Welcome to a mid-season edition of the Just Women’s Sports LPGA power rankings. Two majors have wrapped up since our third iteration, leading to plenty of shake-ups. Two more majors will play out over the next three weeks, with the Amundi Evian Championship teeing off Thursday and the AIG Women’s Open on Aug. 4.

Our new top player, the first to knock World No. 1 Jin Young Ko from the power rankings pedestal, is the defending champion at the Evian Resort Golf Club.

1. Minjee Lee

The newest two-time major champion claims the top spot in our power rankings after her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. Lee nearly won back-to-back majors, if not for In Gee Chun’s four-foot putt on the 18th hole to secure the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship title. The Australian is now second in the Rolex World Rankings and has an opportunity to be the first player to knock Jin Young Ko off her No. 1 perch since Nelly Korda in 2021.

Lee leads the LPGA in all of its major award categories at this stage in the season. She’s earned 135 Player of the Year points, awarded based on top-10 performances and worth double in majors. Lee holds a 40-point edge over Jennifer Kupcho in the POY race.

She also earned 84 points in the Rolex Annika Major award race with her victory and runner-up finish in the last two majors. Kupcho and Chun, with 60 points each from their respective major wins, are tied for second.

Lee is also leading the Vare Trophy race with a 69.025 scoring average. If that lead held for the remainder of the season, the Australian would have the second-lowest winning scoring average in tour history, trailing only Annika Sorenstam’s 68.7 average in 2002.

Lee is averaging -1.05 in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, a -.121 advantage over Jessica Korda. The winner earns a crisp $1 million at the end of the season. It’s another potential million-dollar paycheck Lee could cash alongside the $1.8 million she earned at Pine Needles Golf Club.

Starts: 11
Wins: 2
Top-10s: 5
Notable finishes: Victories at the U.S. Women’s Open, Cognizant Founders Cup, T-2 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: 3rd

2. Jennifer Kupcho

Kupcho has won two of her last three tournaments, raising trophies in back-to-back LPGA starts in Michigan for the most titles on tour so far in 2022. Her victory at the Chevron Championship set her up for success at Midland Country Club, with Lizette Salas asking her to team up during the first round at the Dinah Shore Course.

“In the end, I think it really calmed us down to have each other by our sides,” Kupcho said at her victory press conference. “So, to come out on top, it’s really amazing next to Lizette.”

After starting the season in 44th place in the Rolex World Rankings, Kupcho has surged into ninth despite earning zero points for her victory at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. The team event doesn’t give any out.

Kupcho is now the third highest-ranked American in the world, trailing just Nelly Korda (third) and Lexi Thompson (sixth).

Starts: 15
Wins: 3
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Wins at the Chevron Championship, Meijer LPGA Classic, Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational,
Last month: 9th

3. Jin Young Ko

The reigning LPGA Player of the Year hasn’t won in eight starts, knocking her out of the top spot in these rankings for the first time this year.

For most, that’s normal. For Ko, it’s an aberration.

Should she not win for the second time in four years at the Amundi Evian Championship this week, she’ll have gone her second-most starts between victories since her third-career title at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March 2019. The 13-time winner went 10 starts between her wins at the 2020 CME Group Tour Championship and 2021 Volunteers of America Classic.

Ko breaking that streak at one of the upcoming major championships would reaffirm her grip on the No. 1 spot in the World Rankings. Moreover, it would bring her closer to another historic mark on her resume.

Ko has held the No. 1 spot for 137 weeks in her career, the second most all-time. She trails recently inducted LPGA Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa, who spent 158 weeks atop the rankings.

Starts: 9
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Victory at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, Runner-up Palos Verdes Championship, fourth U.S. Women’s Open
Last month: 1st

4. Atthaya Thitikul

Thitikul’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year lead teetered at the PGA Championship as she entered the weekend tied for 41st while Hye-Jin Choi, her top competitor, sat in ninth.

Instead, the No. 4 player in the world delivered the lowest score Saturday to vault into sixth place. Thitikul followed through with a fourth-place finish, two strokes behind In Gee Chun’s winning mark. She now holds a 53-point edge over Choi, who ended up T-5 at Congressional’s Blue Course.

The Thai teenager has been one of the most consistent players on tour, riding back-to-back top-5s into the Amundi Evian Championship this week. She’s leading the LPGA with 4.3 birdies per round. Her ability to score low makes her a constant threat to top leaderboards this season.

Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Victory at the JTBC Classic, fourth KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-4 HSBC Women’s World Championship
Last month: 4th

5. Lydia Ko

Ko’s ironwoman top-30 streak finally ended with a T-46 finish at the PGA Championship. The result came a year after her last finish outside the top-30, with a T-52 at the 2021 PGA. This week, she has her first opportunity to win a major championship since the 2016 ANA Inspiration.

“I think we all try and peak at the majors,” Ko said at the U.S. Women’s Open. “You’re just trying to play the best golf you can and, at the same time, not think of it any differently than any other event. But to play solid, I think it just shows what point my game is at. I know there are things to improve, but there’s still a lot of good from there.”

Ko has played her most consistent golf at the Evian Resort Course. Including her maiden major win in 2015, she’s posted six top-10s in eight starts at the Amundi Evian Championship.

Starts: 12
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Win at the Gainbridge LPGA, T-3 Palos Verdes Championship, Fifth U.S. Women’s Open
Last month: 2nd

6. Brooke Henderson

Henderson’s victory at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club completed a boomerang of a season for Canada’s winningest golfer. The 24-year-old started the season on a tear with four top-10s, including a second-place finish to earn fifth place in the first edition of these power rankings.

Then Henderson faltered. She withdrew from the Lotte Championship and missed the cut in both Los Angeles-area tournaments.

Henderson has since turned her season around, finishing within the top 16 in her last four starts. That run includes her 11th-career victory at the Shoprite LPGA Classic. Despite the rollercoaster nature of her season, Henderson is third on the tour with a 69.791 scoring average.

Starts: 13
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: Victory at the Shoprite LPGA Classic, runner-up Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, T-4 Honda LPGA Thailand
Last month: Not Ranked

After losing her lead at the PGA Championship last month, Lexi Thompson hasn't won a major since 2014. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

7. Lexi Thompson

Not all runner-ups are created equal. Thompson’s runner-up finish at the PGA Championship was her fourth at a major, and came after she squandered a two-stroke lead to Chun on the final three holes. Thompson’s lone major victory remains her title at the 2014 ANA Inspiration.

