Officials with the Evian Championship believe that in the event’s 25th year, they are taking a step forward by embracing a part of the event’s past.
Played in the shadow of the French Alps, the tournament had thrived under ideal weather when it was played in July from 2000 until 2012, allowing the event to increase in prestige to the point that the LPGA elevated it to a Major in 2013. But in the process, the tournament moved to a September date, when high winds and rains descended on the region and became so problematic that some players – notably Stacy Lewis – chose to pass on playing.
Returning to July, players have put the raingear away and are focused on sun protection. Temperatures have been in the 30s in the days leading up to the tournament, and the forecast is for similar conditions for the first round later today.
“I think the move to this time of year is going to be really positive,” Jessica Korda said. “Obviously a lot warmer than we’re used to.”
The drastic change in weather changes how the course will play.
“It’s a lot drier in July,” said world No.1 Sung Hyun Park, through a translator. “The green runs more and bounces a lot more, so I’ve got to be aware of that. Rolls really fast, too. I have to be more aware of my long putting as well.”
The style of play that was needed to win the Evian in recent years – a grittiness reminiscent of how one might handle links golf with the cool temperatures, wind and rain – does not seem as if it will apply this week (though there is a chance of rain and thunder predicted over the weekend).
Some players just prefer playing in the heat.
“I do hate the cold,” Park said. “I was complaining a little when it used to be in September and colder.”
The weather isn’t the only change that players are happy about. The long par-4 18th has been stretched 40 metres and converted to a par 5. In 2018, it played 400 metres with a pond short and right of the green becoming a menace to the field. Now it’s reachable in two for the longer players, adding new elements of possible drama at the finish of each round.
“That par 5 is going to be so much fun to watch,” said Angela Stanford, the defending champion. “We’re going to have girls that may be two or three back that may be standing on the fairway, Let’s do it. Send a 3-wood up there and make eagle. I just think it’s going be so much more exciting.”
Seventeen different players have won on the LPGA Tour in 2019, and 16 of them are in the Evian field, including the winners of the year’s first three Majors. Each won their first Major in the process – Jin Young Ko at the ANA Inspiration, Jeongeun Lee6 at the US Women’s Open and Hannah Green at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. So when you look at the changes to the Evian Championship this year, and the field preparing for the first round of the Major, and you ask, who’s going to win?
The answer could be anyone.