Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko in season-ending head-to-head duel at the LPGA Tour Championship

The circuit's 2021 season reaches a climax with the leading two players both chasing a fifth win, plus the Race to CME Globe rankings title and the Player of the Year award.

It's not a reference likely to resonate with anyone under the age of 40, never mind international fans of the LPGA, but the three favourites heading into this week's season-ending Tour Championship do rather recall the Ronnie Barker character Arkwright.

Ko-Ko-Korda is not actually the grocer's unlikely attempt to recall the current World No. 1.

Instead, in reverse order, they are the trio who have dominated the women's game in 2021.

Lydia Ko has had a fine year. The Kiwi won for the first time in three years in April and has added four runner-up finishes.

Jin Young Ko has had an exceptional year. Or, at least, second half to it; she's won four times and has gone sub-70 in 24 of her last 26 rounds.

Nelly Korda has had a breakthrough year, winning four times on tour, one of them a first Major Championship, and she added Olympic triumph in August.

Korda leads the world rankings but trails Ko in the seasonal rankings.
Korda leads the world rankings but trails Ko in the seasonal rankings.

This week the three head to the LPGA's Tour Championship with Lydia, despite her excellence, the bridesmaid: Tiburon will see Jin Young and Nelly fight it out for the tournament itself, plus the Player of the Year and Race to CME Globe rankings titles.

The extent of their dominance is such that there have been 14 individual tournaments on the circuit since mid-June, and Korda and Ko have won half of them.

Can they add a fifth success this week? Let's take a closer look at their seasons so far and their chances at Tiburon GC.

The turning point - Ko

Four wins, two of them Majors, thrust Ko to the top of the world rankings in 2019, but the following year was messy as Covid restrictions and injury impacted on her form.

Victory in the Tour Championship 12 months ago was her only win of the year and appeared set to prompt a return to her best golf in the New Year. It never happened, however, and, behind the scenes, she was struggling.

"My grandmother passed away in March," she said. "I love this tour, but I couldn't get to Korea before she passed away.

"I was really tired and I had no motivation. It was the first time I really didn't want to play on the LPGA Tour."

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In time, it was memories of her grandmother that helped turn her form around.

"She really liked to see I made a lot of putts," she laughed. "If I missed a lot of putts, after the tournament she call me to ask 'Why did you do that?' And if I won a tournament she'd say 'Good job' and be happy.

"So I focused on the putting green. I was thinking, yeah, she really wants to see a lot of wins from the heaven, so I work hard and I won four tournaments. She's going to be happy."

The first six months of the year reaped Ko no win from 10 starts; the four wins have come in just nine starts since the start of July.

The turning point - Korda

Korda had a better start to the year (a win and another five top 10s in her first nine starts), but she was also aware that she could do better.

"The missed cut at the US Women's Open in June was my turning point," she said. "That was where I changed my demeanour a little out there. I was really disappointed after that missed cut. I kind of turned it on after that."

Two weeks later she won the Meijer Classic and backed it up with her first Major success at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Olympic gold followed in August and now she takes aim winning back-to-back for the second time in the year.

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It's a long way from her aims and her past experience of heading to the Tour Championship.

"I'm not a player that's going to go out and be like, okay, I want to win this award, this award, this award," she said. "My goal was to contend in majors, be healthy throughout the year, to play to the best of my ability, and have fun out there.

"It's crazy because usually I come to this event and I'm so far away from Player of the Year. I see so many girls that have had an amazing year, and I'm like, okay, I would have to play amazing to even be in contention for that.

"So the fact that I'm in contention just shows how well I've played this year and shows how much my hard work has been paying off."

She's also applying the lessons of June, aware that winning twice in a fortnight is within her scope, but needs smart management of her energy.

"Well, I think it depends the level of stress," she said. "I did not make it easy on the last couple holes on Sunday, but I'm definitely learning more about my body and how to take the next day after.

"You always kind of get hit. You feel like you've been hit by a bus one day the next week, and I've definitely felt a little bit more tired today.

"I'll take it easy this afternoon. Make sure that I'm well rested and that I'm 100% going into Thursday and 100% going into Sunday as well. That's probably going to be my main focus this week."

Ko on the event

"This course is not easy. If you miss the green it's really tough to chip around the green, especially on this Bermuda. But if I hit the middle of the green every shot, every hole, it's going to be fine and easy to make birdies. Wide fairway, bunkers good, everything is good. Food is good, too."

Korda on the event

"I love it. I love this golf course. I love Florida event I can drive to. I always feel so much more at home and have family and friends come out. I've played well here. I grew up in Florida on Bermuda grass, so it's easier for me to adapt to this. Super excited to be back, hopefully I can give it a good shot."

Korda on her Olympic gold medal

"I actually didn't even have a case for it so I just had it like, well, it was pretty much like in a sock. I didn't want to scratch it, so I it went in a sock. Every single time I went through security I got stopped and I was like, 'Okay, just be really careful with it when you pull it out. Don't scratch it.'"

Ko's stats

Victory last year was dominant (she won by five) and it was something of a surprise after previous struggles with the test. She laboured to T69th in 2018 and failed to crack the top 10 either side of that effort.

Did that win 12 months ago help her suss Florida? Before then she had no top 10 in four starts, since then she's landed two top sixes in three visits.

Form? Four wins in her last nine starts.

Korda's stats

She's made four visits to the tournament. Every single time she's been top five after 36 holes, twice been second heading into the final round and has a best finish of second.

She's very good in her home state, making 14 starts, never finishing outside the top 30, with six top three finishes and two wins in three starts there this season.

Form? Four wins in her last seven starts.

The value is to ignore the outright and think back to Korda's superb consistency in her home state.

Throughout their careers she's dominated the head-to-head count in Florida. She leads 6-1 with the tally 3-1 at Tiburon.

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