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Friday’s golf: Ko runs out to 5-shot lead at CME Group Tour Championship

Naples, Fla. — Lydia Ko is in total control at the halfway mark of the CME Group Tour Championship. Total control of the season-long scoring and money races, too.

Ko shot a 6-under 66 in Friday’s second round of the LPGA Tour’s season finale, pushing her to 13 under for the tournament and five shots clear of Hyo Joo Kim through 36 holes.

Ko made four birdies in a six-hole stretch midway through her round, rolled in a testy 4-footer to save par on the par-4 13th to maintain what was then a four-shot lead, and hasn’t dropped a shot since her opening hole on Thursday.

Her flawless round capped a big day for the LPGA, which unveiled its 2023 schedule with a record-setting $101.4 million in purses earlier Friday.

Ko’s 66 was the best score of the day; four other players shot 67’s. Through two rounds at Tiburon, there have been four scores of 66 or lower; Ko has two of them after an opening 65 on Thursday.

Kim (69) made back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 to get to 8 under, alone in second. World No. 1 Nelly Korda (69) is in a pack tied for third at 7 under, along with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka (67), Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist (69) and Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh (70).

Korda was making a move on the front, closing her first nine with three birdies in a four-hole stretch. But she made nothing but pars on the back nine.

Ko entered the week with a one-point lead in the race for LPGA Tour player of the year. She needs to avoid just all-out disaster on the weekend to win her second consecutive Vare Trophy for having the year’s lowest scoring average. Those titles would move her closer to the LPGA Hall of Fame.

And with $2 million, the biggest single prize in women’s golf, awaiting the winner that means the money title is within her reach as well.

Ko is now averaging 68.964 this year. Atthaya Thitikul’s average for the season is now 69.447. It would take about a 40-shot swing between them on the weekend for Thitikul to catch Ko in that race.

And if Ko wins the tournament, she’d push her earnings for 2022 to $4,364,403 and virtually lock up the money title as well.

PGA Tour

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy hopes his strong finish Friday at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship is a good sign for the weekend.

The top-ranked McIlroy, who leads the Race to Dubai standings, went birdie-birdie-eagle on this final three holes for a 4-under 68 that left him seven shots back of co-leaders Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

“It was nice to finish with a flourish there and put myself a little closer to the guys going into the weekend,” said McIlroy, who is bidding to be the European tour’s leading player for the fourth time in his career.

Fitzpatrick’s 67 puts him at 12-under 132 overall to not only share a three-shot lead with Hatton after two rounds but also keep him out in front in the Race to Dubai.

“I’ve played two good rounds to start with to put myself in position,” the U.S. Open champion said. “Just keep doing more of the same and see where it gets me come Sunday.”

Fitzpatrick would clinch a first Race to Dubai title with a third win at the World Tour Championship, provided McIlroy or Ryan Fox don’t finish the event in second. A second-place finish would also be good enough for Fitzpatrick if McIlroy finishes lower than seventh.

Fitzpatrick had six birdies and a bogey at the 12th hole on the Earth Course, where he is a two-time winner. Hatton’s 67 included eight birdies and three bogeys.

Adri Arnaus and Alex Noren are three strokes off the lead. Jon Rahm and Jorge Campillo are a further shot back.

Fox, who is second in the points table to McIlroy, shot a 72 and was in 37th place after two rounds.

McIlroy’s brilliant approach shot set up his eagle on the par-5 18th. He described his first 33 holes as “very mediocre golf” but said “something sort of clicked.”

He’s not sure what.

“I’m not sure, but whatever it is I need to bottle it for the weekend,” the Northern Irishman said. “You never know, that finish here on Friday could be key to something that happens over the next 36 holes.”

McIlroy is trying to win the FedExCup and Race to Dubai in the same year for the first time, having won each event on three occasions. His last Race to Dubai title came in 2015, having also won it in 2012 and 2014.

Source : The Detroit News