Sometimes high risk means high reward. That was definitely the case for LPGA golfer Carlota Ciganda, who won the inaugural Aon Risk Reward Challenge and the $1 million prize Tuesday.
The goal of season-long competition was to illustrate how the world's best golfers are among the world's best strategic decision makers. The competition measured the performance of LPGA and PGA Tour golfers on a series of challenging holes across various tournaments. Players took their best two scores from each hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the regular season.
Ciganda, a native of Spain, was 37 under par for 44 challenge holes played, giving her a winning score of -0.841. Ariya Jutanugarn (-0.833) was second, followed by Lee-Anne Pace (-0.731), Brooke Henderson (-0.720) and In-Kyung Kim (-0.714).
For Ciganda, an eight-year player on the LPGA Tour, the end of the season provided her with the most crucial risk-reward situations. Although she was a leading contender from the start of the competition, it wasn't until the end of the season, at the Buick LPGA Shanghai and the BMW Ladies Championship, where she stretched her lead with eagle-birdie scores on challenge holes.
"I played very consistent the whole year. I love being aggressive. I love taking the risk. I love that," Ciganda said at the CME Group Tour Championship, the final tournament of the season. "That's golf for me. That's par-5 going on two, going for the green. That's what I love the most."
In August, PGA golfer Brooks Koepka won the inaugural trophy and the $1 million prize. Both Koepka and Ciganda were awarded equal payments for their accomplishments in the challenge, a rarity between the PGA and LPGA Tours, which differ greatly in prize money.
"It's an unbelievable prize," Ciganda said. "It's really amazing finally to get recognized with the same amount of money. I'm the winner, but women's golf is the winner today. The LPGA is the winner. We're all winners."
In 2019, LPGA players competed for a record $70.2 million in total prize money, up $7.2 million from 2016. This week, at the CME Group Tour Championship, the entire field will compete for the $5 million purse. And, the $1.5 million winner's check will be the largest single prize in the history of women's golf. (For context, Brooks Koepka won nearly $2 million after clinching the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. The total purse was $11 million.)
"We couldn't be more proud of this outcome, and maybe most proud of the equal prize money across the LPGA and PGA Tour," Andy Weitz, Aon Chief Marketing Officer, said. "It's really great to see the level of consistency and high performance across both tours, and to see these players come out ahead at the end was incredibly exciting."
Ciganda will compete at the final LPGA tournament of the 2019 season, the CME Group Tour Championship. Ciganda is currently ranked No. 14 in Women's World Golf Rolex Rankings.