She needed a win to stay in the Player Of The Year race, and that is exactly what she got.
Inbee Park fired a final round 64 to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational for her fifth LPGA victory of the season. The victory gives Inbee a chance to take down Lydia Ko for the Rolex Player Of The Year Award next week at the CME Group Tour Championship.
Inbee entered the final round with a three shot lead, but she needed to make birdies to close out the tournament. Solheim Cup veteran Carlota Ciganda, playing with Inbee, got off to a hot start, with a birdie on the first and an eagle on the second. Ciganda caught Inbee after going five under through five holes, but Park would remain solid and didn't record a single bogey on the front nine. Park would enter the back nine with a one stroke advantage, and both players would record birdies on the 10th and 11th. Inbee would maintain a one shot lead heading into 16, when Ciganda would bogey the hole. Park would birdie the 17th and 18th to finish with a three shot victory.
After the tournament, Park was asked what the key to her victory was.
"I think it was definitely the putter, it was really good this week," said Park. "I made a lot of birdies this week, it was a lot of fun today with Carlota playing so well, I didn’t know I needed an 8-under to win today. So it was almost a perfect day today I didn’t make any mistakes, so I was able to focus on my game."
Park's career record for victories in a season is six, which she set on that record breaking 2013 season. She has a chance to tie that next week with a victory at the CME Championship, a tournament with a lot at stake. The victory would also give her the Player Of The Year Award, as well as the $1 million bonus for the Race For The CME Globe. Only Park, Ko, and Stacy Lewis can clinch the CME Globe with a victory next week. Only Ko and Park have a chance to become Player Of The Year. Ko and Park will also be in a battle for the Vare Trophy, which is awarded to the lowest scoring average. Park is in the lead with a 69.433 average. Ko is at 69.449.
Next week is potentially huge for Park. Victories, as well as the Player Of The Year and Vare Trophy are all worth one Hall of Fame point. Park is currently one point away from securing a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame. If she is able to hang on to her lead for the Vare Trophy, she will be inducted into the Hall at the end of next season, which will be her 10th on Tour.
Ciganda, the Ladies European Tour Player Of The Year in 2012, secured her solo second place finish with a final round 63. It is Ciganda's best finish of the season and only her third top 10 on the LPGA in 2015. Ciganda is still looking for her first LPGA victory.
Finishing in solo third was the 2015 Rookie Of The Year, Sei Young Kim. Kim has had an incredible rookie season, notching three victories and eleven top 10s heading into the last event of the season. Her three victories ties the number of wins Lydia Ko had in her rookie season last year, and has won over $1.8 million this season.
So Yeon Ryu finished in solo fourth. It is Ryu's second straight top 5 finish on the LPGA Tour, and her tenth top 10 of the season, but she has yet to win her fourth LPGA Tour victory. She is one of several players that has a chance to win the CME Globe bonus, but she would need Ko and Park to have a rough week.
Rounding out the top 5 was Sakura Yokomine, who picks up her best finish of the season. The 29 year old rookie from Japan won 23 times on the JLPGA Tour, but struggled for part of the season. She has since turned things around, and has missed only one cut since the first week of June, but she's been unable to cash the big paychecks. She has, however, secured her LPGA Tour card for next season, and she earned her way into the CME Group Tour Championship. Hopefully this week will give her new found confidence and give her a boost heading into next season.
The final event of the LPGA season, the CME Group Tour Championship, begins Thursday.