That low moment doesn’t take away from Thompson’s impressive campaign near the top of leaderboards. All of her top-10 finishes this season have come inside the top 6. Thompson’s 69.6 scoring average is second only to Lee. She’s hitting the most greens in regulation (76.8 percent) of any player on tour. Thompson missed her first cut of the season at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational last week, and the 27-year-old is fourth in the Annika Rolex Major award, one win away from seizing the lead.

Thompson took a chance off the board by not entering the field at the Amundi Evian Championship field this week. Instead, she’ll have to wait for her opportunity at major redemption when she tees off at the AIG Women’s Open.

Starts: 10
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 6
Notable finishes: T-2 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T-4 Chevron Championship, second LPGA Drive On Championship Crown Colony
Last month: 5th

8. Nasa Hataoka

After missing the cut at the LOTTE Championship in April, the Japanese star started working with a new coach and has turned her season around. Including a win at the DIO Implant LA Open, she’s finished in the top-6 in four of her last six starts.

Her last top-6 was a T-5 at the PGA Championship. Her final-round 69 at Congressional Country Club was the only score in the 60s on Sunday for her best finish at a major this season.

Starts: 14
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 4
Notable finishes: Victory at DIO Implant LA Open, T-5 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: 3rd

9. In Gee Chun

Chun’s first-round 64 at the PGA Championship matched Mickey Wright’s five-stroke opening round lead at the same tournament in 1961. No one else even got to eight-under par at any other point that week. Chun followed it up with a three-under 69 in the second round, giving her a six-shot cushion entering the weekend. After losing the lead, she came back to win the fourth LPGA title of her career.

Only Anna Nordqvist (three) and Inbee Park (four) have won as many different major championships as Chun, who added the PGA trophy to her victories at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2016 Evian Championship.

Starts: 13
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 2
Notable finishes: KPMG Women’s PGA Championship Win, T-2 HSBC Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: Not Ranked

10. Hye-Jin Choi

The rookie leads the LPGA in top-10 finishes this season, made more impressive by the fact the 22-year-old is seeing some of these courses for the first time.

Because of her success in South Korea, however, she has made major starts on the LPGA Tour before this year. As an amateur, she finished runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and she made two starts at the Amundi Evian Championship in 2017 (T-14) and 2019 (T-49).

Starts: 14
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 8
Notable finishes: Third U.S. Women’s Open, Third Lotte Championship, T-5 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Last month: Not Ranked

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

Welcome to the second edition of the Just Women’s Sports LPGA power rankings. The tour has had three tournaments since we released our inaugural power rankings, and the results have shaken up the top 10.

Jennifer Kupcho made the winning leap into Poppie’s Pond at the 51st and final Chevron Championship. Hyo Joo Kim hula-danced along the Hawaiian shores to celebrate her Lotte Championship victory. Nasa Hataoka broke away from the field to claim the LA Open trophy last weekend by five strokes.

With the LPGA’s second of back-to-back tournaments in Los Angeles at Palos Verdes Golf Club underway this weekend, we run down the top 10 players on tour right now.

1. Jin Young Ko

After seven wins in her last 13 tournaments, Ko was close to extending her lead in these rankings during the third round of the DIO Implant Open. Instead, the World No. 1 found herself in the barranca in front of the 17th green. Rather than taking a penalty out of the hazard, Ko tried twice to get out before electing to drop. She ended up posting the first quadruple bogey of her five-year LPGA career, falling to five strokes behind eventual winner Nasa Hataoka. She played the final 20 holes at six-over par to finish T-21.

“I played not bad,” Ko said after her third round. “Just 17 was big mistake.”

Ko has had too much recent success otherwise to be knocked from the top perch. She posted 34 consecutive rounds under par following the first round of the Chevron Championship, where she shot a 74. The 13-time winner also posted 16 straight rounds in the 60s, another LPGA record.

The door could open for a new No. 1 if her blistering win streak remains on hold. Likewise, Ko’s grip on the Rolex No. 1 World Ranking is slipping. The 1.3-average ranking point cushion she built over Nelly Korda following her fourth-place finish at the JTBC Classic slowly trickled to 0.89 this week, as Korda remains sidelined while recovering from a blood clot. The World No. 2 last teed it up at the LPGA Drive On Championship in early February.

Starts: 4
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: Win at HSBC Women’s Championship
Last Month: 1st

2. Lydia Ko

Ko was not able to successfully defend her 2021 Lotte Championship, but the freshly-turned 25-year-old extended her consecutive top-30 finishes to 15 in a row dating back to July of last year at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. It’s her longest such streak since she won 22 in a row from 2015-16, a run that also included seven titles.

The two-time major champion finished T-25 at the Chevron Championship and T-18 at the Lotte Championship. After celebrating her birthday during the DIO Implant LA Open, Ko is back in action at Palos Verdes Golf Club this weekend.

In 2022, the former World No. 1 hasn’t finished outside of the top 25.

Starts: 6
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: Win at Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio
Last Month: 3rd

3. Hyo Joo Kim

In a nearly identical 2022 resume to Lydia Ko, Kim hasn’t finished outside of the top 26 in 2022. She won the Lotte Championship and finished T-8 at the Chevron Championship since the last iteration of these rankings. The 2014 Evian Championship winner sits in second place in scoring average at 69.3, trailing only Nanna Koerstz Madsen.

Her consistent results are due in part to her ability to recover around the green. The 2020 Olympian leads the LPGA in scrambling percentage, making par or better 77.9 percent of the time over 95 missed greens in regulation this season.

Starts: 5
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 3
Best Finish: Victory at the Lotte Championship
Last Month: Not Ranked

4. Atthaya Thitikul

Thitikul notched another top 10 since her maiden victory at the JTBC Classic at the end of March, with a T-6 at the LPGA Lotte Championship. The Thai star is putting together an impressive debut season so far, remaining well above her peers in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Race with 468 points. That’s good for a 135-point advantage over Hye-Jin Choi (323) in second place and a 177-point edge over Hinako Shibuno (291) in third. Na Rin An (176) sits in fourth, rounding out the group with over 150 points.

Rookie of the Year is the only major award Thitikul is in contention for. The 19-year-old is fourth in the Rolex Player of the Year race with 45 points, trailing leader Jennifer Kupcho by 20.

Starts: 8
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 4
Best Finish: Win at JTBC Classic
Last Month: 4th

5. Nanna Koerstz Madsen

The Dane is third in scoring average on the LPGA Tour. She followed up her playoff loss at the JTBC Classic with a T-8 at the Chevron Championship to make it three top 10s in a row, along with her victory in Thailand.

