Thompson, Howell close year with victories
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Lexi Thompson was the best this week, and Ariya Jutanugarn was the best all season. Neither left any doubt about that Sunday.
Thompson shot a 2-under 70 to finish at 18-under 270 and win the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship by four strokes over Nelly Korda. The win makes this the sixth consecutive year that Thompson has won at least once, extending the longest such active streak on the LPGA Tour.
Jutanugarn took the other two big prizes up for grabs, clinching the yearlong Race to the CME Globe prize — and the $1 million bonus that comes with that — as well as the Vare Trophy for winning the season’s scoring title. The world No. 1 already had wrapped up player of the year honors, and finished 2018 with a 69.415 scoring average to edge Minjee Lee (69.747) for the top spot there.
Jutanugarn shot a 66 on Sunday, finishing the week tied for fifth at 12-under 276.
Korda closed with a 71.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Charles Howell III made a 15-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff with Patrick Rodgers in the RSM Classic to end an 11-year victory drought.
The 39-year-old Howell dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands, then tearfully embraced his wife and two children. He earned $1,152,000 and a return trip to his hometown of Augusta, Georgia, in April to play in the Masters for the first time since 2012.
After Rodgers sent a birdie attempt of 21 feet past the cup on the second extra hole, Howell’s putt died in the cup and capped a comeback in which he went bogey-double bogey on his first two holes to lose the lead he had held through the first three rounds.
Howell closed with a 3-under 67, birdieing Nos. 15-17, to match Rodgers at 19-under 263 in the final PGA Tour event of the year. After making the 36-hole cut on the 2-under number, Rodgers shot 61-62 on the weekend. Rodgers’ 17-under 123 weekend was one shot off Troy Matteson’s PGA Tour record for consecutive rounds of 122 set the 2009 Frys.com Championship.
Howell had a 22-foot birdie attempt on the final hole to win in regulation, but the ball turned away from the cup inches from the edge. Both players had birdie looks on the first playoff hole, with Rodgers missing from 27 feet and Howell from 14 feet off the front fringe.
Howell won for the first time since the 2007 at Riviera. He also won in 2002 at Kingsmill.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Danny Willett won the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship by two shots for his first victory since the 2016 Masters.
The 31-year-old Englishman closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 18-under 270.
Francesco Molinari tied for 26th to take the Race to Dubai prize. The British Open champion secured the title when Tommy Fleetwood failed to win the tournament.
England’s Matt Wallace (68) and American Patrick Reed (70) tied for second.
PGA TOUR OF AUSTRALASIA
SYDNEY (AP) — Mexico’s Abraham Ancer won the Australian Open, closing with a 3-under 69 for a five-stroke victory at The Lakes.
Playing for the first time in Australia, Ancer finished at 16-under 272. He earned a spot in the British Open at Royal Portrush by finishing among the top three players who weren’t already exempt.
Australia’s Dimitrios Papadatos was second after a 67, and countryman Jake McLeod was another shot back after a 66. They also earned spots at Royal Portrush.
Kodai Ichihara rallied to win the Japan Golf Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix, closing with an 8-under 63 for a one-stroke victory. Mikumu Horikawa was second after a 69, and American Brendan Jones was another shot behind after a 68. Two-time Defending champion Brooks Koepka was six strokes back in 12th place after a 69. He dropped from first to second in the world ranking behind Justin Rose. ... Mexico’s Isidro Benitez won the Argentina Open. He finished with 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory in the PGA Tour Latinoamerica event. ... Minami Katsu won the Japan LPGA’s Daio Paper Elleair Ladies Open. She had weekend rounds of 64 and 65 for a four-stroke victory.