Defending Champion – Natalie Gulbis
Evian Masters Golf Club
72 holes, begins Thursday
Par 72, 6286 yards
Field Score – 91
Scoring Averages – 73.82 (2007), 72.58 (2006), 73.45 (2005)
2008 Scoring Average to date – 72.88
U.S. TV coverage (times EDT):
Thu 6:30p-8:30p GC
Fri 6:30p-8:30p GC
Sat 1p-4p GC
Sun 1p-4p GC
The LPGA and LET join forces for the next two weeks as both Evian and the British Open count toward each tour’s official results and statistics. In many respects, Evian is one of my favorite events – played on the same great course every year, an elite field of players from all of the major tours do battle for one of the richest purses in women’s golf. As such, I’ve often said that it deserves consideration as one of the major championships. Unfortunately, every year Golf Channel takes the cheap route by using the local French video feed and talking over it themselves or they use another English-speaking network’s production which is also talking over the French feed. Making things worse, they edit the action down to fit the allotted time and often omit pertinent events during the final round (check my Epilogue from last year for some examples). Plus we don’t get any on-course commentators to give us yardage and the perspective we get so used to hearing. Short of actually covering Evian like they do domestic events, GC would be best advised to use a couple of their regular announcers (either on the course or not), voice over the video feed in real time, and at airtime just start playing the tape so the action ends right at sign-off with no fast-forward jumps. I’m not holding my breath.
As you can see from the Scoring Averages I listed above, the numbers can vary here significantly. Last year, winds and dried-out greens caused the weekend scoring to soar. Gulbis’ -4 winning score was by far the worst number by an Evian champion in the eight years it has been on the LPGA schedule. Given the current forecast (most days sunny in the upper 70s), I predict scoring to be quite better than last year although not as low as in 2006.
Like the official major championships, Evian has its own special criteria for qualifying. While it may not gather the 90 best players in the world, it does put together a nice cross-section of top guns from the LPGA and LET with a few KLPGA and JLPGA players for good measure. It gives us Yanks a chance to see many names we usually only get to read about. LET standouts in the field include Rebecca Hudson, Lotta Wahlin (both two-time winners this year) and Amy Yang (third on the money list), along with the KLPGA’s Ji-Yai Shin and Sun Ju Ahn and the JLPGA’s Bo Bae Song. The field is a strong one with Stacys Prammanasudh and Lewis the only members of my Top 30 not in attendance.
A lot of players are coming in off of good results. In fact, three players (SH Lee, Creamer and Oh) won the last LPGA event they played and two more (Pettersen and Martina Eberl) are coming off LET wins. Another tough week of prognosticating but I did manage to place fourth in the PakPicker at Seoulsisters.com for the State Farm so I have renewed vigor. Although she has never won here, Lorena Ochoa has finished in the Top 5 all five times she has played Evian – therefore, she is my choice to win. Ji-Yai Shin and Eun-Hee Ji are my CYAs.
Stats: Winners 5-20 (9-20 with CYAs), Top Tens 23-60.