Jun. 10, 2012; Pittsford, NY, USA; Stacy Lewis on the green of the second hole during the final round of the Wegmans LPGA championship at the Locust Hill Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

LPGA Endgame: Rolex Player of the Year

Inbee Park, Leading in Rolex Player of the Year Race. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The LPGA 2012 season is in its final countdown and three year-end awards are on the table.  They’ll all be decided by the two final events of the year.   The Lorena Ochoa Invitational at Guadalajara County Club in Guadalajara, Mexico this weekend and the CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Florida November 21-24 will button it up, and we’ll finally have a Rolex Player of the Year,  a winner of the Vare Trophy, and a 2013 LPGA Top Money Winner.  As a bonus, we’ll also know which 8 countries will qualify to play in the inaugural International Crown July 21-27, 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland.

Inbee Park‘s leading in the Rolex Player of the Year race.  With 290 points, the South Korean who’s been at the top of the Rolex Rankings for 31 weeks is going into the Lorena Ochoa Invitational 42 points ahead of Norwegian Suzann Pettersen.  But Pettersen’s hot and Park’s not.

Suzann Pettersen, Challenging Inbee Park’s Lead for Rolex Player of the Year

Pettersen’s finished in the 1op-10 in the last 8 events she’s entered.  And she won the Safeway Classic in August, the Evian Championship in September, and the Sunrise LPGA Championship in October.  Park has entered 8 events since she won the US Women’s Open in June.  She’s finished outside the top-10 in 7 of them, placing 3rd only at the Reignwood LPGA Classic in October.

With 30 points at stake for 1st place finishers and 12 points for 2nd place winners, if Pettersen and Park both perform as they have been over the past 90 days, Pettersen will easily overtake Park and take this award.  However, if Park finishes 2nd or even 3rd in both events, and Pettersen hits even a minor slump, Park will maintain her current lead in the race for the Rolex Player of the Year award.

What about the other contenders?  The scenarios are endless, but several come into immediate focus.

Rolex Ranked No. 3 Stacy Lewis is in a distant 3rd place, 87 points behind Inbee Park.  Even with back-to-back wins at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the Titleholders Lewis can’t catch Park.  However, she could catch and pass Pettersen and come in 2nd in this annual race.   Is it possible?  Since her August victory at the RICOH Women’s British Open Lewis has entered 5 events and finished in the top-10 five times.  She and Pettersen are both playing hot.  This outcome is certainly possible.  Two hot players will make for come exciting golf in Guadalajara!

Beatriz Recari, with 96 points, is only  7 points behind Lewis and So Yeon Ryu, with 88 points, is sitting in a fairly distant 5th place, 8 points behind Recari.  But if Lewis stumbles in the two final events of the season and either Recari or Ryu has back-to-back strong finishes, either of them could take over 3 place.  If Pettersen and Lewis both finish outside the top-10 at the Lorena Ochoa and the Titleholders and Recari or Ryu would get to 2nd but they couldn’t catch Inbee Park.  It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

We’re going to need a fairly sophisticated spreadsheet to project outcomes if the hot players go cold and the underdogs get hot!

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Television Coverage

The Lorena Ochoa Invitational is a fantastic tournament, and definitely a great television event – due to the beauty of the course, the world-class field, and the way the people of Guadalajara support the LPGA.  Unfortunately, the tournament was caught off-guard when the local government withdrew its financial support of the 2013 event – this was the support that financed the international television production.  Based on this, the LPGA released the tournament organizers from their TV commitment.  The tournament organizers have worked-out a local/Mexico tv package, and a highlights/update package with the US Golf  Channel, so US fans/viewers can at least get regular updates in Golf Central.  In addition, I’ll bring you a wrap-up of each day’s play and an analysis of how the contests for Rolex Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy, and the top LPGA money winner are unfolding.

Tags: Golf Inbee Park Lorena Ochoa Invitational LPGA Suzann Pettersen

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