By DOUG FERGUSON
2014-01-08 11:01 PM
The U.S. LPGA Tour is going to a points race this year, offering $1 million to the winner of the new "Race to the CME Globe."
Instead of the U.S. PGA Tour's model of four tournaments with gradually reduced fields leading to the Tour Championship, the women will earn points for 31 events going into the CME Group Tour Championship. The points will be reset giving weight to whoever had the best year. The winner will receive a $1 million bonus.
The race will be the "bow on the present" of the women's tour's strongest schedule in years, tour commissioner Mike Whan said on Wednesday. It has added events in Michigan and San Francisco, and created an Olympics-styled event called the International Crown aimed at determining the best nation of golfers.
Whan hinted at a season points race when the tour wrapped up its season in November, saying he liked the idea of two trophies presented at the end of the year.
The FedEx Cup on the men's tour began in 2007 and went through three years of changes to cut through the confusion. The European Tour followed shortly after with its "Race to Dubai" that was tweaked this year to culminate with four big events at the end.
Jon Podany, the chief marketing officer for the U.S. LPGA Tour, said the top 72 players in the Race to the CME Globe would qualify for the Tour Championship. The reset will be structured in such a way that only the top three in the standings can guarantee the $1 million bonus by winning the tournament, while only the top nine in the standings will have a mathematical chance to win the bonus and a crystal globe.
Whan said it would be possible for the Race for the CME Globe to end in a tie, in which case the players would return to the 18th hole at Tiburon for a playoff for a chance to win $1 million.
"I'm praying for one of these years to have a playoff," he said.
If it had been around for 2013, Inbee Park would have won the $1 million. She won six times, including three majors, and was fifth in the season finale at Naples.
"I was so honored to win the LPGA money title in 2013 and now I have something even bigger to play for," Park said. "Nothing is guaranteed with the new system, so this new race is going to make everyone on tour work a little bit harder because the payoff is so big."
All tournaments, starting with the Bahamas Classic on Jan. 23-26, will offer the same amount of points (500 to the winner). The five majors will have an additional 25 percent value (625 points). Players will have to make the cut to earn points, but points will only be awarded to the top 40 in events with no cut, and the top 20 for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, which has a smaller field.
Whan said he did not want a "playoff system" similar to the U.S. PGA Tour so the U.S. LPGA would not disrupt its entire schedule.