
Nothing is guaranteed with this new system so this Race is going to make everyone on our Tour work a little bit harder because the payoff is so big.
The Starting Line: Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic
The Pure Silk Bahamas is the starting line for this season-long Race to the CME Globe. How are the players lining up?
We’ll get a close look at the competition between Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, and Stacy Lewis. Has Park revived her flat stick? It failed her last fall, opening the door for Suzann Pettersen’s vigorous challenge for the Number 1 Rolex Rank. She almost got there, losing her momentum only when the Tour came back to the Western Hemisphere for the 2 final events of the 2013 season. Can she finish the job in January and February? Can Stacy Lewis withstand the pressure and take advantage of the inevitable openings afforded by a competitor’s slice or a missed putt?
China’s golf heroine, Shanshan Feng, and American teen Lexi Thompson are also teeing off at the Pure Silk Bahamas, and they both ended the 2013 season hot. Did they sustain their momentum? If so, Park, Pettersen, and Lewis will be facing serious competition.
Spain’s top candidates for the LPGA International Crown team are all playing: Beatriz Ricari, Azahara Muñoz, Carlota Ciganda, and Belen Muzo. We’ve all watched Ricari, Muñoz, and Ciganda. They’re strong and determined competitors. Muzo, who’s Rolex Ranked 172, is a bit of a wild card and this will be our 1st opportunity to take a close look at her game. She’s starting her 3rd season on the Tour. Is she ready to move out of the lower ranks?
A Full Season
The LPGA kicks off a full 2014 season in 16 days when Ilhee Lee defends her title at the Pure Silk LPGA Classic with more tournaments, more prize money, and more live television coverage. The LPGA International Crown in July will be a special treat for those of us who relish match play, and the season-long Race to the CME Globe will create a continuity to the competition for players and fans alike!