<
>

The race for the LPGA Tour season honors heats up in Florida

Shanshan Feng ascended to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings after winning the Japan Classic and Blue Bay LPGA in the past two weeks. Zhe Ji/Getty Images

NAPLES, Fla. -- At the end of an LPGA season when success has been spread around, there figures to be plenty of number crunching at the CME Group Tour Championship.

That's because the tour arrives at Tiburon Golf Club with a lot of things unsettled when it comes to season honors, including Rolex Player of the Year, Race to the CME Globe and money title.

Given that there have been 22 different winners in 32 tournaments leading up to the 2017 finale, the scramble makes sense.

Here are five things to watch for this week.

Will Shanshan Feng's hot streak continue?

Feng played in four of the five events on the LPGA's recent Asia swing, and the 28-year-old from China will tee off with a ton of confidence and going for a third straight win.

After top-three finishes in Malaysia and Taiwan, Feng won the Japan Classic and Blue Bay LPGA to give her three wins on the season (the only other player with three is In-Kyung Kim).

The run of success has taken the personable golfer who favors loud pants to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings -- the first Chinese golfer to have that distinction -- displacing Sung Hyun Park who briefly held the top spot.

Does anyone have an inside track for season honors?

Well, it depends on the category.

For player of the year, Feng, So Yeon Ryu (currently leading), Sung Hyun Park and Lexi Thompson would be guaranteed to become POY by winning the tournament, with Ryu having the most leeway, needing to finish 10th or better this week to have a chance.

In the money race, Park is in the driver's seat. Because she leads in earnings by $298,047 over Ryu, Park will win the money title as long as Ryu doesn't win the tournament. If Ryu wins, a solo second by Park would still leave her on top.

Thompson, whose 69.147 scoring average tops the LPGA, would need to be beaten badly (by nine or 10 strokes) this week by Park or In Gee Chun to not win the Vare Trophy.

What about the $1 million on the line in the Race for the CME Globe?

The top five players in the Globe standings -- Thompson, Park, Feng, Ryu and Brooke Henderson -- can take care of business by winning the tournament. The permutations multiply outside of that straightforward scenario, with a player's standing going into this week affecting what kind of performance will be necessary to win the big bonus.

Thompson, for instance, could finish 40th or better and still have a chance depending on how others play. But Stacy Lewis, 11th in the Globe standings, has to have a win this week and have a bunch of other -- unlikely --stuff happen. The odds are clearly with the top five players.

Can Sung Hyun Park join a very select club?

The LPGA has been giving out both player of the year and rookie of the year awards since 1966. The only golfer to win both in the same year was Nancy Lopez in 1978.

Park, 24, who played in seven LPGA events as a non-member in 2016, secured the 2017 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year honor weeks ago because she had an insurmountable lead over Angel Yin. But the 2017 U.S. Women's Open champion has player of the year in her sights as well even though she is trying to limit her focus.

"I'm in the chase for a lot these awards," Park said. "At the same time, I know I'm not the only one in the chase. I know all the other competitors are feeling the same pressure. From that standpoint, I try not to put too much pressure on myself."

Will Lydia Ko rediscover her winning form?

When Ko earned her 14th career LPGA victory at the 2016 Marathon Classic last July, few would have suspected she would go 16 months without another win. Yet that's the position Ko, 20, is in as the 2017 season winds down.

It was really at the CME Group Tour Championship last year when Ko showed that her game wasn't in the tip-top shape that had made her a true phenomenon. Ko made it look easy in the second round at Tiburon Golf Club, shooting a 62, but didn't break par over the weekend.

Ko, who arguably had the most prolific start to a golf career at a younger age than anyone in history and was No. 1 in the world for 84 weeks, made lots of changes in the offseason. She ended her relationship with instructor David Leadbetter to go with Gary Gilchrist and switching equipment companies from Callaway to PXG.

This season has been one of transition for the Korea-born New Zealander. It's not as if she hasn't had bright spots, but she hasn't been able to put it all together. Things have looked up a bit recently. Ko had top-five finishes in two of her last three appearances, including being runner-up at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship, where she closed with a 65.

A victory this week would put Ko, now No. 8 in the world rankings, back in the conversation that she dominated for a long time.