(Reuters) – New Zealand’s world number one Lydia Ko and second-ranked Park In-bee of South Korea are set to battle it out for an array of LPGA Tour honours at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship this week in Naples, Florida.
Ko, back in action after taking a fortnight’s break, is in pole position to clinch the Player of the Year award, the money list title and retain her number one ranking but Park, a winner of two major championships this season, is in close pursuit.
“It’s so hard when you actually have like one competitor (and) you want to play better than that one person,” Park told reporters while preparing for Thursday’s opening round at Tiburon Golf Club in the $2 million event.
“Not every tournament we have that kind of feeling, but especially here where we have everything on the line … what Lydia is doing can affect so many things and what I can achieve.
“I can’t make Lydia play bad or good. I can’t do anything like that. I’ve got to do good and then just see what happens, but then Lydia has been playing such great golf that it was almost unbeatable. She definitely deserves to be up there.”
Park, 27, occupies second place in both the money list and the Player of the Year points standings but she leads the way in the hunt for the coveted Vare Trophy with a scoring average this season of 69.433, just ahead of Ko (69.449).
“I got a lot of confidence from there, and obviously coming into the last tournament, a very important tournament, it’s good to have momentum,” said Park, referring to her fifth LPGA win of the season at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico on Sunday.
Ko, like Park, has won five times this season, including her first major crown at the Evian Championship in September, and she would dearly love to land Player of the Year honours by successfully defending her title at Tiburon this week.
“One of my big goals was to play a little bit more consistently,” said the 18-year-old who was born in South Korea. “Last year it was much better than I would have ever expected, and this year is the same.
“To know that you’re the player (of the year) and you’ve played consistent all year and you’ve done these points to get here, that would definitely mean a lot.
“But any award … even if it doesn’t exactly go the way I would love it to by the end of Sunday, I think I’ve just got to be pleased and proud with the way this year has gone.”
Twelve months ago, Ko won the CME Group Tour Championship in a three-way playoff with Spaniard Carlota Ciganda and Paraguayan Julieta Granada to land 2014 LPGA Rookie of the Year honours.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)