Koerstz Madsen is currently second in strokes gained while putting, with her flat stick averaging 29 putts per round, just over a stroke better than her 2021 average. She’s also crushing her driver, averaging just over 280 off the tee. That makes her the second-longest hitter off the tee this season, trailing fellow Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen by two yards.

Koertz Madsen’s T-48 at the DIO Implant ended her top-10 streak, but she and Danielle Kang are the only two golfers with a win and a runner-up finish in 2022.

Starts: 7
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 3
Best Finish: Win at Honda LPGA Thailand
Last Month: 6th

6. Nasa Hataoka

After the 23-year-old missed the cut at the Lotte Championship, Hataoka had a 90-minute lesson with a new coach who helped launch her to victory in Hawaii. Hataoka felt more open to making changes to her swing after not playing the weekend, and she worked on moving the ball further up in her stance and closer to her body.

The change resulted in Hataoka winning the DIO Implant Open by five shots, the biggest margin of victory on tour this season. The win, her sixth during her six-year career on tour, tied her with Jessica Korda for the most wins without a major title among active LPGA players. Her lone top-10 finish is deceiving based on her performances. In four starts before she missed the cut in Hawaii, she finished T-11, T-12, T-16 and T-17.

This week, six is a theme for Hataoka, with her victory moving her to sixth in the Rolex World Rankings, three spots off of her career-best.

Starts: 9
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 1
Best Finish: Win at DIO Implant LA Open
Last Month: Not Ranked

Kupcho won her first LPGA title, and major championship, at Chevron in early April. (Harry How/Getty Images)

7. Jennifer Kupcho

Kupcho broke through for her first LPGA victory on the major stage at the Rancho Mirage Dinah Shore course, leaping into Poppie’s Pond to punctuate her major championship. In 67 career LPGA starts, Kupcho had been within three shots of the lead six other times but had not won until Chevron.

“Once I started putting myself in contention and not succeeding, I really worked with my swing coach,” she said. “He’s also really good with the mental game. So just talking to him a lot about what’s going through my mind all the time and trying to figure out how to process my way through that.”

The 24-year-old shared after her win that it was challenging to hear fans call out Nelly Korda’s or Lexi Thompson’s names instead of her own on the course in the past. She’s now in their category with a major title, three years after winning the 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Two missed cuts and a T-64 at the DIO Implant LA Open keep Kupcho further down the list, but the American’s star has been rising since the Solheim Cup. She holds an early lead on the Rolex Player of the Year race with 65 points, leading Koerstz Madsen by 17.

Starts: 8
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: Win at Chevron Championship
Last Month: Not Ranked

8. Celine Boutier

Boutier’s consistent run of play extends through the opening salvo of the season, with the French golfer leading the tour with five top-10 finishes. The Frenchwoman finished T-4 at the Chevron Championship, T-10 at the Lotte Championship and T-14 at the DIO Implant Open, finishing a stroke off of her third top-10 in a row at Wilshire Country Club.

At her press conference ahead of the Palos Verdes Championship, Boutier cited putting improvements as the difference-maker in her play. She’s T-17 on tour this year with 29 putts per round, a one-stroke improvement from 2021, when she averaged 30.1 putts per round (T-57).

Starts: 8
Wins: 0
Top 10s: 5
Best Finish: 3rd at Honda LPGA Thailand
Last Month: 8th

9. Danielle Kang

Kang and Koertz Madsen are the only two players with a victory and runner-up finish in 2022. Kang’s electric start nearly put her at the top of the original version of the power rankings, but she has cooled off since.

She finished T-17 at the Chevron Championship, then withdrew from the Lotte Championship with an injury. Kang failed to break 70 in four rounds at the DIO Implant LA Open for a T-35 finish, after posting in the 60s in 13 of 16 rounds over her first four events of the year.

She’s holding in the top 10 of the rankings because of her success at the start of the season, but she’ll need a dramatic turnaround to move back into second place.

Starts: 5
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 4
Best Finish: Win at Hilton Resorts Tournament of Champions
Last Month: 2nd

10. Minjee Lee

In March, the Australian passed on the opening Florida swing to remain in the Eastern Hemisphere for her debut at the HSBC World Championship in Sinagpore. Lee blitzed the final round with 11 birdies for a 63 and T-2 finish. It set the tone for a stellar start to the year, as Lee hasn’t finished outside of the top 25 across her five starts in 2022. She finished in 12th place at the Chevron Championship and had a T-3 at the DIO Implant Open since the last rankings.

The 2021 Amundi Evian Championship winner leads the tour in scoring average by a quarter of a stroke. Her low scoring is also why she sits in the lead in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, a million-dollar competition that Aon sponsors on the LPGA and PGA Tour, rewarding the golfer with the lowest average score on a specific hole at each tournament. Lee’s averaging -1.1 over two combined scores, 0.1 ahead of 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA champion So Yeon Ryu.

Starts: 5
Wins: 0
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: T-2 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship
Last Month: Not Ranked

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

Jin Young Ko carded five birdies to finish with a 7-under 64 and secure a share of the lead alongside Nasa Hataoka at the DIO Implant LA Open on Friday.

Hataoka had a strong back nine during the second round at the Wilshire Country Club, birdieing her final three holes for a total of seven birdies and four bogeys to meet Ko at 7-under. Ko birdied holes No. 11-14 and notched her eighth of the day on the 17th to match Hataoka at the top of the LA Open leaderboard after two rounds.

Play was delayed for an hour and 15 minutes due to rain damage Thursday night, with 18 players unable to complete their rounds because of darkness.

“The wind was pretty strong,” Hataoka said. “The greens are pretty tight, narrow. So my plan was to hit the green, not try to be too aggressive. On the back nine, the wind kind of got weaker, so I was able to hit at the pin.”

Hannah Green sits two strokes behind Ko and Hataoka after firing a bogey-free 67, while Minjee Lee is three strokes back.

The third round begins Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel.

Welcome to the first edition of the Just Women’s Sports LPGA power rankings. Every month this season, we’ll weigh factors such as wins, top-10 finishes and all-around performances while compiling the list of the top golfers on tour.

This will not be an exact replica of the Rolex World Rankings, though there will likely be some correlation. For example, you’ll notice that World No. 2 Nelly Korda does not appear on the list, as she’s out indefinitely with a blood clot.

