[PHOTO: Stuart Franklin]
While the men’s major calendar is over with Brian Harman’s victory at the Open Championship, the LPGA Tour’s European major swing is just starting. The Amundi Evian Championship begins on Thursday in France followed in two weeks by the AIG Women’s Open at England’s Walton Heath.
Despite being the ‘newest’ women’s major, the Evian consistently delivers a top-tiered player as its champion since given its new status in 2013. Eight of its nine winners have been in the top 20 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. (Angela Stanford was the lone outlier in 2018 when she was ranked 76th.) The average ranking of the champions is 16th.
Whether that trend holds up this year is up for debate as numerous top players appear a little out of form. World No.1 Jin Young Ko shocked everyone with a 79 to begin the US Women’s Open, en route to a missed cut. No.2 Nelly Korda, coming off a win on the LET’s Aramco London Series, has made one cut in her previous three LPGA starts. No.3 Lydia Ko hasn’t finished inside the top 30 on tour since her T-6 in February at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Nos.4, 5 and 6 are this year’s three first-time major winners (Lilia Vu, Allisen Corpuz and Ruoning Yin). And defending champion Brooke Henderson, 11th in the world ranking, returns after back-to-back missed cuts at the Dana Open and the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
Ahead of this week’s stop at Evian Resort Golf Club, we dove through the 132-player field and ranked the 25 most likely to win.
25: Min Ji Park
Rolex Ranking: 26 Starts: 1 Best Finish: T-37, 2022
Park won twice last month on the KLPGA Tour and has been one of the top players on the South Korean circuit over the past three seasons. She’s only made two starts in LPGA majors, the latest a T-13 finish at in the US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
24: Lydia Ko
Rolex Ranking: 3 Starts: 9 Best Finish: Win, 2015
Maybe Ko’s success at Evian Resort Golf Club will help offset a disappointing 2023 season to date, marked by the astounding seven penalty strokes she had to take in the final round of the Dana Open, her most recent start. Ko has seven top-10s in her career in this event, including a T-3 a year ago.
23: Anna Nordqvist
Rolex Ranking: 33 Starts: 13 Best Finish: Win, 2017
The three-time major winner’s missed cut at Pebble Beach was a surprise after a sturdy run of mid-year play that included five top-20s in six starts, highlighted by a T-3 at the KPMG Women’s PGA.
22: Celine Boutier
Rolex Ranking: 13 Starts: 6 Best Finish: T-29, 2014, 2021
A winner at this year’s LPGA Drive On, the former Vic Open winner is coming off a T-3 performance at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, her fourth top-10 in 2023. She’s looking to become the first Frenchwoman to win the Evian.
21: Grace Kim
Rolex Ranking: 55 Starts: First appearance
Kim’s first career LPGA win in April was followed by two missed cuts, but the Sydneysider has posted five top-20 finishes in her past six starts, including 14th at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and T-13 at the US Women’s Open.
20: Atthaya Thitikul
Rolex Ranking: 9 Starts: 3 Best Finish: 5, 2021
Despite missing back-to-back cuts at the two most recent majors, Thitikul remains tied for the most top-10s this season on the LPGA Tour (seven). The Thai star’s consistency so far in her young career includes top-10s in her past two starts at Evian.
19: Nasa Hataoka
Rolex Ranking: 19 Starts: 3 Best Finish: T-15, 2022
The Japanese stalwart was the 54-hole leader at Pebble Beach but surprisingly faded down the stretch. Still, her T-4 was her sixth top-seven major finish in her past 16 starts dating back to the 2020 Chevron Championship.
18: Hae Ran Ryu
Rolex Ranking: 32 Starts: 1 Best Finish: MC, 2018
Ryu’s rookie LPGA season has been a bit feast or famine. She’s got 10 top-20 finishes, two missed cuts, a T-56 and a T-65. Unfortunately, her two worst performances happened at majors, the T-56 at Chevron and a missed cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA. Ryu substantially improved at Pebble Beach, where she finished eighth.
17: Brooke Henderson
Rolex Ranking: 12 Starts: 7 Best Finish: Win, 2022
Henderson will need to rely on her success at the Evian Resort Golf Course to defend her title rather than recent form. The Canadian has six top-25 finishes in her seven Evian starts, including three top-10s.
16: Cheyenne Knight
Rolex Ranking: 39 Starts: 2 Best Finish: T-19, 2022
Knight flew from Midland, Michigan, to France with her second career LPGA title after co-winning the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. The victory is part of a consistent 2023 campaign, as Knight has finished in the top 30 in eight of her past nine starts.
15: Carlota Ciganda
Rolex Ranking: 31 Starts: 10 Best Finish: T-3, 2022
Since losing in the quarter-finals at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play in May, the Spaniard hasn’t been outside the top 21 in six starts, including a T-3 at the KPMG Women’s PGA. Ciganda is looking for her first LPGA title since 2016.
