The Evian Championship: Final Round Jitters

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan announced today that the Evian Championship has been shortened from 72 to 54 holes in a juggling act with the weather.  The greens are covered tonight to protect them from the rain that’s threatening to disrupt and delay play on Sunday.  Tournament organizers, LET and LPGA officials are nervously watching the skies and the forecast.  The caddies and spectators are breaking out their umbrellas.  The Evian Shop may run out of ponchos embossed with The Evian logo.

 . . . the bad weather forecast? It’s hard for everyone: the players, tournament organizers, the LPGA. But I’m willing to stay until Monday, even Tuesday or Wednesday if necessary . . .

Suzann Pettersen, Norway, 7 under par

The debut year for the 5th Major on the LPGA tour has been challenged by the weather and although the 1st and 2nd rounds were played in near-ideal conditions, more rain will slow down a course already saturated by heavy rain earlier in the week and, as a result, playing longer than usual.

Leaders Going In To The Final Round

Mika Miyazato Holds a Slender 1 Shot Lead Going in to the Final Round at The Evian Championship. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Mika Miyazato (Japan) held on to the slender lead she established in the opening round of The Evian despite a bumpy start on Saturday with a pair of bogies on the first 2 holes.  She also birdied the devilish 18th hole today, improving her performance on the redesigned finishing hole over her 1st round performance.    Although Miyazato wasn’t as accurate off the tee today as she was on Friday, she finished her round with an impressive 28 putts and went to the clubhouse with a 69.  Miyazato’s still leading by a single shot and she knows what it’s going to take to hold on to her lead on Sunday.

. . . Despite the rain forecast for tomorrow, I’m going to try and play aggressively. . .

Mika Miyazato, Japan, 8 under par

There are 6 players right below Miyazato on the leaderboard within 3 shots of the lead.  She can’t afford to make any mistakes at this point.

Lydia Ko (New Zealand) and Suzann Pettersen (Norway) are both a -7 for the tournament, trailing Miyazato by one shot  going in to the final round.  Ko shot a bogie-free 68 today and, like Miyazato, birdied the 18th hole.  Ko improved her accuracy off the tee and lengthened her drives.  She’s getting on top of the course.

. . . I’ve never been really in contention with the leaders at a Major before. It’s new for me and there’s only one round left to get the job done . . .

Lydiz Ko, New Zealand, 7 under par

Could the youngster take control of the top slot on the board?  No doubt about it, and both Miyazato and Pettersen are keenly aware of Ko’s potential to claim the Evian victory.   This may be the first time she’s been in “real contention” for a Major victory, but she’s defeated defending Evian champion and #1 ranked  Inbee Park (South Korea) and she’s been playing with and against golf’s superstars for the past 2 years.

Norwegian Suzann Pettersen Trails By 1 Shot Going in to Final Round at The Evian

Pettersen, in the prime of her golf life and sharing the #2 spot on the board with Ko, carded 69 today.  Although she lost some accuracy off the tee,  Pettersen stretched her drives out today.  She’s playing more aggressively as she gets more comfortable with the course.  With Pettersen eager to win this tournament and move ahead of Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis (USA) to the top spot on the Rolex Rankings, the final round at The Evian has the makings of a grande bataille.

Lewis, trailing Pettersen and Ko by a single shot, isn’t going to willingly relinquish her #2 Rolex rank to Pettersen.  She’s much more interested in pushing Inbee Park out of the #1 spot, which could happen if she can pick up a couple of shots tomorrow.  Lewis carded 67 today, outplaying both Miyazato and Pettersen.  She stretched out her drives by an average of almost 15 yards and held on to her accuracy, and she’s now birdied almost half the holes on the course.  She’s getting things figured out too, and she’s going to stay in contention.  Her win at the Women’s British Open in August pumped up her mental game.  Lewis would love to add another Major to her list of 2013 victories.

A trio of South Koreans are at -5, a mere 3 shots off Miyazato’s lead and still very viable contenders for the top of the Evian leaderboard going in to the final round.  So Yeon Ryu carded 66 today, outplaying everybody who’s ahead of her on the board.  Ryu’s putting was much stronger and more accurate today than in the first round  She’s getting the greens under control, and that’s going to be critical on Sunday, with so few strokes separating Miyazato from the 6 closest contenders.

Chella Choi and Se Ri Pak, also at -5 for the tournament, are sharing the 5th slot on the board with Ryu.  Choi carded 69 on Saturday and Pak shot an even par 71.  Choi’s game improved a bit over her 1st round performance but Pak ran into some problems.  Although her driving distance increased her accuracy declined dramatically and her putting also deteriorated, a trend that could send her down the leaderboard and out of contention if it continues.

Still in Contention

Beatriz Recari (Spain), Lexi Thompson (USA) and former Evian champion Paula Creamer (USA, 2005) are going in to the final round at -3, 5 shots off the lead and Karrie Webb (Australia), also a past Evian champion, is at -2,  not out of range of a victory.  All are strong players and very capable of coming from behind in a final round.  Recari is playing steady sub-par golf.  A string of birdies would send her soaring, and if she’s figured out the course and if putting conditions don’t change dramatically, Recari will remain a viable challenger for the lead.

Thompson is still struggling with accuracy off the tee, but her putting was stronger today and her score improved substantially, from a 1st round 72 to a 2nd round 67, putting her even with Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis, and Chella Choi.  Thompson has a powerful game, so she’s still in a position to move up the board if she can stay out of trouble.

Creamer and Webb are both superb competitors with iron-clad mental games that they can bring to bear on their final round performance.  Creamer’s 5 shots off Mizayato’s lead and Webb is back 6 shots.  With the potential for weather delays and periods of suspended play, that will bring dramatically changed conditions mid-round, the depth of tournament experience and nerves not easily shaken that Creamer and Webb bring to the tee may figure into the winner’s equation.  Don’t count out either of these former champions.

Helen Alfredsson (Sweden) and Charley Hull (England) both missed the cut and will not play in the final round.  There will be other Evian Championships for Hull, but not for Alfredsson.

NBC will provide Sunday television coverage of The Evian, noon-1:30pm ET and I’ll provide a tournament wrap-up tomorrow afternoon as well.

Tags: Lydia Ko Mika Miyazato The Evian Championship

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