Caddie Picks: 2019 Evian Championship
The Evian Championship – the fourth major of the season – takes place this week in Evian, France.
Here’s a dispatch sent into us by a veteran LPGA caddie (who will remain anonymous to protect the caddie’s identity), looping this week in the tournament:
With the men’s major championship season coming to end this past weekend at the British Open, the attention now turns to the women, who will be playing their final two majors in back-to-back weeks — the Evian Championship (in Evian, France, across the lake from Geneva, Switzerland) and the AIG Women’s British Open (in Milton Keynes England, outside of London).
BY THE NUMBERS
Course: Evian Resort Golf Club (6,477 yards, taking into account elevation off tee and for second shots)
Field: 130 players
Cut: Top 70 and ties
Hole 13: Moved from 490-yard par 5 to 430-yard par 4
Hole 15: New tee moves par 5 back from 531 yards to 554 yards
No 18: Moved from 441-yard par 4 to 484-yard par 5
With the Evian Championship back to its original summer date, as opposed to September, with its unpredictable conditions (2013 and 2017 were shortened to 54 holes because of weather), I assumed the course would be firmer and faster than normal.
However, at the beginning of the week, the course was soft because the temperature is so hot (90+ and high of 93 on Thursday and 90 Friday) that I guess the maintenance crew felt like it needed to soak the course to keep from losing it.
But during the pro-am on Wednesday, the course seemed to be firming up, so with the rough thicker than normal — around the fairways and greens — combined with the severely sloped fairways (because the course is constructed on the side of a mountain), elevation changes and large undulating greens, this week will still truly be a major test, as I predict 10 under winning (defending champion Angela Stanford shot 12 under in ideal conditions).
Ironically, though, while the purpose of moving back to July was to avoid the severe weather that hampered the event in the past, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday does not look good (100 percent chance of thunderstorms or rain, with around half an inch of rain each day at the time of this post). But at least the temperature is supposed to drop to between 68-79 degrees.
So with the course requiring accuracy off the tee — some balls in the rough will not make it to the green, it’s that lush — solid distance control — because simply hitting these greens is not enough — and three-putt avoidance, who do I think it favors the most?
Favorite: Sei Young Kim
One of four multi winners this season, the 11th-ranked player in the world comes to Evian having won her last start, the Marathon Classic, as well as has three, top-6 finishes in her last three Evian appearances (5th, T6, T2 in the last three years, respectively). In fact, she hasn’t finished worse than T11 in her four starts in this event.
And while Kim is still searching for that elusive first major, she said in her press conference after winning Marathon:
“I haven’t had a win in a major tournament yet. I think I try too much when I play the major tournaments. I (need to) just play the same as regular tournaments, even major… Just let it go. Let it happen.”
If she can stick to this mindset, it just may happen this week at Evian.
Sleepers: Hye-Jin Choi and Hyo-Joo Kim
Choi, the 22nd-ranked player in the world, nearly became the second amateur ever to win the U.S. Women’s Open, finishing second in 2017 as a 17-year-old.
Since turning pro shortly after her near-miss at the U.S. Open, Choi has added six wins on the Korea LPGA to her two wins as an amateur in 2017.
Currently the leading money winner on the KLPGA, with four wins, Choi’s best Evian finish is T14 in 2017.
Like Choi, Hyo-Joo Kim, 18th in the world, was the top player on the KLPGA money list in 2014, entering Evian (Kim would win five times on the KLPGA to become the first player in tour history to win more than $1 million in a single season.).
Also that year, Kim won Evian, birdieing the last hole to beat Hall of Famer Karrie Webb by one shot. In addition, Kim shot 61 in the opening round (10 under, the lowest round ever in a major, women or men).
This season, Kim — who has three wins since joining the LPGA in 2015 — has done just about everything but win, finishing top 10 in eight of 11 events, including T6 at the ANA Inspiration and T7 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Additionally, Kim is ninth on tour in driving accuracy (81 percent) and leads the tour in putts per round (27.81) and putts per greens in regulation (1.718).
So either Choi or Kim would be good bets this week that may fly under the radar.
Who Won’t Win: Ariya Jutanugarn
She simply doesn’t have the greatest of track records here, finishing T9, Missed cut, 36th in her three appearances, respectively.
Ariya, who has fallen to ninth in the world rankings and is still searching for her first win this year, will have to wait until next week to get her third major, as the AIG Women’s British Open is being played at Woburn Golf and Country Club, where Ariya won her first major in 2016.
While the average July temperature in Evian is supposed to only be nine degrees hotter than in September (79 vs. 70), like much of the United States, France is experiencing its own extreme heat wave.
And to make matters worse, most of Evian doesn’t believe in air conditioning, so many caddies say they wake up in the middle of the night draped in sweat.
At least the free beer at the annual Evian Heineken Beer Garden is still ice cold and flowing daily.