LPGA CME Group Tour Championship: Lydia Ko of New Zealand, | leads early in seven under Golf News

“If I win the cup, win all the cups, or no cup…I just want to have a good week. These opportunities don’t come around very often. I want to try to grab it when I’m out there” – Lydia Ko, who leads the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship by one stroke

Last Updated: 11/18/22 12:02 PM

New Zealand's Lydia Ko leads the CME Group Tour Championship

New Zealand’s Lydia Ko leads the CME Group Tour Championship

Lydia Ko started her quest for the biggest prize in women’s golf history by hitting the wood and bogeying the par-fives, but the rest of the competition on Thursday at the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship couldn’t have gone any better.

Ko, a New Zealander, responded with eight birdies, including four late in the round at Tiburon Golf Club, to send her to a seven-under 65 and a one-stroke lead in the LPGA Tour season finale.

Much is at stake this week besides the $2 million prize awarded to the winner.

Ko leads the LPGA Tour player of the year race by one point, while she is set to win the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Both are worth one point in her bid to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

“If I win the trophy, win all the trophies or no trophy … I just want to have a good week,” Ko said. “These opportunities don’t come around often. I want to try to take it when I’m there.”

All is well for Ko, who has two wins in her most consecutive year on the LPGA Tour. And there are many competitors behind.

Thailand’s Danielle Kang and Pajaree Anannarukarn shot 66, Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh and South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim shot 67, while Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson shot 68 just behind Ko.

Korda was out for four months earlier this year after undergoing surgery for a blood clot in his left arm. She is finally back to full strength and last week’s win on the coast at Pelican Golf Club saw her return to No. 1 in the women’s world rankings.

Henderson had to withdraw last week with back pain and the Canadian wasn’t even sure he would be able to play. But he made adjustments to his swing that allowed him to pass Tiburo with a respectable 68.

Henderson is an outsider for player of the year, though he should have won and Ko and Minjee Lee should have finished third or worse.

Lee, who has already set an LPGA Tour record with $3.7 million in earnings this season, opened with a 71. Thailand’s 19-year-old Atthaya Thitikul, who rose to No. 1 in the world before Korda took him back, scored 73. .

Ko was able to laugh it off at the start of the tournament.

“I almost did two draws,” he said. “Even though I missed the par-five, I knew there were going to be a lot of downwind holes. I tried not to get too nervous. The first four holes in the wind are a beast. I knew I could hang in there and be patient. , there would be a lot of opportunities.

“I was able to catch most of them on the back nine.”

And it started with a par. He hit a quick chip from the 13th green and watched it miss about 12 feet past the hole. Ko made a par putt and he ran away with four straight birdies. It helped that the two were par-five.

Korda gave up an easy birdie chance on the par-five 17th, which was only 159 yards away. But he got up in a very short time and could not go up and down. It was the product of what he eventually called delusion, too often.

Korda had a shot at all the awards last year until Jin Young Ko beat him, making it the South Korean star’s third year in Tiburon.

It will be difficult to make four in a row. Jin Young Ko opened with a 72 as he continues to deal with his ailing left wrist.

Watch the CME Group Tour Championship live on Sky Sports throughout the week. Live coverage continues for free on Sky Sports Golf and on the Sky Sports Golf YouTube channel from 7pm on Friday.