The equation: How New Zealand's top golfers Lydia Ko and Ryan Fox can become tour champions

The equation: How New Zealand’s top golfers Lydia Ko and Ryan Fox can become tour champions

Steven Alker’s done it already, Lydia Ko is on the brink and Ryan Fox has to beat world No 1 Rory McIlroy.

The trio of Kiwis have been killing it on the world stage, making 2022 a golden year – arguably the greatest – for the sport in New Zealand.

If Ko and Fox can match Alker, this weekend, in winning their tour champion gongs for the LPGA and DP World Tours, respectively, the arguably may even be cut from the above statement.

Sir Bob Charles’ British and Michael Campbell’s US Open victories, and Lydia Ko’s two major championships, were iconic weeks in New Zealand’s sporting history – let alone golf as an individual sport – but never before have three Kiwis simultaneously been in the conversation for champions of three separate and significant tours.

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* The multimillion-dollar statistic that puts Lydia Ko among the top three players of all time

Alker, one of the best feel-good sporting stories in the country this year, finished third in the final event of the PGA Tour Champions – the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix on Monday (NZ time) – to top the year’s money list and earn himself a $1.63 million bonus as the Tour’s top money earner.

Alker’s incredible debut year on the PGA Tour Champions, has seen him win four tournaments and claim 19 top-10 finishes in 24 events for prizemoney of $7.44m – including the bonus.

By the end of this weekend, he could be joined by both Ko and Fox as tour champions.

It’s a tall order for Fox, and Ko needs her newfound 2022 consistency to last four more rounds, but here is how they can convert this weekend into Kiwi golfing folklore.

Ko, the world No 3, will complete her standout season at the CME Group Tour Championship, the culmination of the Race to the CME Globe.

The Race to the CME Globe is a season-long competition in which players accumulate points to gain entry into the Tour Championship. The winner becomes Race to the CME Globe champion.

The final event on the LPGA calendar is worth $7m, with the winner banking $3.25m – the largest winner’s prize in the history of women’s golf.

Thanks to Ko’s super solid year, the Kiwi ace starts the tournament, at the Tiburón Golf Club in Naples, Florida, as the leader in the Rolex Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy.

The Player of the Year standings are calculated by separate points systems from all 31 LPGA events across the year.

Ko (150) leads the Player of the Year standings by one point over Minjee Lee, with a 20-point gap back to Brooke Henderson and Ko’s first-round playing partner this week, Atthaya Thitikul.

A victory for Ko in the CME Group Tour Championship would wrap up all three accolades but there are many permutations that could see her land one or all of the prestigious awards.

For Henderson and Thitikul to have any chance at lifting Player of the Year from Ko’s grasp they would need to win this week and hope Ko and Lee finish third or worse. If that pair flunk in the 60 player, 72-hole, no-cut tournament, Player of the Year will come down to a two-woman shootout of who beats who out of Ko and Lee.

Lydia Ko is the frontrunner to win the LPGA Player of the Year and Race to the CME Globe.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Lydia Ko is the frontrunner to win the LPGA Player of the Year and Race to the CME Globe.

Ko (3071,693 points) has a more comprehensive gap over Thitikul (2690,127) and Lee (2531,453) in the Race to the CME Globe – a crown Ko previously won in 2014 and 2015.

The Vare Trophy, which Ko won in 2021, is awarded to the player who has the lowest scoring average for the season. With an average of 69.049, ahead of Hyo Joo Kim (69.364) and Atthaya Thitikul (69.435), Ko all but has the Vare Trophy safely locked away for another year.

But it’s not just sweeping the three biggest gongs of the year that Ko is playing for. Both the Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winner earn an LPGA Hall of Fame point.

If Ko, who already has 22 points, was to win both, she would be just three short of the 27 needed to be an automatic inductee.

For Fox to win the season-long points race on the DP World Tour (formerly known as European Tour), claim the Harry Vardon Trophy and move to the No 1 position, he needs to finish ahead of McIlroy at this week’s $16.2m DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.

Ryan Fox needs to beat Rory McIlroy to be in with a shot at the DP World Tour's champion of the year.

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ryan Fox needs to beat Rory McIlroy to be in with a shot at the DP World Tour’s champion of the year.

Fresh from his second placing behind Tommy Fleetwood in the Nedbank Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa, Fox is winding down what is arguably the best year of his career in the final DP event of the year.

Mathematically seven players can scoop the order of merit award but the other five, Matt Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry and Adrian Meronk, all need to win or finish second and rely on McIlroy and Fox finishing down the leaderboard.

McIlroy has played in just nine DP World Tour events this season to Fox’s 23 but is the No 1 ranked player on the Tour ahead of Fox and Fitzpatrick.

With the winner of the season finale banking a cool $4.88m and McIlroy and Fox having season earnings of $8.56m and $5.43m on this year’s Tour, it’s not impossible for the Kiwi to take out the top money spot.

Only the top 50 ranked players contest the Dubai tournament.

As a guaranteed top 10 finisher on the DP Tour, Fox has already secured a PGA Tour card for 2023 regardless of his result in Dubai.

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