As the LPGA gets set to tee off its first major of the year at the Chevron Championship, we run down the top 10 golfers playing right now.

1. Jin Young Ko

Six wins in her last eleven starts. Next.

In all seriousness, since Ko skipped the AIG Women’s Open last August to put in more work with her coach, Si Woo Lee, she has added even more records to her already historic ledger. Ko hit 63 consecutive greens in regulation to close out the 2021 CME Group Tour Championship, winning her second Rolex Player of the Year award. The streak ended at 66 during the first round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

The World No. 1 has recorded an immaculate 16 straight rounds in the 60s, a feat never seen before on the LPGA Tour. She’s also posted 34 consecutive rounds under par and nine consecutive top 10 finishes. Her per-round scoring average this season is 68.2.

Ko makes her third start of the year at the Chevron Championship while playing her best golf. Her last two finishes at the Dinah Shore Course were a victory in 2019 and a T7 finish in 2021. Should Ko secure her third major title, she’ll be in the driver’s seat to catch 27-time winner Lorena Ochoa for the most weeks atop the Rolex Rankings. Ko, at 122, currently sits 32 weeks behind Ochoa at 154.

Starts: 2
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: Win at HSBC Women’s Championship

2. Danielle Kang

If not for Ko’s laundry list of accomplishments, Kang would be worthy of the top spot. Since overhauling her team this offseason — bringing in a new physio, nutritionist and trainer — she has been tearing it up.

The American finished first and second in the two opening events of the season. Overseas, Kang posted back-to-back top 10s before a T42 finish in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I don’t know if this would be a good thing to say, but I’m using this week as practice a little bit for next week,” Kang said after the opening round of the JTBC Classic, the tournament directly ahead of the Chevron Championship. “There are still some parts of my game that I want to tune up, and I want to go in next week really confident.”

That’s some earned confidence displayed from the six-time tour winner, who’s finished in the top 15 in her last three starts at the Chevron Championship.

Starts: 5
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 4
Best Finish: Win at Hilton Resorts Tournament of Champions

3. Lydia Ko

The 2021 Vare Trophy winner (awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average in a season) is back to playing consistent golf six years removed from her time atop the rankings in 2015 and ‘16. Since last October, Ko has finished in the top 10 in five of her previous seven starts, with a T12 result last week narrowly missing the mark.

That streak culminated with her 17th-career LPGA victory at the Gainbridge LPGA, the second tournament of the tournament at Boca Rio.

Next month, Ko will look to defend her Lotte Championship title from 2021, when she finished 28-under par for her first victory in three seasons.

Starts: 4
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: Win at Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio

4. Atthaya Thitikul

Say hello to the newest LPGA star. It won’t be surprising to see her continue to ascend the JWS power rankings, just like she has in the Rolex World Rankings. In 20th place to start the season, Thitikul vaulted into fifth after shooting a final-round 64 and winning the JTBC Classic in a playoff. She’s the clear frontrunner for Rolex Rookie of the Year, currently sitting with 329 points and holding a 215-point advantage over Hye-Jin Choi in second place.

Thitikul has even contended in LPGA majors, finishing in fifth place at the Evian Championship last July. One of the only blips on her resume is a T11 finish at the LPGA Drive On Championship in her second start of the season, causing her to narrowly miss the bar for an 80 percent top-10 rate.

Starts: 5
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 3
Best Finish: Win at JTBC Classic

5. Brooke Henderson

The winningest Canadian in golf history finished as the runner-up at the Hilton Tournament of Champions to start the season and hasn’t slowed down since. She’d be five-for-five in top 10s if not for a T11 finish – like Thitikul – at the LPGA Drive On Championship.

“To come out this year so strong, I’m definitely happy and proud of that,” Henderson said after the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand. “I feel like I’m inching my way closer every week to getting a little bit more comfortable and just enjoying those final groups as much as I have been.”

Henderson tends to win in bunches, having won two tournaments a season from 2016-19. She appears to be on the precipice of one of those runs with her consistent play of late. In late April, she’ll defend her title at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles at the DIO Implant L.A. Open.

Starts: 5
Wins: 0
Top 10s: 4
Best Finish: 2nd at Hilton Resorts Tournament of Champions

Nanna Koerstz Madsen picked up her first LPGA win at the Honda LPGA Thailand earlier in March. (Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)

6. Nanna Koerstz Madsen

It’s incredible how just one stroke can swing your fate in golf. On the 72nd hole at the JTBC Classic, Koerstz Madsen stared down a 5-footer for the win. After becoming the first Danish woman ever to win on the LPGA Tour in Thailand, the 27-year-old nearly went back-to-back and earned the No. 2 spot in these rankings.

Instead, she missed the putt and lost to Thitikul in a playoff. It was her second top-two finish this year and a dramatic reversal from missing the cut in her first start of the season.

Starts: 4
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: Win at Honda LPGA Thailand

7. Leona Maguire

Leona Maguire checked off what felt like an inevitable box for the former No. 1 amateur in the world at Crown Colony Golf & Country Club in early February. The day before her mom’s birthday, Maguire shot 18-under par at the Drive On Championship for her first victory and the first by an Irishwoman on the LPGA Tour.

“The support from home has been incredible,” Maguire said. “They’ve been rallying behind me, and that’s something that I’m truly grateful for. It’s always an honor to represent Ireland, no matter where you go.”

Maguire stayed steady in southeast Asia, with a T13 finish in Singapore and a T12 in Thailand.

Starts: 4
Wins: 1
Top 10s: 1
Best Finish: Win at LPGA Drive On Championship Crown Colony

8. Celine Boutier

The Frenchwoman has been on a tear since last June, when she shot a tournemant-record 64 at the Mediheal Championship. She’s finished in the top 10 in nine of her 19 starts since then, and she has three top-five finishes this season. And in 15 rounds on tour this year, the two-time winner has yet to shoot over par.

“I feel pretty good about my weekends, to be honest,” Boutier explained at the Drive On Championship. “It was something I was struggling a bit with last year. I feel like I had a lot of tournaments where I played well the first two days, and then it’s not always easy to be either in the lead or in contention, especially the last two rounds … And I feel like the past two weeks have kind of proved that I got better at that. I feel like I handled it better.”

After passing on the JTBC Classic, she returns at the Chevron Championship, where she finished T50 last year.

