Ryu is welcomed home after topping world rankCo-LPGA Player of the Year Ryu So-yeon got a hero’s welcome Tuesday after a strong season in which she reached No. 1 in the world rankings for the first time.
Ryu won two LPGA tournaments, including her second career major at the ANA Inspiration in April and reached No. 1 in late June. She stayed there until early November, when fellow Korean Park Sung-hyun replaced her at the top.
Ryu and Park shared the LPGA’s Player of the Year award after they finished tied atop the standings at 162 points.
Ryu held a five-point lead heading into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship last weekend in Florida, but Park picked up those five points by ending in a tie for sixth place. Ryu tied for 30th. Players are only awarded points for a top-10 finish.
Ryu said she hadn’t started the season trying to win the Player of the Year honors, but as the year went on, she grew more determined to capture the tour’s top individual award.
“It is such a huge honor to be part of the LPGA history,” Ryu told reporters at Incheon International Airport. “Since golf is an individual sport, it felt a bit strange to share the trophy with someone. But I am glad I shared it with a Korean player. I’ve thought all along that Park Sung-hyun is a great player, and I am honored to share it with such a deserving player.”
During the final round at the CME Group Tour Championship, it seemed as though neither Ryu nor Park could win the award. Lexi Thompson was leading the tournament in late stretches and left herself a short par putt at the 72nd hole to take a club house lead and at least have a chance to win the title in a possible playoff.
A win would have given Thompson enough points to overtake Ryu for the Player of the Year award. Instead, Thompson missed the putt and finished alone in second place. She ended up with 159 points.
“I didn’t have nearly enough practice before the tournament, and I wasn’t really concerned about the trophy one way or the other,” Ryu said. “I even lost my hope of winning it a bit, thinking I’d have another chance later. To win it in such a dramatic fashion will motivate me for the future.”
Ryu ended the 2017 season at No. 3 in the world, behind Feng Shanshan of China and Park. Ryu ranked second on the LPGA money list behind Park at US$1.98 million and finished sixth in scoring average.
Ryu, 27, started the season on fire, posting eight consecutive top-10 finishes, including the win at the ANA Inspiration. She picked up her second title at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in June. But hampered by right shoulder issues later in the season, Ryu managed only three top-10s and missed one cut in 12 starts after her second victory.
Ryu said she’d give herself a score of 85 out of 100 for the 2017 season.
“I know I gave the absolute best I could, but I didn’t have the kind of finish I wanted,” she said. “I wish I would have won more after becoming the No. 1 player and I would have ended the season without injuries.”
Ryu said she has set higher goals for herself down the road.
“I’d like to complete the grand slam,” she said, referring to winning all major championships at least once. “Next year, I’ll try to win more tournaments and regain the No. 1 ranking.”