South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace was forced to withdraw from her last LPGA Tour start of the season, while Connie Chen’s second title bid on the Ladies European Tour was thwarted by Chinese Taipei amateur Ssu-Chia Cheng.
Pace pulled a back muscle during the practice round of the CME Group Tour Championship, but teed it up at the Tiburon Golf Club nonetheless. She carded an opening two-over-par 74 to finish eight off the pace, but had to retire from the LPGA Tour’s season-finale and the $1 million jackpot that goes with it.
“I was pretty disappointed to have to withdraw,” said the reigning Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies leader from Naples, Florida.
“I fought really hard to make the field for the Tour Championship. My back felt okay during the round, but after I cooled off, the muscle seized up. I decided to rather play it safe, but it was a let-down.
“I didn’t want to cause myself further injury, though. I have a full season ahead of me on the LPGA Tour next year. It starts really early and I would rather be fighting fit for next season.”
The Pearl Valley golfer is not returning home empty-handed, though.
Pace was among the seven first-time winners this season honoured during the Rolex Awards Celebration on Thursday night at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
She won the Blue Bay LPGA in October to join the maiden winner’s list alongside Mi Hyang Lee (Mizuno Classic), Austin Ernst (Portland Classic), Mirim Lee (Meijer LPGA Classic), Lizette Salas (Kingsmill Championship), Lydia Ko (Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic) and Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, Mo Martin.
The youthful Lydia Ko tapped in for par on the fourth sudden-death playoff hole to win the Race to the CME Globe and the CME Group Tour Championship for a $1.5 million windfall and net the biggest payday in women’s golf history.
Ko guaranteed herself the $1 million and inaugural Race to the CME Globe, but went back to the 18th with her third Tour win of the year on her mind. She got it, making four consecutive pars to outlast Carlota Ciganda and Julieta Granada.
Meanwhile Chen, playing on the other side of the world, was well placed take her second title after winning the Tenerife Open de Espana in September.
She took a one-shot lead in the inaugural Xiamen Open after an opening 68 and held on for a share of pole position with Cheng and Chloe Leurquin from Belgium after carding a 70 in the second round.
The 21-year-old Pretoria professional faltered in the final round, though, returning a 76 to finish in a tie for 11th on two under 214 with England’s Charley Hull and Leurquin, among others.
Reigning Zambia Ladies Open champion Stacy Bregman (75-72) reeled in five birdies around the turn at the Orient Golf and Country Club to close with a 69 and a share of 24th on two under 214.
Two-time Ladies European Tour winner Ashleigh Simon finished on 218 in joint 32nd place after rounds of 71, 73 and 74.