Starts: 5
Wins: 0
Top 10s: 3
Best Finish: 3rd at Honda LPGA Thailand

9. Hannah Green

The 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner did something no other woman in golf ever has before rejoining the LPGA in Singapore this year: Green won a mixed-gender event on the PGA Tour Australasia’s TPC Murray River. Before that, she’d won the Women’s Vic Open, a former LPGA event.

“I want to be in the top 10 in the world,” Green said after her TPC Murray River victory. “I think I can achieve it. If I keep playing the golf that I am now, hopefully I can get there.”

The Australian kept the momentum going in her opening tour start in Singapore, with a T6 finish.

Starts: 3
Wins: 0
Top 10s: 1
Best Finish: T-6 HSBC Women’s Championship

10. Lexi Thompson

The Florida resident opened the LPGA calendar with two starts in her home state, finishing T6 at the Gainbridge LPGA Boca Rio and second at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Crow Colony. Thompson, who recorded victories in seven consecutive seasons from 2013-19, is looking to return to the winner’s circle. The last time she hoisted a trophy, she dropped a cross-green bomb for eagle for her 11th career victory at the 2019 Shoprite LPGA Classic.

“Just going to continue to work hard and stay in the moment and put myself in contention and hopefully a win will come,” Thompson said after the Drive On Championship.

The first major of the year gives Thompson an opportunity to surge in the power rankings. The Dinah Shore course, home of the Chevron Championship, is one where Thompson has historically excelled. In 12 career starts at Dinah Shore, she’s posted six top-10 finishes, including a victory in 2014.

Starts: 3
Wins: 0
Top 10s: 2
Best Finish: 2nd at LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

World No. 1 Jin Young Ko clinched the LPGA Tour’s HSBC Women’s World Championship in dramatic fashion on Sunday, carding birdies on five of the last six holes — including the 18th — for the win.

Ko finished with a 17-under total of 271, two shots ahead of In Gee Chun and Minjee Lee. The South Korean mounted an incredible comeback after a bogey on the 12th hole appear to set her back, winning her sixth LPGA title in 10 starts.

The South Korean star’s final round of 66 broke the LPGA record for the most consecutive rounds in the 60s at 15 and the most consecutive sub-par rounds at 30.

“I am just proud of myself to record 60s, 15 rounds straight,” Ko said. “So I’m so happy.”

Ko’s victory in Singapore was her first LPGA Tour event since she took a three-month hiatus that included time in South Korea with her family and intensive training in California.

​​The LPGA Tour marches into 2022 with a new commissioner at the helm, a record purse and 34 tournaments on the schedule, the most since 2017.

Only nine weeks removed from Jin Young Ko’s thrilling finish to win LPGA Player of the Year over Nelly Korda, the best women’s golfers in the world tee off at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in Orlando this weekend. As the calendar year begins, here’s what we’re looking forward to in the tour’s 72nd season.

Korda versus Ko, Part Two? Not so fast

Ko’s victory at the CME Group Tour Championship in mid-November put the finishing touches on a budding rivalry between the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the Rolex World Rankings. Ko and Korda closed out the season as if they were competing in a heavy-weight boxing match, combining to win the final four events. Ko came away with the Player of the Year award, her second in the last three years, as well as the money title for the third consecutive year.

As the golfers enter the 2022 season, however, past returns don’t guarantee future results.

The last time the top two players with the most victories repeated the following season was in 2015, when Lydia Ko and Inbee Park (and Stacy Lewis) won three times each in 2014 and then five times each in 2015. Other than that, you have to go back to 2002-03, when future Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak led the tour in victories in back-to-back years. Sorenstam had 11 wins in 2002 and five in 2003, while Pak recorded five in 2002 and three in 2003 alongside Candie Kung.

Achieving that level of success in consecutive seasons isn’t easy against the LPGA’s deep field of challengers. Korda begins her season at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions on Thursday, while Ko works with her coach, Si Woo Lee, in Palm Springs, Calif.

The lingering Vare Trophy question

The LPGA Tour has two end-of-season awards that factor into a player’s selection to the Hall of Fame: the Player of the Year award and the Vare Trophy. The player with the lowest scoring average on tour wins the Vare. So, after Ko and Korda dominated the LPGA in 2021, it would be reasonable to assume those awards ended up in their hands.

Korda did finish the season with the lowest scoring average on tour, 68.774, edging out Ko’s 68.866. Lydia Ko, however, won the Vare because she met the minimum-round requirement for the award. To be eligible for the Vare, a player must record 70 rounds or 70 percent of the official tournament rounds. Even though five canceled events during the 2021 season removed 20 possible rounds, 70 remained the lesser number. As a result, Ko (67 rounds) and Korda (62) each narrowly missed eligibility for the Vare.

What’s even harder to swallow about their disqualification is it causes them to miss out on an LPGA Hall of Fame point. The LPGA requires that a player win a season-ending award or a major to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Players earn one point for a regular tour win and one for securing either of the two season-ending awards, the Vare Trophy or the Player of the Year. Players gain two points for major championship victories.

In total, a golfer must accumulate 27 points and ten years of tour service to enter the Hall of Fame.

With seven LPGA victories and a major title, Korda has eight points. Ko, meanwhile, has seventeen points thanks to 12 LPGA victories, two majors and three end-of-season awards (2019 Vare; 2019 and 2021 Player of the Year).

Only four players have played their way into the LPGA’s Hall of Fame since the turn of the century: Annika Sorenstam (2003), Karrie Webb (2005), Se Ri Pak (2007) and Inbee Park (2016). Lorena Ochoa meets the points requirement, but not the years of service.

LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan acknowledged the controversy surrounding Vare Trophy eligibility during a media roundtable at the CME Group Tour Championship in November.

“It’s not the first time that’s happened,” she said. “I think over the years, there have been top players who have not been eligible for the trophy … Now that the purses are bigger, the players can play fewer events and still make a really good living.

“So, we have to step back and evaluate. Are those the right numbers? Are we allowing our best players to win this really prestigious award? We’re really open to evaluating that in the offseason.”

As the first tournament of the season gets underway this week, there have been no updates to the award’s requirements.

How far will the purse go?

On Jan. 7, former LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan made one of his first landmark decisions as United States Golf Association CEO, adding Promedica as a presenting sponsor of the U.S. Women’s Open and nearly doubling the tournament’s purse from $5.5 million to $10 million this year. Over the next five years, it will rise to as much as $12 million.

