CME Group Tour Championship: The final round of the year

The final, climactic round of the CME Group Tour Championship on Sunday should be quite a show. We have two remaining questions for this year’s LPGA season:

  1. Who will win the tournament and the $500,000 that goes with it
  2. Who will win the $1 million bonus

At this point, Julieta Granada has put on an impressive, tenacious show going ever lower each day. She is currently at 9-under and one shot ahead of Morgan Pressel. It was too easy to dismiss her as having shot a rare 66 in the first round to take the lead. But when she came back with 71, 70 to go three shots lower and stay in the lead, you have to consider her a serious contender for the trophy. 

“Yeah, I played pretty well today; super consistent.  I hit a lot of fairways and I hit a lot of greens.  I made some good putts out there. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow, see what tomorrow brings.”

The thing that makes this all plausible is what she said about how she’s managing to do all of this:

“I slept pretty good so far.  I been feeling pretty calm and just pretty relaxed out there.  There is not a lot of thought going on.  I’m just playing some golf.”

To be able to do that — just play some golf; pick a target and hit the ball there without a swing thought — indicates that she is operating at a high level of consciousness. That by itself is a powerful indicator that she just might prevail Sunday.

But there is a resurgent Morgan Pressel right behind her who likes her chances:

“I didn’t hit a very good tee shot on the first hole today.  I think the — I don’t want to say the old me, but maybe five years ago I would’ve gotten really annoyed with myself and not been able to rebound like I did.”

“I stayed patient and nearly made birdie on 2 and then got it back to even par on 3.  It’s nice to be playing well.  I feel good about my game.  Feel good about the way that I’m controlling the golf ball.”

The two of them will be in the last group with the long-hitting Carlota Ciganda who shot 1-under on the day and is tied with Pressel. A pretty nice group to be watching.

The next to last group will be Sandra Gal (70), Lydia Ko (68) and So Yeon Ryu (70), a very polished group. Gal is a thoughtful player who seemed in a trance when she calmly beat Jiyai Shin in the 2011 Kia Classic. The irrepressible Ko won twice this year and won Rookie of the Year and the elegant Ryu won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.

Michelle Wie is in the second to last group and five shots back. She is surely capable of getting hot.

As I noted at the beginning of the week, there are only nine players with a mathematical chance of winning the $1 million bonus. This is based on the sum of their reset points awarded for their yearlong finish and the bonus points they earn for how they finish in this tournament.

Stacy Lewis is currently holding on to a slim 50 point lead over Lydia Ko, 5,550 to 5,500. Inbee Park has drifted down to third place because she has fallen to T38 in the tournament. Her total is 4,730 and unlikely to change given that she’s having an off week.

Ko, on the other hand, is just three strokes out of the lead and doesn’t need to win in order to capture the $1 million. If Lewis remains at T10, all Ko needs to do is move up from T5 to 4th to win enough of the richer tournament points to wipe out her 50 point gap with Lewis. And Lewis said that she is thinking about her swing. So the bonus girls to watch are Lewis and Ko.

And finally, for you swing tip junkies out there, here’s what Stacy Lewis was thinking about all day on her way to a 70 and T10:

“Well, it was pretty much dark when we left last night, so we were out there for a while.  It was kind of the order of the back swing.  My body was just going so fast and kind of controlling the whole swing.”

“Just tried to get things going more starting with the arms.  I probably looked like I was talking to myself all day, but I just kept saying, ‘Your arms pull the body.’  Just trying to make my arms pull the body on the backswing and pull my body through.”

“Fortunately it worked.  I hit a lot of really good shots.  It was pretty windy and tough out there again.”

What we’ll be watching for is which way the “wind” will be blowing for her swing tips on Sunday. She controls her destiny.

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