Ko Jin-young shines brightest among S. Koreans in 2021 LPGA season

유지호 / 2021-11-22 08:39:08
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LPGA-S Korea recap
▲ In this Getty Images photo, Ko Jin-young of South Korea imitates a selfie with the CME Globe trophy after winning the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, on Nov. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ In this Getty Images photo, Ko Jin-young of South Korea poses with the LPGA Player of the Year trophy after winning the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, on Nov. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ In this Getty Images photo, Ko Jin-young of South Korea watches her tee shot from the 18th hole during the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship on the LPGA Tour at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, on Nov. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

LPGA-S Korea recap

Ko Jin-young shines brightest among S. Koreans in 2021 LPGA season

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- In an LPGA season that had no shortage of star power, no one shined as brightly as South Korea's own Ko Jin-young.

Ko finished a wildly successful 2021 campaign with a flourish in Florida on Sunday (local time), claiming the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship for the second straight year. Ko's fifth victory of 2021 also catapulted her to the Player of the Year award and the money title past her main rival, Nelly Korda of the United States.

Ko collected nine birdies for a nine-under 63 on the final day at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, to finish the tournament at 23-under 265, one better than Nasa Hataoka of Japan.

Aside from Ko, only two other South Koreans found the winner's circle this season: Park In-bee at the Kia Classic in March and Kim Hyo-joo at the HSBC Women's World Championship in May.

Ko, Park and Kim combined to win seven tournaments out of 29 this year. And for the first time since 2010, South Korean players were shut out at majors.

This was an otherwise so-so year for South Korean players that Ko single-handedly made look more respectable. Consider that six different South Koreans won seven out of 18 events in the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season, while winning three of the four majors. In 2019, eight South Koreans combined for 15 wins out of 32 tournaments, including three of the five majors.

Five players from five different countries each claimed a major title in 2021, a testament to the increasingly global nature of the competition.

Among South Koreans, Lee Jeong-eun, the 2019 LPGA Rookie of the Year, came the closest to winning a major this season at the Amundi Evian Championship in France in July.

Lee Jeong-eun took a five-stroke lead into the final round, but Minjee Lee of Australia stormed back from seven shots behind to tie the South Korean at 18-under 266 after 72 holes, and then won the tournament at the first hole of the playoff.

At the season's final major, AIG Women's Open in August, Kim Sei-young was the top South Korean player in a tie for 13th. This meant that for the first time since the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship (currently ANA Inspiration), no South Korean player ranked inside the top 10 at an LPGA major.

Ko's remarkable second-half surge made South Koreans' relative struggles at major championships seem like a distant memory.

Four of Ko's five wins came over her last seven starts of the season, a stretch that also included a runner-up finish and a pair of sixth-place showings.

Ko has also done something that no other South Korean has accomplished in LPGA: winning the Player of the Year twice.

"It's a great honor to get the Player of the Year twice, especially since we have a lot of good players from Korea on this tour," Ko said at a press conference following her victory Sunday. "It's really tough to get the Player of the Year, especially this year with Nelly (playing well). I am so proud of myself."

(END)

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