Evian Championship Power Pairings & Predictions


The Evian Championship begins Thursday morning at 7:35am local time and with a field of 120 elite golfers I’m expecting four days and 72 holes of some very fine and exciting golf.  With Thursday’s first round Golf Channel coverage beginning at 7:30am ET, 1:30pm Evian-les-Bain local time, US fans will be able to join the first round in progress.  I’ve targeted five groups to watch, some for sentimental reasons, some because I enjoy keeping watch on the rookies among, and some who will probably set the pace for the Championship.

Let’s take a closer look.

Laura Davies, Juli Inkster, Ai Miyazato, 8:30am, #10

Ai Miyazato

Dame Laura Davies is a fixture at the Evian Championship.  She’s making her 20th appearance and has twice won the Evian (1995, 1996).  Davies is also the organizer and major promoter of the traditional caddie/player Thursday afternoon football game.

Davies is paired with two other Evian champions, Juli Inkster, who won in 2003, and two-time winner (2009 and 2011) Ai Miyazato.  While I’m expecting Miyazato to establish a lead within this group over the next two days, I’ll enjoy watching these superb athletes, whose ages fully span a generation in the sport, make their way around one of golf’s most beautiful and challenging tracks.

Yani Tseng, Azahara Munoz, Stacy Lewis, 8:41, #1

Azahara Munoz

Former world number 1 Yani Tseng is paired with the current top-ranked Stacy Lewis and 12th ranked Azahara Munoz.  Although Tseng has shown glimpses this year of the game that took her to the top of the world rankings, she’s continued to struggle as she plays her way through the season.  Tseng’s best Evian finish, 11th place (2010 & 2011), puts her even with Azahara Munoz in terms of Evian performance, although Munoz is playing at a higher level this year than Tseng.

Although it’s tempting to predict that Lewis will set the pace for the group, that’s not her style.  Lewis tends to lay back during the early rounds of a tournament, then turn up the heat for the weekend.  If she follows this pattern, which can be a bit dangerous and has the potential to backfire, I see Munoz leading the group.  And that could provide the mental boost Munoz needs to edge up the leaderboard and challenge the top on Sunday.

Suzann Pettersen, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, 8:41, #10

Lydia Ko

The defending Evian champion, the 2013 Evian runner-up and presumptive LPGA 2014 Rookie of the Year, and the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Champion paired for two rounds: what more can be said about this group?

I’m expecting 36 hard and closely fought holes of golf  and I’m looking for Lydia Ko to go into the weekend with an edge over Suzann Pettersen and Lexi Thompson.

Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng, Paula Creamer, 1:21, #1

Inbee Park

Inbee Park won the Championship in 2012, the same year that Shanshan Feng recorded her best Evian finish (4th).  Park is making her seventh appearance at the Evian, Feng her 6th.  They’ll be playing with Paula Creamer, also an Evian champion (2008), who’ll be making her 10th Evian appearance.  They all would like to win and they all have the game in their bag to earn that win.

But Inbee Park has the edge, particularly if it comes down to a putting contest.  Park leads the Tour in putts per GIR (1.75) and putting average (28.89).  Neither Feng nor Creamer can get close to matching those two performance stats, so if Park’s putter is working she’ll control the game.

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Xi Yu Lin, Minjee Lee, Charley Hull, 1:32, #10

This group of rookies will let me look into the face of pro golf’s future.   Xi Yu Lin’s made a good start this year toward following in her role model, Shanshan Feng’s, Tour footsteps.  This will be Lin’s third Evian appearance.

Playing with golf’s newest pro, Aussie Minjee Lee, who is an Evian rookie, and the LET’s teen star, Charley Hull, who will be making her 2nd appearance at the Championship, Lin will play 36 holes with two rookie peers.  How will these three rookie teenagers manage the technical and mental challenges of the Evian?  I’m looking for them all to play the weekend!