Assuming the weather holds and the grounds crew has performed some magic tricks. the creme de la creme in women’s golf will begin teeing off Friday morning at 7:45 am local time for The Evian Championship delayed first round. The up side of the delay is that we’ll get a double dose of The Evian on Sunday, so in the end things are probably going to turn out just fine.
Inbee Park (South Korea) is the undisputed star of The Evian. She’s the defending champion, and winning the 2012 Evian Championship marked the beginning of a ride into the golf record books that continues with the playing of the 2013 Evian. Inbee Park, however, is not playing The Evian solo. In the field of 120 players, 3 first and second round pairings hold great promise for head-to-head, or shot-to-shot moments of competition and drama.
Teenagers Lydia Ko (New Zealand), Xi Yu Lin (China), and Charley Hull (England) are paired for the Friday and Saturday rounds. Ko, who’s still an amateur and coyly resisting all inquiries about a change in status, is by far the more experienced of the three, although they have all compiled impressive resumes as amateurs. Ranked by Rolex at the 8th top golfer in the world, Ko’s the 2-time winner of the CN Canadian Women’s Open (2012, 2013) and she’s built up 2 years’ experience playing in major tournaments, the LPGA Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA Championship, the US Women’s Open, and the Women’s British Open.
Charley Hull, who’s been playing pro golf now for less than 6 months, has already made an impression on the fans as well as on the women against whom she competes. Hull, the youngest player ever on either Solheim Cup team, outplayed Paula Creamer (USA) in their singles match in August and she’s earned 5 top-ten finishes this season from her 8 LET tournament entries.
Lin is the less experienced player in the teen pairing, but she has enough tournament experience and the performance stats to keep pace with Ko, a systematic, thoughtful, consistent player and with Hull, who’s aggressive and fearless. I’d give Ko the edge in this group, but only if she stays in the short grass. Hull will be the stronger player from the rough.
Past Evian champions Karrie Webb (Australia, 2006), Laura Davies (England, 1995, 1996) and Juli Inkster (USA, 2003) are paired for the opening rounds. Webb, the undisputed leader of women’s golf in Australia, is ranked 6th in the world by Rolex, and is a constant presence and challenger in pro golf. She’s bringing a 17-year career record of 39 victories and 193 top-10 finishes to The Evian.
Inkster, who’s been playing pro golf for 30 years, also brings an impressive career record of 45 victories and 213 top-ten finishes to The Evian. And swashbuckling Laura Davies, the only woman to play in all Solheim Cup tournaments up to 2011, has accumulated 45 tournament wins and 99 top-10 finishes in her 28-year career as a pro golfer. The opportunity to watch this trio make their way around the golf course is priceless. We’ll see golf mastery at its best. I wouldn’t presume to advance a prediction in this group!
Stacy Lewis (USA), Suzann Pettersen (Norway), and Shanshan Feng (China) are playing together, and they are definitely challenging Inbee Park for The Evian Championship. There are also fierce rivalries within the pairing. There could be some drama in this group. Lewis, the #2 ranked player in the world, was unseated from the top Rolex rank by Inbee Park, and Lewis stopped Park’s big for the Grand Slam when she won the 2013 Women’s British Open.
Pettersen, the #3 ranked player in the world, has 2 victories this year, the LPGA Lotte Championship in April and the Safeway Classic in August, as well as 10 top-10 finishes this year. She’s not won a Major and she wants one on her resume. Her Solheim performance showed her best game and gives her a mental edge over Lewis, who was thoroughly demoralized by the Solheim.
Feng, who’s ranked 9th in the world, has 6 top-10 finishes but no victories on her resume this year. She, too, will come in to The Evian ready to pull her best game out of her bag and put it to work, and she may be able to pass both Lewis and Pettersen, who at times get sidetracked by their mental games.
Weather permitting, Friday will bring some excitement in the French Alps. There will be some moments of personal drama, some moments of extraordinary high energy and, without a doubt, some very fine demonstrations of athletic skill! Golf Channel will be there for those of us who are stuck on the wrong side of the Atlantic, starting at 7:30 am.