Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo
Heading into Sunday's final round, Inbee Park had all but wrapped up the LPGA scoring and money titles.
The 24-year-old South Korean needed to finish eight shots ahead of Stacy Lewis and hope Lewis didn't make up 10 shots on the leaders and win the tournament.
Still, Park didn't leave anything for chance. She proved it with her tee shot on the 17th hole — a 170-yard par 3.
Park, who had a streak of 10 Top 10-finishes during the season, continued her perfect aim at the top. She hit the flagstick and secured a birdie. Park shot a 2-under 70 on Sunday to finish 6-under for the event.
She said she was relieved this week and the season is over.
"I had to put pressure on myself this week and it was really hard," Park said. "This week felt like it was longer than the whole season. I'm really happy that it's finally done and I got the title."
It's truly been a groundbreaking year for Park, who capped off her summer streak with two wins, three seconds (and the second at the CN Canadian Women's Open was worth first place money because 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko won) and a third in the final six events.
She was the only woman to earn more than $2 million this season. But she says her scoring title and her 70.21 average speaks of her consistency this year.
"I think they both mean a lot to me," Park said. "I think it's a little bit tougher to win the Vare Trophy because the scoring average means how consistent you played all year and one bad round can put your average down, so I think it is tough."
Lincicome happy with third: Before the CME Group Titleholders, Brittany Lincicome was looking to the end of what has been, in her eyes, a disappointing year.
But after finishing third, Lincicome wished the season wasn't stopping.
"Can we just keep going? I have felt like this all year and this is actually one of my best tournaments of the year," said the 27-year-old from Seminole, Fla. "This tournament I actually played well all four days."
Last month in at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event, Lincicome was playing so bad that she hoped for bad weather.
"Rain rain go away!!!!!Actually if it stays around I won't have to play anymore!!!!! :-)" Lincicome tweeted.
Lincicome had a sunny disposition after Sunday's final round despite a stiff back and a couple three-putt bogeys. It also didn't hurt she cashed $77,171 for third place.
The five-time winner on the LPGA Tour birdied the back-to-back Par 5s on the backside to move within two shots of the lead. But a 3-putt bogey on the 17th hole, her third three-putt bogey of the day, ended her hopes of contending for the title.
"I guess I tried to play a little too aggressive trying to make a few birdies," Lincicome said. "But I guess third isn't bad."
Lincicome still has nine holes left to play in Naples. She is playing with Jan Stephenson in the made-for-TV charity event at TwinEagles on Monday morning.
"I will probably wake up and my back won't hurt at all," she joked. "that's how it seems to be going for me at the end of the year. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come next year."
Staving off time: In 2001 at Naples' last LPGA Tour event, Karrie Webb battled Sophie Gustafson down the stretch before Gustafson won by three. Sunday, at age 37, Webb shook off a double bogey to end her third round with a 3-under-69 to finish fourth.
"I didn't set a number (to shoot for)," Webb said. "It was probably the most challenging day of the week with the wind. It was nice to rebound from my finish yesterday. Probably that held me from getting really close today. I got within one shot there at one point. Three-under today under those conditions was a good score, it just probably wasn't quite good enough."
Pro-am results: Tournament officials released the results of the Tuesday-Wednesday pro-am. Dave Neill, Kurt Anderson, Dave McQuade and Brian Trecek won first-place gross. Neill, the president and publisher of the Naples Daily News, had a hole-in-one. Randy Christopher, Carol Musselwhite, Donna Martin and Leslie Greis won first-place net.
Other finishers — Second-place net, Dick McPhail, Peter Nicholson, Alex Gasser, Jon Podany; Third-place net, Scott Cookson, Nate Siens, Robert Caravello, Jim Truckess; Women's long drive, Patricia Rees; Men's long drive, Dennis Baggett; Women's closest-to-the-pin, Stephanie Susetka; Men's closest-to-the-pin, Bill Susetka
Wie, Gulbis shake off bad starts: Michelle Wie has two good rounds to go into the offseason after two pretty bad ones. She had an 81 that included three double bogeys and four bogeys in the first round, and shot a 77 on Friday — she was seen banging herself on the right side of her head three times after one hole.
But Wie responded on the weekend, shooting a 71 in the third round, then a 3-under 69 on Sunday that included a 2-under 34 on the back nine — her first nine — and an eagle on the par-5 No. 2. She had a pair of bogeys coming in, but birdied No. 9.
After spending most of the first two days in last place, she tied for 62nd in the 73-player field.
Gulbis came back late Tuesday from the two-day Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge near Las Vegas, then promptly went out and shot a 7-over 79 in the first round that included an eight.
"I'd like to play that first round again," said Gulbis, who tied for 40th. "The last three rounds were positive."
Smyers Smackdown: Months before the tournament, TwinEagles and architect Steve Smyers got together and dubbed the final three holes — a drivable par-4, a par-3, and a long par-4 — the Smyers Smackdown.
It more or less lived up to its reputation. Winner Na Yeon Choi's birdie on No. 16 more or less sealed her victory. Brittany Lincicome, who finished third, failed to drive the hole, and made par, then bogeyed No. 17, but birdied No. 18.
The holes played 15th (No. 16), 10th (No. 17) and 11th (No. 18) in the individual hole rankings, with 18th being the easiest. The par-4 15th was the second-hardest hole of the tournament, yielding only three birdies. No. 3, a par-4 that Choi double-bogeyed, played the hardest overall. The 13th, the first of back-to-back par-5s, was the easiest with four eagles and 36 birdies. The hole, which plays as a par-4 for members, averaged under par each of the four days.
Chip shots: On the worst scoring day, probably due to the wind, of the four rounds, Australian Sarah Jane Smith had the low score with a 5-under 67 that included three straight birdies on the "Smyers Smackdown" — Nos. 16-18. She played the back first. American Sydnee Michaels had a 68, and multiple players shot 69s. ... Player of the Year Stacy Lewis tied for 29th. She only had four finishes on tour worse than that this season. ... Former Bonita Bay resident Catriona Matthew shot a 69 and tied for 29th. She said she sold her place four years ago or so.