The U.S. Women’s Open represents the crown jewel of recent LPGA purse surges, with the full-schedule purse up to $90.2 million from $69.2 million last season. The AIG Women’s Open leapt from $4.5 million in 2020 to $6.8 million in 2022. Likewise, the CME Group Tour Championship increased its purse from $5 million in 2021 to $7 million this year.

Chevron took over as presenting sponsor of the first major of the year in March, and increased the purse of the tournament from $3.1 million to $5 million.

Marcoux Samaan, who’s seeking to bridge the pay gap between the LPGA and PGA Tours at all levels, said recently that she expects more purse increase announcements.

Patty Tavatanakit is poised for a breakout 2022 season. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Thailand’s rise to LPGA prominence

At the 2021 ANA Inspiration, Patty Tavatanakit blitzed the field with a 323-yard driving average to claim her first LPGA Tour victory and deliver Thailand its second-ever LPGA major championship. She also became the first rookie to win the ANA Inspiration since Juli Inkster in 1984.

Tavatanakit, Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn and Pajaree Annanarukarn form the group of Thai players who won on the LPGA last year, the second-most champions from any country behind the five from the United States (Nelly Korda [4], Austin Ernst, Ally Ewing, Jessica Korda and Ryann O’Toole.) South Korea had three winners last year (Ko [5], Inbee Park, Hyo Joo Kim), and Japan had two (Nasa Hataoka [2], Yuka Saso).

Atthaya Thitikul first made a statement five years ago, when she became the youngest player ever to win a professional golf tournament at 14 years and four months old at the Ladies European Thailand Championship. She nearly left her mark on the LPGA last season, but Ariya Jutanugarn ripped the victory out of her hands when she shot a 63 on Sunday at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Instead, Thitikul dominated on the Ladies European Tour, winning twice and finishing in the top 10 in 13 of her 17 starts. After earning her LPGA status through Q-Series, the tour’s qualifying school, Thitikul is 20th in the Rolex World Rankings, the second-highest ranking for a Thai player behind Tavatanakit (12th).

Thitikul is also the second-highest ranked 2022 LPGA rookie, with Ayaka Furue of Japan behind her at 14th. Hinako Shibuno, who declined LPGA status after winning the 2019 AIG Women’s Open, also earned her card through Q-Series and is 37th in the world.

The race for No. 1

Since the creation of the Rolex Rankings in 2006, only Jin Young Ko (2020), Lydia Ko (2016), Yani Tseng (2012) and Lorena Ochoa (2008, 2009) have held onto the No. 1 spot for an entire calendar year. In the 16 years of its existence, fifteen players have earned the label as the best player in the world. The rankings formula uses an average weight of points earned from each tournament, with more points available at majors than at regular events. And the stronger the field, which is based on the rankings of the players in the tournament, the more points a player can earn.

Korda enters the 2022 season having spent 27 weeks atop the world and counting, the most ever for an American. She and Ko are in a tier of their own, averaging 9.73 and 9.64 points, respectively, ahead of Lydia Ko’s third-place 5.78 average.

While the top two players have a notable lead, it’s not an insurmountable difference, as Korda showed last year. Korda entered 2021 with a 6.34 point average and sat third in the rankings before her win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship vaulted her to No. 1.

The most room for ranking volatility comes in June, when two majors are played over the course of the month. The U.S. Women’s Open will be held at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club from June 2-5, followed by the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club from June 23-26.

LPGA icon Annika Sorenstam might not be done just yet. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

The return of Annika Sorenstam?

Golf is one of the few sports where an all-time great can return years later and still hold their own. Last January, Sorenstam made the cut at the 2021 Gainbridge LPGA — held at her home course of Lake Nona Golf Club — in her first LPGA start in 13 years. It was the Swede’s 297th made cut in 308 career LPGA starts, and 50th consecutive made cut.

Now Sorenstam, a 72-time LPGA champion, can prove her return is official in 2022. Sorenstam earned her status for the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open by winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Open last year. While she has yet to commit to play, the script is set for her to enter. Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, the home of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, is where Sorenstam won her second major title in 1996.

The 51-year-old is playing in the celebrity division of the Tournament of Champions this week.

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

NAPLES, Fla. — The CME Group Tour Championship’s much-anticipated duel between Jin Young Ko and Nelly Korda for the LPGA Tour’s Rolex Player of the Year delivered over the weekend. After the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world won each of the last two tournaments heading into the final event of the LPGA season, the stage was set for one last battle.

Ko emerged victorious at Tiburón Golf Club, shooting a 63 on Sunday to finish at a tournament-record 23-under par and defeat Nasa Hataoka by one stroke. The win was the South Korean’s 12th career LPGA title and earned her Player of the Year honors for the second time in three years.

Here are my five takeaways from the tour finale.

1. Jin Young Ko puts exclamation point on three-year LPGA reign

Ko has ten victories over the last three years, the most of any golfer on the LPGA Tour over that span. The next closest is Nelly Korda with six. With the victory Sunday, Ko became one of 14 golfers to win two Player of the Year awards in the LPGA’s history, and she accomplished it in 81 starts. Ko backed up her win at the 2020 CME Group Tour Championship, becoming the first player to defend her title and the first to win five times in a single year since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016, doing so over her final nine starts of the season.

Ko accomplished all of this despite playing on an injured left wrist; she spent a half hour with a physio, and instead of warming up on the range as she usually would, the 26-year-old only took swings with a 52-degree wedge to get loose. The lack of preparation did not stop her from displaying the full prowess of her game, hitting a mind-numbing 63 consecutive greens in regulation to close out the tournament.

“Honestly, it was definitely the ‘Jin Young Ko Show’ today,” Korda said. “It was really cool to witness. Obviously, I wish I could have kind of given it a better run.”

When Ko won $1.2 million last year, she bought a house in Dallas with the money. This year, she said the $1.5 million winner’s check is going into her savings account.

2. Nasa Hataoka shines, eyes 2022 majors

The five-time Tour winner birdied 17 of the last 28 holes to nearly catch Ko on Sunday, finishing just one stroke behind her. But instead of getting caught up in the duel between Ko and Korda, the world No. 8 stuck to her plan at Tiburón Golf Club.

“I have one thing in my mind — routine,” Hataoka explained. “There were a few times where there was a lot of pressure, but I was able to think simple, which helped me a lot today.”

The 22-year-old finished as runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open in June, losing in a playoff to Yuka Saso at Olympic Club. It was the second time Hataoka had lost in a playoff at a major after the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The Japanese star continues to use a U.S. Women’s Open ball marker to remind her how close she was to her goal of winning a major in her first five years on tour.

