Wednesday, September 3, 2014

If You Can't Get Excited about the Evian Championship, You Can't Get Excited about Golf

The field list for the Evian Championship is pretty amazing!  With the announcement of the recent addition of top amateurs Minjee Lee and Celine Boutier (joining U.S. Women's Amateur champion Kristen Gillman, British Ladies Amateur champion Emily Kristine Pedersen, and Chinese teen sensation Jing Yan), not to mention the return of Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko, it's a fine time to survey some of the biggest names you don't normally get to see in LPGA events who'll be playing in the tour's last major of 2014:

  • Ha Na Jang: 6 KLPGA victories, including last week's
  • Hyo Joo Kim: 5 KLPGA victories, including 3 between mid-June and early August, the 1st of them a major
  • Sakura Yokomine: 22 JLPGA victories, 1 money-list title, great performances at the International Crown
  • Gwladys Nocera: 12 LET victories, 1 money-list title, 3-time Solheim Cup Team Euro member, currently #4 on LET's Order of Merit
  • Lee-Anne Pace: 8 LET victories, 1 money-list title, currently #6 on LET's Order of Merit
  • In Gee Chun: 2 KLPGA victories, the latest coming in June
Jang and Kim will be coming to the LPGA sooner rather than later, while Nocera and Pace have already given it a try and decided they liked Europe better.  Yokomine's having a down year on the JLPGA thus far this season, which is why she can afford to skip her tour's major going on the same week as the Evian, the Konica Minolta Cup, where money-list leader Bo-Mee Lee is defending her title and trying to stay ahead of fellow Korean superstars Sun-Ju Ahn (#2) and Ji-Yai Shin (#4).  Just imagine if all the major tours got together and avoided stepping on each other's majors.  Lee and Shin are 2 of the hottest golfers in the world right now, having won 4 of the last 5 and 6 of the last 14 JLPGA events between them, while Ahn has already proven she has the game to win a major outside Asia, having contended at the Women's British Open this year.  Showcasing 4 top JLPGA players rather than just 1 would have made this year's Evian an even bigger event than it already is.

And make no mistake:  this one is really big, even for a (recently-elevated) major.  Who knows if Wie or Ko will be able to continue playing this season, given the injuries they're struggling with?  Who knows whether anyone will be able to mount a serious challenge to Stacy Lewis in the Race to the CME Globe?  Who knows how the battle between Americans and Koreans for LPGA dominance will play out the rest of the season?  And whether top Euros like defending champion Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordqvist, and Azahara Munoz will be able to horn in on that particular struggle?

[Update 1 (9/4/14, 8:11 pm):  Little correction on Lee-Anne Pace.  She has played 12 times on the LPGA and is comfortably in the top 100 on the money list, so while she may or may not like Europe better, she's poised to keep splitting her time between the LPGA and LET in 2015.]

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