NCAA Football

Lydia Ko Advantage as LPGA Tour Player of the Year Race Heats Up

Even though she didn't play, Lydia Ko's position at the top of the Rolex Player of the Year ranking was reinforced by Minjee Lee's fights at the TOTO Japan Classic in Shiga.

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Even though she didn’t play, Lydia Ko’s position at the top of the Rolex Player of the Year ranking was reinforced by Minjee Lee’s fights at the TOTO Japan Classic in Shiga.

It’s an advantage Lydia Ko after Minjee Lee failed to make the most of the New Zealander’s absence from the TOTO Japan Classic of the LPGA Tour in Shiga.

Scotsman Gemma Dryburgh clinched an uncontrolled four-shooter victory with a 65-point final round, seven under par, on Sunday.

But it was Lee’s attempt to overtake Ko in the Rolex Player of the Year race that was most important to Australian golf fans.

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Lee entered the week one point behind Ko, with key points awarded to all top 10 finishers.

Sadly, the US Open champion had to settle for a share of 36th place, four down, after closing with a round of 70.

It was Lee’s best result of his last six events, as the world number one struggles with a slump in form after a grueling season, highlighted by her second major triumph in June, a joint runner-up in the US PGA Championship and fourth in the Women’s British Open.

SKY SPORT

Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko cries after a significant victory in her native South Korea.

But still not enough to regain the lead for player of the year honors going into the final stretch.

Ko, with 150 points, holds the smallest possible lead over Lee (149), with Thailand’s new No. 1 Atthaya Thitikul (130) and American Brooke Henderson (130) also locked in a seemingly four-way fight for the prestigious award.

With two tournaments remaining in 2022, a win is worth 30 points; a second place worth 12; third place is worth nine, fourth place is seven, fifth place is six and each place between sixth and 10 is worth between five points and one.

Thitikul tied with Henderson after tying for 10th in Shiga with a Sunday 67.

With 10 under, Thitikul finished 10 pitches behind Dryburgh, who collected seven birdies in a flawless final round to leave the field in his wake.

Japanese home hopeful Kana Nagai (65) was second alone with 16 under, with Sweden’s Linn Grant (67) a stroke further back in third.

With Lee missing out on this week’s Pelican Women’s Championship in Florida, the fate of Western Australia’s Player of the Year is suddenly out of her control.

If Ko’s comeback wins, the honor is hers.

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