Brooke Henderson loves breaking records, and this week she has a questionable number hanging over her head.
Since 2016, no player on the LPGA Tour has won a season-opening tournament and then won a second title in the same year. Henderson, from Smiths Falls, Ont., started 2023 with a win at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions on Jan. 22, and is in the field at this week’s CME Group Tour Championship, the pinnacle of the women’s professional golf season, still searching for her second win of the year.
“It’s a really weird statistic that I don’t like very much,” Henderson said with a laugh. “I thought I was going to break it early but maybe it crossed my mind a little bit.
Henderson is the only Canadian on the par-60 golf course at Tiburon Golf Club’s Golden Course in Naples, Florida. It enters the tournament at No. 14 in the CME Globe rankings.
At last year’s CME Group Tour Championship, Henderson had an outside chance at the top of the standings, but suffered a back injury. Instead, New Zealander Lydia Ko won the event and the season’s championship.
“The off-season for me last year was huge,” Henderson said. “I have put in a lot of work to strengthen and heal and it has really paid off.
“Knock on wood, I don’t have the issues I had last year. That was another thing coming up this week: I was really excited about being a lot healthier than I was at this time last year.”
Svensson defends at the RSM Classic
The PGA Tour also concludes its season with the RSM Classic. Adam Svensson of Surrey, British Columbia, is the defending champion. His win at Sea Island Golf Club’s coastal course in St. Simons Island, Ga., last year marked the beginning of a breakout season for Svensson.
“It’s my best year here on the PGA Tour,” he said. “I feel like I played the best golf of my career and I feel like I’m getting better.
“I hope I can keep it up.”
The RSM Classic is the PGA Tour’s seventh and final FedExCup Fall event. All seven tournaments featured winner’s benefits, including a two-year PGA Tour exemption, 500 FedExCup points, and invitations to The Sentry, The Players Championship, Masters and PGA Championship in 2024.
Svensson enters the event 37th in the FedEx Cup standings, guaranteed a PGA Tour card next season as well as spots in the premium events on the circuit.
Nick Taylor (25) of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Corey Conners (26) of Listowel, Ontario, Adam Hadwin (45) of Abbotsford, Mackenzie Hughes (53) of Dundas, Ontario, and Taylor Pendreth (86) of Richmond Hill. Ont.., they also kept their tourist cards.
Roger Sloan of Merritt, British Columbia, and Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ontario, earned cards with their rankings in the Grade 2 Korn Ferry Tour.
Svensson has played more golf on the PGA Tour than most of the top 50 players on the tour, including most fall events. He said this is just a product of his passion for the sport more than any kind of strategy.
“I love playing, I love competing, and I feel like I learn a lot every week,” Svensson said. “Even if I don’t play well I’ll still learn, and if I play great I’ll learn, so I feel the more events I play the better results I’ll get.”
Conners, Hughes and Pendrith are also in the field at the RSM Classic this week, as is Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont. Gligic is 204th in the FedEx Cup standings and needs a strong showing this week to earn tour membership for next year.
Increase portfolio at CME
Meanwhile, the LPGA, which already offers the biggest payday in women’s golf, said the winner of next year’s CME Group Tour Championship will receive $4 million, the equivalent of the PGA Tour’s new signature events.
The big raise — double what this year’s winner gets — comes from a two-year extension with Chicago-based CME Group, which sponsors the season-long Race to CME Globe.
The extension includes increasing the portfolio to $11 million next year – up from $7 million. In addition to the winner getting $4 million, the runner-up gets $1 million, and all 60 players who reach the end of the season are guaranteed to receive at least $55,000.
A year ago, second place earned $550,000, and last place was worth $40,125.
The LPGA’s prize pool is at $100 million, and although much of the increase has come from the majors, the CME Group Tour Championship has always stayed on pace, in this case surpassing its $11 million prize fund in 2024.
The PGA Tour begins a new schedule next year with eight signature events paying $4 million to the winner. The Players Championship winner earned $4.5 million this year.
Lydia Ko earned $2 million last year. She did not qualify for this year’s CME Group Tour Championship, which is reserved for the top 60 players from the points race. All 60 people at Tiburon Golf Club have a chance to take home the grand prize by winning the tournament.