14: Jiyai Shin
Rolex Ranking: 24 Starts: 7 Best Finish: Win, 2010
Shin’s most recent start at the Evian came in 2013. However, arriving off a three-win year on the JLPGA and a runner-up at the US Women’s Open, the former world No.1 remains in form to take her third major title.
13: Charley Hull
Rolex Ranking: 15 Starts: 9 Best Finish: T-3, 2022
The Englishwoman nearly stole the show at Pebble Beach, closing with a 66 for a T-2 finish. In her next start, she was second to Nelly Korda at the LET’s Aramco Team Series London event.
12: Yuka Saso
Rolex Ranking: 27 Starts: 1 Best Finish: MC, 2022
Saso, the 2021 US Women’s Open champion, missed four cuts from March to May, only to find her form with a runner-up at the KPMG Women’s PGA and a T-3 at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
11: Jin Young Ko
Rolex Ranking: 1 Starts: 6 Best Finish: Win, 2019
Ko put up a shocking performance at the US Women’s Open, with her opening 79 the second-worst round of her LPGA career. The two-time winner in 2023 rebounded with a T-26 at the Dana Open. Despite the poor performance at Pebble Beach, Ko remains second in tour scoring average (69.79).
10: Xiyu Lin
Rolex Ranking: 11 Starts: 6 Best Finish: T-29, 2015
The winner’s circle can only evade Lin for so long as she continues posting great finishes. Lin has finished in the top five three times in her past four starts, most recently a T-4 at the Dana Open.
9: Rose Zhang
Rolex Ranking: 34 Starts: 2 Best Finish: T-58, 2021
Zhang’s most recent start was her first missed cut as a pro, at the Dana Open. But it’s excused as she was sick and had three straight top-10s finishes to start her pay-for-play career. Expect a (hopefully) healthy Zhang to continue her consistency atop LPGA leaderboards.
8: Ayaka Furue
Rolex Ranking: 18 Starts: 2 Best Finish: 4th, 2021
Furue is a picture of consistency; the Japanese tour pro hasn’t finished outside the top 15 in her past seven starts, dating back to April. With seven top-10s in 2023, at some point this run has to lead to her second career win… right?
7: Ruoning Yin
Rolex Ranking: 5 Starts: First appearance
The KPMG Women’s PGA winner missed the first cut of her impressive sophomore LPGA campaign at last week’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. We can look past it if you can.
6: Nelly Korda
Rolex Ranking: 2 Starts: 5 Best Finish: T-8, 2022
Korda’s victory two weeks ago at the LET’s Aramco Team Series in London signals a possible return to form after returning from a back injury with two missed cuts and a T-64 in her three most recent LPGA starts. She is also trending at the Evian, improving in nearly every start she has made in France: MC, 2017; T-16, 2018; T-25, 2019; T-19, 2021; T-8, 2023.
5: Minjee Lee
Rolex Ranking: 7 Starts: 8 Best Finish: Win, 2021
The West Australian has found her star form after a rocky start to 2023 when the two-time major winner didn’t finish inside the top 40 in her first four starts. Since a runner-up at the Cognizant Foudner’s Cup in May, Lee has posted six consecutive top-20s, most recently a T-7 at the Dana Open.
4: Leona Maguire
Rolex Ranking: 11 Starts: 3 Best Finish: T-6, 2021
Maguire’s standout performances in majors slowed with a T-31 at Pebble, but there’s plenty of evidence she’ll catch fire again in France. After all, she’s tied for the lowest major round ever with the 61 she posted at Evian in the final round two years ago.
3: Allisen Corpuz
Rolex Ranking: 6 Starts: 1 Best Finish: MC
Corpuz enters Evian being the best major player on tour this year. She’s got a win at the US Women’s Open, a T-4 at the Chevron and a T-15 at the KPMG Women’s PGA. She impressively backed up the victory at Pebble with a runner-up at the Dana Open the next week.
2: Linn Grant
Rolex Ranking: 21 Starts: 1 Best Finish: T-8, 2022
Grant grabbed her anticipated first LPGA title at the Dana Open earlier this month. Given her dominance on the Ladies European Tour, with five wins since the start of 2022, why wouldn’t that major breakthrough be in Europe?
1: Hyo Joo Kim
Rolex Ranking: 8 Starts: 8 Best Finish: Win, 2014
For a decade Kim has consistently been in contention at the Evian. She finished T-3 last year and held the 54-hole lead in 2019 before ending up T-2. The South Korean leads the LPGA in scoring average (69.62) and in greens in regulation this year, making the 28-year-old the pick for her second major title.