The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, November 21, 2019

LPGA Season Finale — Interview with Carlota Ciganda — Must-click links in women's golf

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The LPGA Season Finale

Can you believe the LPGA season is coming to a close? I can’t—and I also can’t believe we are over halfway through November. The CME Group Tour Championship teed off bright and early this morning in Naples, Florida with $1.5 million on the line for first place—the largest-ever in women’s golf. Only the Top 60 players make up the field this week. Ron Sirak does a great job of breaking down the new points system, so I’ll lead with his insights on what these players have done to get to Naples compared to previous years.

The old system:

  • Was tough to calculate who would win the CME bonus.

  • LPGA winners were automatically in the field.

  • Finishing on top of the Race to the CME Globe points list gave the player a leg up on the season-ending bonus.

  • Points were reset going into the Tour Championship.

  • There was a chance at two winners – one for the Tour Championship and one for the Race to the CME Globe bonus.

The new system:

  • The points race is the only way to compete in the CME Group Tour Championship.

  • Here is exactly how you can earn points throughout the year.

  • Moved the total purse up to $5 million and made first place $1.5 million.

  • Being No. 1 gets you a couple hours extra sleep by getting a later tee time. 

  • The top 60 on the points list qualify for the tournament.

  • Eliminated the points reset so anyone in the field could win the big prize. 

The sentiments overall from the golf world are really strong in that these changes are for the better. It gives anyone in the field a chance to win, and potentially change their life entirely if it happens to be a first time winner, which I think adds to the excitement. Hope you can tune in at some point this weekend! The broadcast is on Golf Channel today through Saturday from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm and on Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm on ABC (all Eastern time).

Since I’m sending out this week’s newsletter later than usual, here’s an overview on how things are shaping up in Naples after 18 holes. Sei Young Kim shot an astounding 7-under and leads the pack by two strokes. But behind her, there are three players at 5-under (Georgia Hall, So Yeon Ryu and Nelly Korda) and five players sitting at 4-under (Marina Alex, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Brooke Henderson, Caroline Masson and Lizette Salas). None of these names are surprising!

Sei Young Kim has earned over $7 million in her career which includes around $1.2 this season alone, including two victories and nine Top 10s. Another million and a half wouldn’t be so bad, would it? With that said, there’s still a lot of golf to played, and the players close behind her are just as capable of making moves the next few days. Of the players in the the top five (including ties) after the first round, only one has never won on the LPGA before—Nanna Koerstz Madsen. And two players, Lizette Salas and Caroline Masson, haven’t won in five years and three years, respectively.

I was actually shocked to see that Lizette hasn’t won since 2014, because she’s had a sneaky good year. That includes three Top 10s in 2019 and over $1 million in prize money. This is the most she’s made on tour since she turned professional in 2012. And if you look at her statistics over the last few years, she’s definitely been trending up and continues to remain relevant week to week. As for Koerstz Madsen, she’s a young pup! In her rookie season in 2018, she only made nine cuts. Fast forward to this year where she has two Top 10s and half a million in the bank in earnings.

It would be pretty cool to see either of those two win. Lexi Thompson, who won CME last year, isn’t too far down the leaderboard either at 2-under. She’s surrounded by a few major champions and 2019 winners. It’s bound to get interesting, especially heading into the weekend with more challenging hole locations. Regardless, it will be a true test of golf the next three days and whoever walks home with $1.5 million will be one happy camper!

And speaking of big paychecks, more on Carlota Ciganda down below, who took home $1 million yesterday after winning the Aon Risk Reward Challenge!

This Week in Women’s Golf

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

New episode up on the podcast! Check it out.

You can follow the live leaderboard at CME starting today through Sunday.

The hardest thing for Lee6 on the LPGA tour isn’t what you’d expect.

Bring on the sprint at CME for a $1.5 million prize.

Nelly Korda looking to end breakout season on a high note.

World No. 1 Ko battling injury but still eyeing the prize at CME.

Loved this article on nine ways the LPGA could get more attention.

Big news out of Daytona Beach! LPGA Commish is in it for the long haul.

CME’s record prize speaks to the importance of financial security for LPGA players.

There’s a lot that’s tough about playing on tour. Loneliness is sadly one of them.

The LPGA Q-series still needs some work, Golfweek writes.

The official release announcing Carlota’s Ciganda big-time prize.

Women are catching up when it comes to pay equality, says Forbes.

New CME tournament director is ready for the next step.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Carlota Ciganda

I’ve talked about the AON Risk-Reward Challenge in previous newsletters, but can’t stress enough how big of a deal this is! It’s one of the biggest payouts on the LPGA—and is the same amount as what Brooks Koepka (PGA TOUR winner) received. That’s pretty groundbreaking. We have a winner at last and it couldn’t have happened to a kinder human. Carlota Ciganda officially received her $1 million check yesterday (Nov. 20) and spoke to the media about it. I was able to ask her a few more questions about what it means to take home this prize money.

Q: I was able to watch your press conference yesterday. Of course a day you get handed a $1 million check is going to be emotional, but why does this mean so much to you?

A: I got emotional because I was thinking about all the people that helped me to get to where I am today. It was special having my parents and James (boyfriend) there as well. And the LPGA has become a family, I have been playing 8 years on tour now, and everyone is just so nice and helpful. Mike Whan and his team behind are doing a great job. More prize money, more tournaments.

Q: In what ways do you think this is a big win for women’s golf as a whole?

A: I think it’s big for women’s golf because is the same prize for the PGA tour too. Usually the men get paid much more than us, women. Many thanks To AON for starting that initiative and getting equal prize money on both tours. Hopefully more companies can see what we do and put more money in women’s golf.

Q: When it comes to prize money and overall exposure, how far has the LPGA come since you started playing on tour?

A: I have been a pro eight years now. Tw years in Europe and I started playing here in 2013. I can only say good things about the LPGA. Mike Whan and his team are doing a great jog increasing prize money every year, getting more events in the schedule—all very positive! He is doing a great job and I am very thankful he is going to continue with us. I feel very lucky to be part of the LPGA. We get to travel to some nice places, meet great people and learn from other cultures. I feel very lucky to have this life.

Q: How are you celebrating this one?

A: I am not someone that likes to spend money in materialistic things. To be honest, I am very happy with what I have and I want to look after my team for sure, I think it’s important to remember everyone that has helped me get where I am today . And also, I am very close to my family and friends in Spain. So I can’t wait to get there and have some nice dinners and drinks with all of them. Spending time with family and people that I love is what makes me the happiest.

Q: This seems like an ideal way to finish the 2019 season! What are your goals heading into the final three rounds at CME?

A: I still have one more week, and I would like to finish strong my year. It’s been a good year, very consistent and happy with my results! But I would love to finish the year strong.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Stephanie Livaudais, @Livaudais
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by The IX Team