Lydia Ko is golf’s million dollar baby.


The World No.3 has completed a remarkable season today by winning the Race to CME Globe, the season-long point’s race on the LPGA Tour, with a playoff victory in the CME Group Tour Championship.


The 17-year-old carded a four-under par 68 on the testing Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Florida to finish in a three-way share of the lead with Spain’s Carlota Ciganda (70) and Paraguay’s Julieta Granada (71) on a 10-under par total.

It was good enough to claim the Race to CME Globe title and the US$1million (NZD$1.3m) bonus from Americans Stacey Lewis (T9) and Michelle Wie (T5) but there was still huge interest whether she would claim her third title of 2014 in the final event of the year.

Ko capped off a special day when she won in her first playoff on the LPGA Tour, on the fourth hole of sudden death with a par to Ciganda’s bogey who was hunting her first win on the LPGA Tour.

The defining moment of the playoff came when the Spaniard hit her approach into the hazard to hand the New Zealander the advantage. Ko almost holed her birdie chance from 25 feet (8m) and then tapped in for a US$1.5million (NZD1.9m) payday before she was hit by a champagne shower.

Both Ko and Cignada had their chances in sudden death. Ko had a putt from 15 feet (5m) on the first time up 18 which came up just short and Ciganda had the best opportunity to finish it when she missed her birdie putt from five feet on the third time up the finishing hole.

Earlier, Granada bowed out on the second playoff hole when her par putt from four feet lipped out.

Ko, who two weeks ago was the youngest winner of the LPGA Rookie of the Year honours, began the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship three shots back from the overnight leader Granada.

The four-time LPGA Tour winner was unflappable as she set the early pace in her adopted home State in the States.

The New Zealander birdied three of her opening eight holes to get to eight-under par and into the outright lead as Grenada began slowly in two-over par through her opening nine holes.

Ko continued her momentum on the back nine with a birdie on the 13th hole and was joined in the lead on 10-under par by Grenada, who bounced back with three birdies in a row, and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, who made back to back birdies on 13 and 14.

Ko had birdie chances on the 17th and 18th to get into the outright lead but she left them both short as she signed for a four-under par 68 and a 10-under par total.

Meanwhile, back on the par five 17th, the big-hitting Ciganda, who was out of the Race to CME Globe, had a birdie putt from just over three feet (1m) to take a one shot lead down the last.

The Spaniard pulled her short chance and then Grenada and Ciganda both made pars on the 18th to force the three-way playoff.

Ko’s victory at the CME Group Tour Championship was her third for the 2014 season after winning the LPGA Marathon Classic and Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. She finished in the top-10 on 13 occasions and inside the top 5 on nine occasions.

She also finished runner-up at the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open in her only appearance on the Ladies European Tour.

Ko, the youngest player to win the LPGA Tour's Rookie of the Year Award, was also the youngest player to win the Race to the CME Globe.

The Pinehurst School student, who claimed the Supreme Award at the Halberg Awards this year for her remarkable season in 2013, will once again be among the frontrunners for the award in 2015.

Today she is the toast of New Zealand sport as she dominates the game like no other New Zealand women’s golfer has ever done before.



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