LPGA Tour goes to points race
The LPGA Tour is going to a points race this year, offering $1 million to the winner of the new "Race to the CME Globe."
This points system won't be hard to figure out.
Instead of a four-tournament playoff system on the PGA Tour, the women will earn points for 31 events going into the CME Group Tour Championship that is held Nov. 20-23 in Naples, Fla. The points will be reset for the final event to give an advantage to whoever had the best year, and the winner will receive a $1 million bonus.
"It should make for an exciting 2014," LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. "It's the bow on the present we really wanted to get done."
The LPGA Tour already has its strongest schedule in years, adding domestic events in Michigan and San Francisco, and creating 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 LPGA 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 PGA 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 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.
Podany was a marketing executive with the PGA Tour when the FedEx Cup began and consulted with PGA officials before coming up with the model. He described the reset in Naples as 60 percent for the regular season and 40 percent for the Tour Championship.
"We wanted a balance that valued the season long performance, but created drama and excitement for the final event," Podany said. "You've got to finish it off at the Tour Championship. In that regard, those two things should make it easier to comprehend."
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 Pure Silk 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 PGA Tour so the LPGA would not disrupt its entire schedule.
"CME Group has made quite an impact on the LPGA Tour during our three years together," Whan said. "The addition of this concept fundamentally connects ever event on our tour and promises big things in 2014 and beyond. The stakes have risen dramatically and the excitement level goes up for our players and each of our tournaments."