Twenty-six champions. Ten Rolex First-Time Winners. Seven playoffs. Two sets of sisters. One 72-hole scoring record.
From the season opener in the Bahamas to the finale in Florida, the 2018 LPGA Tour season provided fans from around the globe with drama, determination and an awe-inspiring display of world-class athleticism.
“With 32 events producing 26 different winners, 2018 showed the incredible depth of LPGA talent. Currently, the top 15 in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings come from 10 different countries,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “As the world looks for opportunities to empower women and showcase global diversity, the LPGA stands at the forefront of this important, inspirational movement.”
DOMINANT YEAR FOR JUTANUGARN
In a season characterized by depth in talent, the dominant performance by Ariya Jutanugarn is even more remarkable. The 23-year-old from Bangkok, Thailand, clinched Rolex Player of the Year honors with three events left in the season and won the $1 million bonus that comes with winning the Race to the CME Globe. Jutanugarn is currently No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, a position she has held since Oct. 29.
Other awards lining her shelf include the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, which she earned with the season’s best overall major performance, and the LEADERS Top 10s competition, which she captured with 17 top-10 finishes. Jutanugarn also earned the Vare Trophy, which is given to the player with the season’s lowest scoring average; her 69.415 is the 10th lowest scoring average in LPGA history.
Jutanugarn earned her second major victory at the U.S. Women’s Open, joining wins at the Kingsmill Championship presented by GEICO and the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open. She led the LPGA in earnings ($2,743,949, nearly $1.2 million more than second-place Minjee Lee) and set single-season records in birdies (470, 56 more than Lee) and rounds in the 60s (57 of 106, six more than Lee).
Jutanugarn is the first player to sweep the Rolex Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy, the Money Title, the Race to the CME Globe and the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award since the latter two were introduced in 2014.
Yet in true Ariya fashion, her favorite moment of 2018 was not any of her personal accolades or history-breaking moments. When asked the highlight of her year, she pointed to the breakthrough first win her sister Moriya Jutanugarn earned at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open.
REWRITING THE RECORD BOOK
The entire 2018 LPGA Tour season saw numerous statistical and historical records fall, led by Sei Young Kim’s week at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. In a performance that defines the word dominant, Kim set the LPGA’s 72-hole scoring record at an astounding 31-under 257, smashing the previous mark of 27-under 261 held by Annika Sorenstam and Kim herself. Kim also tied the 54-hole scoring record of 24-under 192, and her 32 sub-par holes in a single event is the most in LPGA history.
The year included 10 Rolex First-Time Winners, tied with 2005 for the second-most in LPGA history, one behind the 11 First-Time Winners in 1995. The season’s 26 different winners ties 1991 for the most in Tour history, while Jin Young Ko became just the second player in LPGA history to win in her first official tournament. Ko captured the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open en route to becoming Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, an honor she clinched with four events remaining in the season.
2018 had the most $800,000 earners with 24 and records set at every $100,000 increment between $100,000 and $800,000, further showcasing the continued financial growth and stability of the LPGA Tour. Additionally, two sister duos – Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn and Jessica and Nelly Korda – joined Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the only sets of sisters to both win on the LPGA Tour.
FIVE PLAYERS, FIVE COUNTRIES, FIVE MAJOR VICTORIES
The season’s five major championships saw five different players from five different countries earn major glory. And for the first time since 2006, three majors required extra holes to declare a winner.
At the ANA Inspiration, Pernilla Lindberg earned her first LPGA title in a marathon eight-hole playoff with Inbee Park and Jennifer Song that stretched into Monday. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship saw Sung Hyun Park outlast So Yeon Ryu and Nasa Hataoka in a two-hole playoff to earn her second major title, while Ariya Jutanugarn captured the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open in a four-hole playoff with Hyo Joo Kim that immediately became one of the most memorable moments in LPGA history.
The season’s final two majors took the Tour to Europe and added inspirational winners at very different places in their LPGA careers. The Ricoh Women’s British Open saw 2018 LPGA rookie Georgia Hall become just the second Englishwoman to win the title since the tournament became a major in 2001. Culminating the major season, 18-year LPGA veteran Angela Stanford earned her first major win at The Evian Championship and, at age 40, cemented a victory for players of all ages.
TEAM KOREA TAKES UL INTERNATIONAL CROWN ON HOME SOIL
For the first time, the UL International Crown was conducted outside the United States, with Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, Republic of Korea, hosting the third playing of this growing international event.
Buoyed by boisterously partisan crowds, Team Korea earned its first ULIC victory with 15 points, followed by defending champions Team USA (11 points) and Team England (11 points). The winning putt came courtesy of 2017 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion In-Kyung Kim, who defeated England’s Bronte Law, 2 up, in the penultimate singles match. Kim was joined on the victorious team by three major champions in Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu and In Gee Chun.
SYMETRA TOUR BUILDING THE FUTURE OF THE GAME
Across 21 tournaments, the 2018 Symetra Tour had 18 winners hailing from seven different countries, including three victories for 2018 Player of the YearRuixin Liu of the People’s Republic of China. Liu led the 2018 Volvik Race for the Card, which annually awards LPGA Tour membership to the top 10 players on the season-ending money list. The 10 graduates to the LPGA Tour accounted for just nine of the season’s 21 wins, underlining the Tour’s depth and the need for consistency along with victories.
The 2018 Symetra Tour season also continued the upward financial trend for the LPGA Tour’s official qualifying tour. Symetra Tour players competed for an average weekly purse of $150,000, the highest in Tour history.
DOUBLE WINS FOR DAME DAVIES
One of the game’s most beloved veterans, Laura Davies enjoyed her own season to remember in 2018. She started the year with an ageless runner-up finish at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, where the then-54-year-old recorded her best LPGA performance since 2007.
Davies then dominated the first summer with two senior major championships for women golfers. In July, she captured the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at the historic Chicago Golf Club, taking a staggering 10-stroke win over fellow fan-favorite Juli Inkster. Three months later, Davies took a four-stroke win at the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort’s Pete Dye Course and further cemented her place in golf history.
LOOKING BEYOND THE ROPES
Beyond the competitive side of the LPGA Tour, 2018 marked a banner year for the LPGA’s off-the-course initiatives. Since January, the LPGA has announced 12 new corporate and title partners, including Dow, the title sponsor for the new Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event, and Aon, which is presenting the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, a new season-long competition on both the LPGA and PGA Tours.
The LPGA*USGA Girls Golf program has grown to nearly 500 sites, with more than 80,000 junior golfers engaging with the program in 2018. Since its inception in 1989, more than a half million participants have been inspired through the program’s Five E’s of empower, enrich, engage, exercise and energize. The year also saw the LPGA Women’s Network reach a total audience of 150,000, while the 12,000 members of the LPGA Amateur Golf Association, which joined the LPGA family in March, participated in more than 7,500 local and national events.