“This year was the fifth year, so I really wanted to win [a major] this year,” Hataoka said. “Obviously it won’t change, my goal won’t change. I still have strong feelings for winning majors.”

3. Nelly Korda’s historic season overshadowed

The world No. 1 maintained perspective on her season as she walked off the course in Naples on Sunday. The four-time Tour winner and Olympic gold medalist in 2021 became the first American to surge to the top of the Rolex World Rankings since Stacy Lewis in 2014. While losing out on Player of the Year was a disappointment, Korda learned this year just how much she can accomplish on the LPGA Tour.

“If I set my mind to it, I can do anything,” Korda said. “I had a good year, and I’m just going to go back and kind of think about my year and kind of let it kind of soak in, which I’m super excited about, and get ready for next year.”

Korda would’ve gone home with even more hardware if not for the LPGA’s Vare Trophy minimum requirement of 70 rounds played during the year. With her 17-under finish at the Tour Championship, the 23-year-old averaged 68.774 in 2021, besting Ko’s 68.866 for the lowest score on tour. Korda finished 62 rounds this year, while Ko played 67. But it was Lydia Ko who won the Vare Trophy after finishing with the third-best scoring average of 63.329 in 73 rounds of play.

Adding to the historic nature of Korda and Ko’s battle this weekend, 2021 marked the first time in the 72-year history of the LPGA that two players averaged scores in the 68s in a single season. Only Annika Sorenstam in 2002 (68.7) and 2004 (68.7) and Sei Young Kim in 2020 (68.69) have accomplished that feat previously.

4. A streak continues at the Tour Championship

Players ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the world have won eight of the last nine Tour Championships. The best and brightest on tour continue to shine at Tiburón Golf Club since the tournament moved there in 2013.

The four players tied for the lead going into Sunday’s final round — Celine Boutier, Hataoka, Korda and Ko — all won on tour this season. Boutier, Korda and Ko combined for the last six LPGA Tour victories, while Hataoka won twice. The final grouping of Hataoka, Ko and Korda featured three of the four players who won multiple times in 2021, combining for ten wins.

5. CME’s new purse shows increased commitment to women’s golf

On Friday, the LPGA announced its new schedule for 2022, headlined by CME increasing the tournament purse to $7 million in 2022, up from $5 million this year. In addition, the winner will receive a new first-place prize of $2 million, more than Ko’s and Sei Young Kim’s $1.5 million prize in 2019.

The investment in the Tour Championship has surged in recent years, with the first-place check growing 300 percent from $500,000 in 2018 to $2 million in 2022.

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

Jin Young Ko put on a dominant performance at the CME Group Tour Championship, shooting a bogey-free 63 in Sunday’s final round to defend her title.

Firing nine birdies on the day, Ko finished 23-under for the CME trophy and $1.5 million in prize money.

“I played really well this week and this week was amazing I think,” said Ko following the victory.

The 26-year-old hit a staggering 63 greens in regulation in an unprecedented streak for a record-breaking week of golf.

Ko’s win in the last event of the season marks her fifth on the year, propelling her back in front of Nelly Korda for the Player of the Year Award. Korda and Ko have traded places as world No. 1, with the American notching four wins during the 2021 season.

With 211 points, Ko also locked up the LPGA Player of the Year honors, squeezing past Korda with 197.

The No. 1 position in the Rolex Rankings has been the forbidden fruit of the LPGA Tour. Once players get a taste of the lead, they often have a hard time holding onto it. Jin Young Ko is well aware of the challenge.

Shanshan Feng relinquished her spot at the top in April of 2018 and now plans to retire at the end of the year. Ariya Jutanugarn, Inbee Park and Sung Hyun Park traded the No. 1 ranking for the rest of 2018 and into early 2019. Ko moved into the lead briefly in the summer of 2019, swapping spots with Park, until she grabbed hold of it for good at the 2019 Evian Championship. Ko’s 100-week reign finally came to an end in June, when Nelly Korda won the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and secured No. 1.

Ko responded with a victory at the Volunteers of America Classic over the Fourth of July, but after posting three finishes outside of the top 40, the gap between Korda and Ko at No. 2 had widened. Ko last finished outside the top 40 three times in a season in 2018.

So, after the Tokyo Olympics in August, Ko was looking to make some changes. To help her find her consistently dominant form, her team called Si Woo Lee, Ko’s swing coach from 2017 to April 2020. Ko flew from Tokyo to her home in South Korea to meet with Lee and begin the process that’s lifted her to a late-season surge of three wins in her last six starts.

The first step in Ko and Lee’s reunion was to get back to the roots of Ko’s swing.

“[We] reviewed all the swing videos since 2017,” Lee said via text. “Checked all the details that we missed over the last months we were not together.”

Lee laughed as he tried to recall the number of videos she’s sent him over the years. They discussed the differences they noticed in her swing evolution and trained together three to four days a week over six to seven weeks to help Ko, then an eight-time LPGA winner, get back on track.

“I had a lot of problems with my swing, so I can’t pick just one thing,” Ko said at the Cognizant Founder’s Cup. “Well, just basic one. Just keep my spine or just don’t move from right to left.”

Ko’s return to basics was a key tenet of Lee’s instruction.

“It is simple,” Lee said. “I always focus on the basic. I just add some tips that Jin Young could have more balance by using large muscles. It would help her to have simple and stiff golf swings. The tips for a world No. 1 player’s swing are using large muscles from basic skills.”

The AIG Women’s Open, the final major of 2021, began less than two weeks after the Olympics. Instead of having Ko rush back to competition, they decided to continue drilling her form, especially given the month-long gap between the AIG Women’s Open and the rest of the year’s tournaments.

“When we decided to not to attend the AIG Women’s Open,” Lee said, “Jin Young was not perfectly ready for the tournament.”

The British event has a foothold in Ko’s memory. In 2015, a 20-year-old Ko held a three-shot lead at the Ricoh British Women’s Open (as it was named then) before Hall of Famer Inbee Park chased her down. Ko finished as runner-up, but her career only ascended from there.

“It was a really difficult decision not to play the British Open, because I really love to play in the British,” Ko said at the Cambia Portland Classic in September.

Instead, Ko and Lee continued to work on her swing mechanics and toward Lee’s goal for the 26-year-old.

“My new target for her is raising her performance toward winning competitive ranks,” Lee said. “Final goal was No. 1 again — sooner than my expectations though.”

