Ko and Park battling till the end for big payout

NAPLES (Florida) • Teenager Lydia Ko is within sight of a haul of big prizes, two strokes from the lead after the third round at the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida on Saturday.

The South Korean-born Kiwi golfer carded a three-under 69 to earn a share of third place, two strokes behind co-leaders Cristie Kerr (66) and Jang Ha Na (69), who set the pace on 205 at the Tiburon course in Naples.

With a strong final round in the season-ending LPGA event, world No. 1 Ko can win the money list, Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy (for best scoring average).

Most lucratively, she can snag the Race to the CME Globe for the second successive year and collect a US$1 million (S$1.4 million) jackpot that goes to the winner of the season-long points competition.

Ko leads South Korean Park In Bee in three of these four categories, the Vare Trophy being the exception.

But Park is only two strokes behind Ko and four from the lead, with a victory in Naples giving her the jackpot prize, so Ko cannot plan any victory speeches just yet.

"I should be proud that I'm in this position," the 18-year-old Ko said. "Anything can happen. If I play well, it might end up being a good day where I'm holding a couple of trophies. At the same time, because everything is on the line, there is more pressure."

She launched a late-season charge with three wins from July onwards (making it six for the year) to overtake Park, who had a big lead in the Race to the Globe when she won the Women's British Open four months ago.

"When I won the British Open, there was so much (of a) gap between me and the other players, I thought somebody had to win at least three or more times to even have a chance," said Park, winner of two Majors this season.

"Obviously Lydia was one that was able to do it. It's good that I still have a chance at it."

Not so concerned about the Race to the Globe are Kerr and Jang, who are focused on winning the event and its US$500,000 reward.

"I played great," the American said, while halfway leader Jang overcame some physical ailments to remain in contention.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Ko and Park battling till the end for big payout'. Print Edition | Subscribe