CHAMPIONS
Champs Update: Johnson, Chun Earn Annual Awards October 17, 2016 By David Shefter, USGA

Dustin Johnson's victory at Oakmont was part of a stellar season that earned him PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. (USGA/JD Cuban)

As the professional tour seasons wind down – the PGA Tour has begun its wrap-around season for 2016-17 – many of the annual award-winners have been announced. Those honored included reigning U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and 2015 U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun.

Johnson, who prevailed at Oakmont Country Club by three strokes, was named PGA Tour Player of the Year for 2015-16 as voted by the Tour’s membership. Johnson, 32, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., not only won his first major championship, but the 2007 USA Walker Cup competitor posted a record-breaking victory in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., during the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and took the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

Last month, he helped the USA regain the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., posting a 1-up Sunday singles win over Chris Wood, of England, for his lone point of the three-day competition.

In 22 PGA Tour starts, Johnson registered a Tour-best 15 top-10 finishes, and he garnered the Byron Nelson Award for adjusted scoring average (69.172) and Arnold Palmer Award as the PGA Tour’s leading money winner ($9,365,185). Johnson has collected at least one PGA Tour victory in each of his last nine seasons.

But his breakthrough moment came at Oakmont on Father’s Day, shooting a final-round 69 for a 72-hole total of 4-under-par 276.

Chun, 22, of the Republic of Korea, is not your ordinary LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Before she became a full-time member this season, Chun compiled nine victories on the Korean LPGA Tour and two LPGA Tour of Japan wins. Her one-stroke victory over compatriot Amy Yang in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club also came prior to Chun joining the LPGA Tour for the 2016 season.

But in her first season on the circuit, Chun clinched the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award with six events remaining on the schedule. Chun, who collected her second major championship in September in record-breaking fashion at the Evian Championship in France, held a 778-point lead over Megan Khang going into last week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in Korea.

Four years prior to Chun, So Yeon Ryu, also of Korea, won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs, Colo., and followed that up by winning LPGA rookie-of-the-year honors the following year.

Chun is currently on pace to win the award by the third-largest margin of victory. Karrie Webb edged Mayumi Hirase by 1,030 points in 1996 and Se Ri Pak, who retired last weekend, beat Janice Moodie by 920 points in 1998, the year she inspired a whole generation of Koreans, including Chun, with her U.S. Women’s Open playoff victory at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.

Chun now joins a list of illustrious players who have gone on to hall-of-fame careers after winning rookie-of-the-year honors, a list that includes U.S. Women’s Open champions JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Amy Alcott, Patty Sheehan, Annika Sorenstam, Webb and Pak. 

“I feel very honored to have won the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year,” Chun said in an LPGA Tour press release. “To play on the LPGA Tour with all the top players in the world has been a dream of mine that I have been working toward, and in 2016 it came true.

While Chun’s lone victory in 2016 was the Evian Championship, where she finished 21 under par, she recorded nine additional top-10 finishes and rose to No. 3 in the Rolex women’s world golf ranking. She currently ranks second on the LPGA Tour in scoring average (69.52) and fourth on the money list ($1,405,054).

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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