Minjee Lee cannot win the $US1 million bonus on offer at the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida this week, but Australia's hottest young female player will have to be content with a groundbreaking and rich debut season on the LPGA.
Lee, 19, will go into the season-ender at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, ranked 13th on the points list that has been running all season. Under the system, where players are re-ranked this week, only the top nine can take the $1 million bonus that Kiwi Lydia Ko won last year.
So even if Lee was to win the tournament, which is worth a total purse of $US2 million itself, she would not be able to take the bonus prizemoney for the top point-scorer.
Lee and Karrie Webb (ranked 56th) are the two Australians who made the 72-player field in Florida. While the teenager has admitted recently to fatigue after a bulging 28-tournament season, she played well in Mexico last week, leading through two rounds and ultimately finishing tied-12th.
The former world No. 1 amateur has missed out on rookie-of-the-year honors behind Sei Young Kim, but should finish third in that award, and it is worth noting that Kim is three years older. Having won her first LPGA title — the Kingsmill Championship — and with six top-10 finishes, Lee has accumulated $US 778,000 in prizemoney in her first season.
The LPGA has a similar season-ender to the PGA Tour of the United States, with a tour championship and a corresponding points award for the season, meaning that up to $US1.5 million is available if someone can win both.
Lydia Ko did it last year, although the New Zealander, who began the year by winning the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open in Melbourne, admitted today that she has no clue about the system in place.
“No, I don’t even know how those points systems work to be honest,” said Ko. “I heard last week on TV that the winner gets 30 points. I was like, oh, sweet. I didn’t know how it all works. Too many numbers, and I’m not very good at mathematics, either. Adding and minus as long as we’re going up, right, that’s a good thing as long as we’re adding, no dividing and all that, I’m fine.''
The simple fact is that world No. 1 Ko wins the tournament this week she will also win the bonus pool. World No. 2 Inbee Park is the nearest challenger.
Ko joked with media yesterday as she reflected on the champagne-drenched celebrations last year, having won five tournaments including her first major title in 2015. “It’s great to come back, and the best part was I pulled out my yardage book from last year, and I had to kind of rip the pages apart because of the champagne, the pages stuck together. So that’s not a bad thing to happen.”
The tournament begins on Friday morning, Australian time.