Two of the world’s top five are facing fines of $25,000 for missing this week’s LPGA Tour season opener, the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, per a Golfweek report (opens in new tab).
World No.3 Minjee Lee and World No.5 Jin Young Ko are about to fall foul of the LPGA 1-in-4 requirement that states that players in the top 80 of the CME points list have to participate in a domestic tournament every four years – a stipulation that holds until a player has completed 230 official LPGA events, after which the player is exempt for the remainder of her career.
The tournament, which features a 30-player field, begins this week, with neither Australian Lee nor Korean Ko in it, although the latter had originally intended to play the tournament before withdrawing. To play in the Florida tournament, the pair would face the daunting prospect of trips around the world given their respective home countries.
After the Florida opener, the season’s second tournament doesn’t begin until over a month later. Importantly, that event, the Honda LPGA Thailand, marks the start of the Tour’s three-tournament Asian Swing, making it far easier for the pair to attend. Other potential reasons that have persuaded the pair to opt out of playing could be Ko’s wrist injury, which she sustained at the end of last season, and Lee’s hectic schedule that saw her compete as recently as last month in the ISPS HANDA Australian Open.
The 1-in-4 rule was originally devised to protect sponsors, and both Lee and Ko can apply for their one-time exemption from the tournament should they choose to do so. Meanwhile, the VP of Tour Operations for the LPGA, Tommy Tangtiphaiboontana, confirmed that both players could appeal the fines.
World No.2 Nelly Korda is the highest-ranked player in the tournament, which begins at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on 19 January.