While there is the small matter of the 5th major of the LPGA season to play for this week, the Rolex world number 1 ranking and the Rolex Annika Major Award are also both also up for grabs at the Evian Championship.
Current number No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, No. 2 Lexi Thompson and No. 3 Sung Hyun Park will be paired together in the opening two rounds, with Thompson and Park both having an opportunity to end Ryu’s 3-month reign at world No. 1.
The trio is scheduled to tee off on Thursday at 4:18pm AEST
The three are also primed to claim the Annika Major Award for the best performances across the major championships this year, with Thompson’s needing to win this week to have any chance.
In addition, the talented trio are all in position to make a move on the coveted Rolex Player of the Year Award, with double points up for grabs this week. Ryu currently leads the points standings, but Thompson, Park and I.K. Kim could all overtake her this week.
As far as the Rolex World Rankings go, while the maths is complicated, Thompson could move to No. 1 with a finish of fourth or better this week, while Park could go to No. 1 with a win.
Ryu said in her press conference on Tuesday that the No. 1 ranking has come with more pressure than she had imagined, and it may have affected her performances over the summer. The Korean has two victories this year, including a win at the ANA Inspiration over Thompson in dramatic circumstances. While she leads the LPGA in top-10 finishes in 2017 (10), her recent form has not been outstanding and at her last start at the Cambia Portland Classic two weeks ago she missed the cut.
The in-form South Korean, In Gee Chun, is the defending champion this week having won the Championship in style by four shots twelve months ago. Fellow Koreans Park and Ryu tied for second behind Chun last year, with five Koreans finishing inside the top six.
Chun has been runner up five times so far in 2017, and with her two LPGA career victories coming in major championships it would be no surprise to her emerge victorious this week.
An American has not won this event since 2007 but Thompson shown a liking for the course I recent years including two runner-up finished and a third place finish and is playing some of the best golf of her career coming off a win in last week’s Indy Women in Tech Championship.
Prior to last week’s second place finish to Thompson in Indianapolis Lydia Ko’s name would not have been thrown around in conversations speculating on this week’s winner. The young Kiwi turned around a rather indifferent season by her incredibly high standards last week, and with a win and a runner-up finish here previously she must again be respected.
Ko’s return to form will be a huge relief to most New Zealanders, none more so than the promoters of the McKayson Women’s New Zealand Open to be held in two weeks’ time in her home city of Auckland. Ko is the star attraction in the event which for the first time in 2017 will be sanctioned by the US LPGA Tour.
Australian hopes this week look to lie with West Australian Minjee Lee, whose 3rd place finish last week in Indianapolis will give her a great deal of confidence leading into what will be her last chance in 2017 to get the major championship monkey off her back. There is no doubt the 21-year-old has the credentials and the pedigree to win a major championship, and this could well the week she breaks through
Lee will be joined in the field this week by fellow Australians Karrie Webb, Katherine Kirk, Sarah Jane Smith and Su Oh, and all must be given a chance of contending based on their form this year.
Webb boasts a win and three-time runner-up finishes in Evian, and was unlucky not to get the win at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at the end of July.
Although her recent form has been inconsistent you can never write the seven-time major winner off, especially if she starts to hole some putts.
Katherine Kirk is having a roller-coaster season on the LPGA in 2017, the highlight of which was her win after a seven-year drought at the Thornberry LPGA Classic in early July.
Sarah Jane Smith is also having another solid year on the LPGA, and Su Oh has without doubt yet to reach her huge potential in her second full season on the LPGA Tour.
You can watch all the action live on Fox Sport Australia from 7:00pm AEST on Thursday 14th September.
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