2013 marks the 19th playing of The Evian Championship, a 72-hole event founded in 1994 on the Ladies European Tour. Over the years, The Evian has grown from a limited and rather exclusive tournament played in an ultra-exclusive venue to an international and highly prestigious tournament that draws 140 creme de la creme women golfers to an international playing field. Let’s take a look at the event.
Played originally as The Evian Masters, The Evian Championship and the RICOH Women’s British Open are the 2 major LET tournaments. In 2000 the LPGA joined with LET to co-sponsor The Evian. As a result, The Evian rivals the US Women’s Open as the most lucrative event in women’s pro golf. The $3.25 millions 2013 purse will be split among the top 70 players. The top finishers are going to get very nice paychecks.
Played at the Evian Golf Club, Evian-les-Bains, France in the French Alps, closer to Geneva and Basel than to Paris, on the shore of Lake Geneva, The Evian is the place to be September 12-15 if you’re a pro golfer or a golf fan. Special trains will run between Paris and Evian-les-Bains throughout the event.
Tournament organizers have been hard at work putting a new face on The Evian Golf Club, which will look and feel as much like a medieval jousting field as a golf course. Check out the animated video:
The Winners – A Lookback
Helen Alfredson (Sweden) has won The Evian 3 times (1994, 1998, & 2006), and Annika Sorenstam (Sweden) and Ai Miyazato (Japan) have both won the event twice, Sorenstam in 2000 & 2002 and Miyazato in 2009 & 2001. The last American winner was Natalie Gublis in 2008 and before her Paula Creamer in 2006.
Inbee Park‘s (South Korea) 2012 win at The Evian marked the beginning of her march into golf history and her quest for golf’s elusive Grand Slam. The Evian was, in many respects, Park’s turn-around tournament. She’d had a year-long slump during 2011 and seemed stuck at the 31st Rolex rank. But then in 2012 Park surged, accumulating 4 top-10 finishes (Wegman’s, Manulife Financial, Walmart NW Arkansas, & US Women’s Open) leading up to her win at The Evian. She finished the 2012 season in the 2nd spot in the Rolex rankings with 3 more top-10s, at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, the Safeway Classic, and the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
Despite incredible momentum, Park stubbed her toe at the 2013 Ricoh British Women’s Open and failed to capture golf’s coveted Grand Slam (and the question of how many tournaments actually constitute a Grand Slam in women’s golf remains unresolved). Park’s more recent performances seem to suggest that her run at the Grand Slam may be over, but her 2012 Evian win stands out as a career turning point. Could she do it again? Sure she could, but she needs to fire up her flat stick. Inbee Park is still at the top of the Rolex Rankings and has been securely claiming the #1 woman golfer in the world spot for 21 consecutive weeks now. Others have stood twice on the winner’s podium at The Evian and Park still has a shot at that Grand Slam in 2013.
One of those is Ai Miyazato, who like Annika Sorenstam and Helen Alfredson before her, is a multiple winner at The Evian. Today Miyazato is ranked the #14 player in the world by Rolex. Where was she in 2008, the year before she won her 1st Evian championship?
Miyazato was in her 2nd year playing pro golf and ranked 38th by Rolex, certainly not a shabby rank for a young professional, but also not quite to the point of taking a shot at the top. Then, in 2009, Miyazato caught fire. She won The Evian, piled up an additional 13 top-10 finishes, and bumped up to #8 in the Rolex Rankings.
In 2010 Miyazato continued her streak, accumulating 9 top-10 finishes and 5 victories and moving to 4th in the Rolex rankings. But she missed some cuts as well. Her performance seemed a bit uneven, hot one week and cold the next. The Evian was Miyazato’s only win in 2011 and she’d dropped down to 11th in the Rolex ranks. Could she pull off a 3rd win in 2013 and match Alfredson’s record? It doesn’t seem likely. Miyazato’s now in her 7th year on the LPGA Tour. She’s had only 2 top-10 finishes this year, she’s missed a couple of cuts, and she seems to be finishing in the money but not in the top-10. Still, she looked like a champ at the US Women’s Open.
Jiyai Shin (South Korea), who won The Evian in 2010, had turned pro in 2009. Shin exploded onto the pro golf scene and had a blockbuster rookie year, piling up 12 top-10 finishes and 3 victories. That earned her $1.8 millions and the #2 ranking by Rolex, quite a pair of accomplishments for a rookie! She won The Evian the following year, 2010, followed by the Mizuno Classic, collected an additional 14 top-10 finishes, and banked $1.7 millions. In 2011 Shin dropped to 20th in the Rolex, had 7 top-10s but no wins. She bounced back a bit in 2012, winning the Kingsmill and then the Women’s British Open and bumping up to 6th in the Rolex Rankings.
Could Shin continue her comeback climb and take the money and the title back at The Evian? Perhaps, but not likely. Now ranked 14th by Rolex, Shin won the Women’s Australian Open in February but she, like Miyazato, seems to be playing just below the top-10 finishes.
Natalie Gublis, the most recent American Evian champion, won the tournament in 2008. Gublis had been playing pro golf for 6 years when she won The Evian. In 2006, the year before she won The Evian, Gublis was ranked at #15 by Rolex, and accumulated 5 top-10s. Gublis is a steady player, but with no victories and only 4 top-10 finishes in 2012 & 2013, her recent record doesn’t suggest that she’ll be in contention for The Evian championship this year.
And This Year?
So who are the likely top contenders? A look at past winners suggests players younger in their pro careers seem more likely than seasoned players to rise to the challenge of The Evian. Players who are coming in to the tournament with a string of top-10 finishes seem more strategically positioned to seize the moment afforded by The Evian. They’re hot. Their games are sharp. Their self-confidence is high. Who might be on that kind of short list? We’ll take a look at the Solheim Cup rookies from both teams in our next Evian Championship preview.