It took Ko five starts to return to the No. 1 spot, reaching the top with a playoff victory at the BMW Ladies Championship last month and holding onto it for two weeks. The victory marked the 200th by a South Korean in LPGA history and the 11th in Ko’s career.

The 2019 Player of the Year’s game has soared since her return to the course in September. In addition to her three wins on tour, she posted 14 consecutive rounds in the 60s, matching the tour record set by Annika Sorenstam in 2005 and So Yeon Ryu in 2016 and 2017. Ko credits a subtle adjustment for the meteoric rise.

“I can say my backswings are better than before changing my coach,” Ko said ahead of the Pelican Women’s Championship last weekend. “Ball contact or, like, everything … [is] better than before the Olympics.”

Ko's stats on tour before and after her training sessions with Lee.

This isn’t the first time Ko has made LPGA history after partnering with Lee. After a disappointing five-over opening round at the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Ko called Lee so they could work together during her 24th birthday celebration in Chicago. Their adjustment was a small weight shift. The result was 114 holes of bogey-free golf from the AIG Women’s Open through the first round of the Cambia Portland Classic, an all-time mark on the LPGA and PGA Tour.

“He really knows my swing or putting,” Ko said. “So if I say anything, he knows my feeling or my mindset. So, yeah, that’s really comfy. He knows everything from me.”

Since Ko returned to the tour, she and Korda have played in the same field only at the Cognizant Founder’s Cup and the Pelican Women’s Championship. Korda, however, has been able to appreciate Ko’s play from afar.

“It’s honestly been really super exciting to watch,” the American golfer said. “You’re never going to be world No. 1 forever. You’re going to jump people, they’re going to jump you. It’s been super cool to see how dominant and well she’s been playing. Because if you’re out here and you’re playing week in and week out, you appreciate how good she is playing. So she’s been on a run, and it’s going to take some really, really good golf to catch her.”

Korda gained some separation with her victory at the Pelican Women’s Championship, but Ko remains in striking distance. Ko’s T-6 finish in Belleair, Fla. was her sixth consecutive top-10 result since September.

She credits much of that success to her swing coach. The camaraderie Lee and Ko have built over the years has motivated Lee to push her to even greater heights.

Ahead of the final two events of the season, Ko spent additional time with Lee. Even then, Ko noticed a back-to-basics adjustment she needed to make before she goes head-to-head with Korda in pursuit of defending her title at the CME Group Tour Championship this weekend.

“She is always Jin Young,” Lee said. “I first met her in 2017, early summer. She has never settled down or been satisfied with her present. She has a passion for winning. It makes me always dream of winning and teach her with passion as a coach.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

Total prize money in women’s golf has largely doubled every decade since the LPGA was first founded in 1950 (with the exception of a minuscule increase from 2000-2010) and hit an all-time high this year of $76.45 million. As we head into the final tournament of the year at this weekend’s CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, FL, the largest single purse in the history of women’s golf is on the line with $1.5M designated for the tournament winner. It’s an amount that would nearly double the year-to-date prize money of the year’s top two golfers, Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko. 

The LPGA has been a tale of two flames in 2021 with Korda and Ko trading off dominant stints atop the rankings. For the first seven months of the season, it was all Korda. Between January and July, the 23-year-old from Bradenton, Florida won three LPGA tournaments, including her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and finished in the top ten in eight of the eleven tournaments she entered. 

To cap off her barnstorming summer, she won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo by a thrilling one stroke margin earned on the final round’s 18th hole over Japan’s Mone Inami. Sharing that moment with her older sister and pro golfer, Jessica Korda, was extra special for the sisters who hail from Czech professional tennis player parents who are still highly involved in all their kids’ sporting careers (Korda’s younger brother competes on the ATP Tour).         

After cementing her name on the list of top women’s golfer to watch for years to come, things cooled off a bit for Korda. After winning the major, her best finish in the next four tournaments was a tie for 13th at the AIG Women’s Open. She also took some well-earned time off the course as well, opting to play in only two of the past six events.

In the meantime, the spark passed to Jin Young Ko, who caught fire at the end of summer, winning three of five tournaments in September and October. The 26-year-old from Seoul, South Korea has rarely been far from the spotlight since joining the tour in 2018. Out of the gate, she became only the second player in history to win her inaugural LPGA tournament and capped off the year with Rookie of Year honors. In just her second year on tour she won two majors, topped the list for official prize money earned, won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average (69.06), and was named the Rolex Player of the Year. Not a bad sophomore season.

After an abbreviated 2020, Ko maintained her number one world ranking and now finds herself neck and neck with Korda for that coveted title to close out 2021.

Momentum was behind Ko heading into the Pelican Women’s Championship last weekend with a 15-point lead ahead of Korda in Player of the Year standings. (Points are awarded to the top 10 finishers of each tournament, with 30 pts for 1st place, 12 pts for 2nd, 9 pts for 3rd, and so on.) But Korda proved she’s not done with 2021 yet by winning a thrilling four-way play-off to clinch her fourth victory of the year and put her 10 points ahead of Ko, who finished T6.

Now Korda is once again sitting at number one in several categories: Player of the Year points, official money earned, percentage of rounds in the 60’s, and lowest scoring average (68.84). Ko is right on her tail in each of those and with four tournament victories apiece (the Olympic gold doesn’t count toward LPGA stats), the Player of the Year title is still very much in contention as the two prepare to tee off in Naples for the final four rounds of 2021. One possible advantage Ko might have heading into this weekend is the fact she won this tournament and the then $1.1M prize one year ago by a five-stroke margin.

While the LPGA’s MVP title is now a two-woman race, a historic $1.5M is up for grabs for this weekend’s entire field of 60 golfers, who have earned entry by the accumulation of “Race to CME Globe” points in LPGA events throughout the year.

Keep your eye on Rookie of the Year lock Patty Tavatanakit. The 22-year-old Thai golfer clinched her first tour victory in her very first major at the ANA Inspiration back in April and sits third in Player of the Year points due to an impressive nine top-ten finishes this season. New Zealander Lydia Ko is also playing great golf and with one victory and four second place finishes this season is another likely front runner for the cash prize this weekend. And for Lexi Thompson, a season ending victory would do much to salve the sting of her recent struggles to hang onto late tourney leads on the green. Whoever wins the record-breaking first place prize, it will be a momentous step forward for women’s golf.

Round one begins this Thursday on Golf Channel with Sunday’s final round coverage airing on NBC from 1-4pm ET.