Ariya Jutanugarn, Lexi Thompson close LPGA season on top
Lexi Thompson shot a final-round 70 to finish at 18-under-par 270 and win the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship by four strokes over Nelly Korda in Naples, Fla.
Ariya Jutanugarn took the other two big prizes that were up for grabs this week, clinching the yearlong Race to the CME Globe prize — and the $1 million bonus that comes with that — as well as the Vare Trophy for winning the season’s scoring title.
The world No. 1 already had wrapped up player of the year honors, and finished 2018 with a 69.415 scoring average to edge Minjee Lee (69.747) for the top spot there.
The win makes this the sixth consecutive year that Thompson has won at least once, extending the longest such active streak on the LPGA Tour.
‘‘Golf is my life,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘But it is just what I do. I'm coming to realize that. Still not there some of the days because it is so much a part of my life, but it is just a sport. There is so much to life other than that, my family and my friends and just loving every bit of that and just being grateful for what I have.’’
Jutanugarn shot a 66 on Sunday, finishing the week tied for fifth at 12-under 276.
‘‘It felt great today,’’ Jutanugarn said. ‘‘I'm very proud of myself.’’
Jutanugarn briefly lost the lead in the projected Globe standings on Sunday after Brooke Henderson made three birdies on her first seven holes to grab the top spot. Jutanugarn reclaimed the advantage with four birdies in a six-hole stretch midway through her round, and the trophy was just about locked up when she birdied the par-5 14th almost simultaneously to Henderson making bogey on the par-3 16th.
The 13th hole Sunday provided the shift that Thompson used to hold off Korda. They went to the tee of that par-4 with Thompson up by two; she made birdie, Korda made bogey, and Thompson was suddenly up four with five holes to play.
‘‘It was just very special to win in front of all my family and friends,’’ Thompson said.
Jutanugarn finished in style, rolling in a 15-footer for birdie on the final hole to cap the year where she swept the LPGA’s biggest prizes.
‘‘It means so much to me because like to be honest, after 2016 I never expected anything,’’ Jutanugarn said. ‘‘I feel like I achieve like too much already in my life, so I never think I can do anything more than that. So this year . . . just like unbelievable.’’
Among other notables, Brittany Lincicome (67) tied for third at 13 under with So Yeon Ryu (68), Lydia Ko went 68-68 on the weekend to finish 12-under alongside Jutanugarn, Marina Alex (69), and Carlota Ciganda (70).
Nasa Hataoka finished alone in ninth at 10-under, and first-round leader Amy Olson shot a 68 to finish at 9 under and in a group with Henderson and Sei Young Kim.
‘‘To finish top 10, top five, whatever it’s going to be, going into the offseason, obviously I made a few extra dollars because I'm not playing until January,’’ Lincicome said. ‘‘I feel pretty good about it.’’
The 2019 LPGA schedule is expected to be released in full later this month. The year begins with the inaugural Tournament of Champions in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, from Jan. 17-20. Winners from the last two LPGA seasons are eligible for that field, which means there should be about 36 pros playing along with some celebrity participants.
PGA — Charles Howell III made a 15-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff with Patrick Rodgers in the RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Ga., to end an 11-year victory drought. Howell closed with a 3-under 67, birdieing Nos. 15-17, to match Rodgers at 19-under 263 in the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year.
Howell dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands, then tearfully embraced wife Heather and children Ansley and Chase — neither of whom were born when he last won on the PGA Tour at Riviera in 2007.
Howell earned $1,152,000 and a return trip to his hometown of Augusta, Ga., in April to play in the Masters for the first time since 2012
‘‘That was the first thing that popped into my head [after making the clinching putt],’’ Howell said. ‘‘Obviously, it means a lot to me being from Augusta but it means a lot to every player, right? Every golfer in the world knows what the Masters is so I'm nothing special on that. But that tournament, that atmosphere, just everything . . . it’s tough at home to sit back and watch that on television.’’
After Rodgers sent a birdie attempt of 21 feet past the cup on the second extra hole, Howell’s putt died in the cup and capped a comeback in which he went bogey-double bogey on his first two holes to lose the lead he had held through the first three rounds.
‘‘The way I started today, I just honestly thought I shot myself in the foot again,’’ Howell said. ‘‘I thought that was pretty much over. I had seen this movie before.’’
Rodgers’s 17-under 123 weekend was one shot off Troy Matteson’s PGA Tour record for consecutive rounds of 122 set the 2009 Frys.com Championship. He finished second for the third time in four years.
‘‘I fought as hard as I could,’’ said Rodgers, who broke Tiger Woods’s scoring record at Stanford and tied his victory record. ‘‘I didn’t really back down. I stayed aggressive and I made birdies all the way to the finish. It’s a testament to how well Charles played.’’
Webb Simpson (65) had a 12-foot birdie opportunity at the final hole to join the playoff, but missed.
European — Danny Willett ended his title drought in thrilling fashion, winning the DP World Tour Championship by two shots despite a last-hole blunder in Dubai.
It was the 31-year-old Englishman’s first victory since the 2016 Masters, secured with a final-round 4-under 68 for an 18-under total of 270.
Francesco Molinari finished in joint 26th place to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Willett held a two-shot lead on the 18th tee after making a birdie on the 17th, but pushed his tee shot slightly into the bank of a creek that divides the 18th fairway, and then hit a brave second shot from the rocks before making par. Matt Wallace (68) and Patrick Reed (70) were joint runners-up at 16-under 272.
‘‘Winning’s a rarity on tour, really,” said Willett, who has battled a long-running back injury. “I'm pleased to have won the tournaments that I've won over the last few years. But this, coming back after everything that’s happened, is going to go down in the history books for myself as one of the most pleasing.’’
Australia — Abraham Ancer went into the final round of the Australian Open with a five-stroke lead in Sydney, and won it with the same margin after shooting a final-round 69 to finish at 16-under 272
Another major prize for Ancer’s win is a trip to next year’s British Open at Royal Portrush for finishing among the top three at the Australian Open who weren’t already exempt.
Australian Dimitrios Papadatos (67) also qualified for the British Open after finishing in second. Jake McLeod, who shot a 66 for the low round of the day Sunday, finished third to also qualify next year.
Matt Kuchar and Keegan Bradley finished well off the pace with final-round 75s after being among the leaders for three rounds.