The penultimate event of the year on the LPGA is layered with interest as some players fight for spots in the lucrative CME Group Tour Championship while others fight for their jobs.
There’s great emphasis on the 60th spot of the CME points list, the cutoff point for the season-ending event with the $7 million purse. What’s even more impactful for many players, however, is the 100th spot. The top 100 players on the points list maintain full cards for the 2024 season. The top 80 receive the best status available.
Midway leader Emily Kristine Pedersen holds a two-stroke lead at The Annika driven by Gainbridge after rounds of 63-65 put her at 12 under at Pelican Golf Club. Pedersen entered the week 80th on the CME list and is projected to move to 34th should she triumph for the first time on the LPGA. While winning will require a good bit of work, Pedersen is in fine shape to jump into the top 60.
Emily Kristine Pedersen plays her shot from the third tee during the second round of the 2023 Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican at Pelican at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida. (Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
The Dane had plenty of memorable moments at the Solheim Cup in Spain this year, including an ace, and carried that fire into the regular season.
“I think I haven’t really been good at cheering on myself in normal tournaments,” she said. “I’m kind of like getting annoyed about the bad things, but when the good things happen I take it for granted a little bit.
“So I have been trying to pat myself on the back a little bit more when I’m doing something good, and that’s definitely something I’m taken from the Solheim.”
Minami Katsu, who currently sits in second, also hopes to vault into the top 60. Currently 78th on the points list, she’s projected to move to No. 49 should she remain in that position.
Meanwhile, Muni He, who is rocketing up the board, is in a fight for full status. Players who finish 81st to 100th on the CME list fall into Category 11 on the LPGA priority list, which is used to fill fields. He started the week 113th and is tied for fourth after two days at The Annika. He is currently projected to move up to 92nd on the money list.
Those who fall between Nos. 101 to 125 on the list will be in Category 16 next season. Some players who finish outside the top 100 will go to Q-Series later this year to improve their status. The top 45 finishers from Q-Series fall in Categories 14 and 15 and are listed in the order they finish.
Here are five notables currently battling for full status:
100. Azahara Munoz
Azahara Munoz entered the week 100th on the CME list and could wrap things up with a strong weekend after an opening 64. The Spaniard actually has a bit more time than everyone else, however, because she still has several starts left on maternity leave to improve her status.
She’s currently tied for seventh and projected to move to 92nd on the CME points list.
101. Lydia Ko
Ko headed into The Annika 101st on the CME points list, despite having several strong finishes at several limited-field Asian events. Because Ko was competing in those events on a sponsor invite, she didn’t receive CME points for her efforts.
Should Ko remain outside to the top 100 after this week, she can play out of the winner’s category in 2024. Category 4 includes winners of the past two seasons as well as the current season. Ko won three times in 2022.
Ko shot 67-69 in the first two rounds at Pelican and will play the weekend. She’s currently projected to stay at 101.
106. Lucy Li
The former phenom started the season strong with a pair of top-25 finishes in the spring but slowed down in the summer. The 21-year-old rookie needed to do something special to make a move this week and instead shot 72-74 to miss the cut in Belleair.
113. Muni He
For the past two seasons, He has been oh-so-close to cracking the top 100, finishing 109th in 2022 and 101st in 2021.
This year, however, the player known as “Lily” might finally get over the hump as the 24-year-old is in the midst of a big push at The Annika. After an opening 65, she’s currently is tied for fourth.
134. Caroline Hedwall
There will be no heroic finish this time for Caroline Hedwall, who shot 73-72 at The Annika to miss the cut. The Swede, who put together one of the finest comebacks in Solheim Cup history in Sunday singles, will have to head back to Q-Series if she wants to better her LPGA status. She played 15 tournaments on the Ladies European Tour this season.