EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France (AP) - After nine different winners in the past nine women’s golf majors, the Evian Championship has no clear favorite when play begins Thursday.
Even the LPGA Tour this season has proved unpredictable with 20 winners of the 25 titles so far. No one has claimed more than three.
“That’s pretty incredible,” said Lydia Ko of New Zealand, the 2015 Evian champion who went on to win back-to-back majors at the 2016 ANA Inspiration in California.
“It just shows that it’s not someone who’s playing well, all the players are playing great,” Ko said. “You’re not getting carried away about, ‘Hey, I’m playing against this one person.’ The LPGA is a very global tour.”
When she was No. 1 as a teenager, Ko appeared to be as dominant as Annika Sorenstam was more than a decade ago. But the 20-year-old Ko has struggled and is not among the season’s 20 winners, though she was runner-up last weekend at the Indy Women in Tech Championship in Indianapolis.
“It would be a lie to say, ‘Hey, no, I’ve been cool, calm and collected the whole way.’ I was frustrated but you just have to be patient,” Ko said at Evian Resort Golf Club.
Second-ranked Lexi Thompson won in Indianapolis for her second title this season. It could have been the American’s third but for a notorious incident at the ANA Inspiration where she was penalized four strokes for a rule violation reported by a television viewer, then lost a playoff to top-ranked So Yeon Ryu.
Ryu now has two career majors, six years apart. When the 27-year-old South Korean won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, the Evian was still two years away from major status.
For its fifth year as the fifth women’s major, the Evian has bumped its prize money fund to $3.65 million. The winner will take home $547,500, a raise of $60,000 from In Gee Chun’s prize last year.
Chun’s winning score at 21 under - a major record for men and women - will be tough to challenge. Cool temperatures and light rain are forecast for much of the weekend on the par-71 course looking across Lake Geneva to Switzerland.
The final tour stop in Europe this season is also a farewell for 2009 and 2011 Evian champion Ai Miyazato. The former No. 1 is playing her last tournament before retiring.
“Specifically this week it’s going to be my last event, like last-last event,” the 32-year-old Japanese golfer said, “and I feel great.”
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