Sports

Golf: She Won What? Unraveling the Many Titles Lydia Took Out Yesterday

If you’re struggling to understand what Lydia Ko just won, and how, you’re not alone. Greg Bruce attempts to get to grips with the baffling number of titles handed out at the end of the LPGA Tour.

What the hell was happening during the final round of yesterday’s final tournament of the absurdly sexistly-named LPGA? I tried so hard to find out, watching at my kitchen bench in my dressing gown, surrounded by demanding children, fielding absurd questions from my wife about the rudiments of golf, but I was just not able.

At least some of what was at stake: the CME Group Championship, which was the tournament being played; the money title for year’s biggest earner; the Vare Trophy for the year’s lowest scoring average; the contest for end-of-year world rankings points; the Kia Drive to the Top award for most top 10 finishes on tour; the Race to CME Globe, which was a title for the player who had accumulated the most points at tournaments throughout the season; the Rolex Player of the Year, which was a title for the player who had accumulated the most points at tournaments throughout the season.

What? Aren’t those last two awards the same thing? Aren’t most of those titles meaningless? Isn’t it already obvious to anyone paying attention that Lydia Ko is the best player in the world? Aren’t all these questions rhetorical?

NAPLES, FL - NOVEMBER 22:  Lydia Ko of New Zealand poses with the Rolex Player of the Year trophy following the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 22, 2015 in Naples, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Lydia Ko and her Rolex Player of the Year trophy following the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship.

The points system for working out who was in the lead in both the Race to CME Globe and Rolex Player of the Year categories was of an opacity so opaque that it was just, like, can somebody immediately find the LPGA marketing people and get them round a table with a simplicity theorist?

The televised leaderboard on the final day featured both players’ scores and their projected finish in the Race to CME Globe, but not their projected finish in the race to Rolex Player of the Year. Surely to god, for the cost of a single bottom-of-the-range watch, Rolex could have got some television graphics monkey to add another column on-screen. Certainly, for the cost of a watch, this whole paragraph and, let’s not kid ourselves, the entirety of this column, would be happily redacted.

The commentators were clearly so frightened of the whole points debacle that they mostly avoided talking about it. It made me pine for the relative transparency of rain-affected one day cricket pre-Duckworth-Lewis and for John ‘Mystery’ Morrison’s accompanying befuddled commentary, in which he mostly expressed his undying belief that almost everything that happened in cricket, as in life, was PC gone mad.

Although she played an even-par round and hardly changed position over the final nine holes, Lydia Ko was third in the projected Race to CME Globe standings for much of the back nine, then for no reason that was obvious, she was leading, leading, leading, right up to the final green, then she missed her par putt and she clearly thought she’d lost. One of the commentators suggested she’d won, but you could almost feel them all looking at each other uncertainly while in the background some Ivy League quant stats guy smashed at his keyboard, no doubt hoping one of these buttons would take him through the keyboard and straight to Narnia. Maybe he was already there.

Ten minutes later, the cameras caught Ko in tears, at some tent out the back – alone but for her big sister, who was hugging her. Presumably they’d just found out she’d won. As drama, this was as bad as it gets. Where were the embarrassingly performed high fives on the final green, the crowd cheering the fact she’d just won $1 million – double the prize on offer for the winner of the tournament and $850,000 more than she would have got if she’d missed her next putt?

Later, Ko was quoted saying that the Rolex Player of the Year was actually the title she cared most about. Fortunately, she had won that too, not that anybody could have known. Who knows what she got for that? She won a car she’s not able to drive for taking out the Kia Drive to the Top title, she probably got nothing for finishing the year world number one, and she won the money title.

Ko’s archrival, Inbee Park, who finished a shot ahead of her in the tournament, won the Vare Trophy for year’s best scoring average and also qualified for the Golf Hall of Fame. Cristie Kerr won the tournament they were all playing in. Did anybody else win anything? I would guess probably yes, but by this stage I’ve done all the research I’m paid for.

If all this had happened at an under-11’s rugby prizegiving in Pakuranga, half the parents would have been straight on the handsfree to Veitchy in the car on the way home, complaining about how everyone gets a trophy nowadays, and that’s why we always lose to Australia.

In the end, none of it mattered much because, after wading through all the awards, we sort of found out what we already knew about the greatness of Lydia, and the world’s media published the words ‘New Zealander’ next to her name so we could google news search it for hours and revel in that special feeling that gives us. We have raised a golfing savant.

After the tournament, the LPGA published on their website a comparison of the youngest MVPs / players of the year in various American sports. Derrick Rose was the youngest to win in the NBA, at 22, three MLB baseballers won at 22 and Jim Brown of the NFL and Tiger Woods of the PGA won at 21. The youngest of all time, until today, was Wayne Gretzky, who won at 19. Now he’s been overtaken by our Lydia. Should have just said that at the start, really.


Watch Lydia Ko and all the stars of the PGA, LPGA and European Tour on WorldGolfPass.com

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.