Commentary: Evian Championship needs date change to thrive

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Commentary: Evian Championship needs date change to thrive

LPGA Tour

Commentary: Evian Championship needs date change to thrive

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – For the second time in five years, the Evian Championship has been reduced to 54 holes. And golf purists everywhere let out a collective gasp! Rightly so.

As the LPGA’s fifth major, Evian has faced an uphill battle from the start. Why do the women need a fifth major? What about the record books? Inbee Park won the first three majors in 2013, the first year Evian became a major, and questions arose about whether a fourth at St. Andrews would meet the requirements of the Grand Slam. Would she now need to win all five?

Mother Nature has done nothing to help Evian’s case for being a major. The course was so wet in 2013 after renovations that the superintendent put plastic tarps on the greens and tees.

This year’s Round 1 forecast called for 100 percent chance of rain and 45 m.p.h. winds. Conditions got ugly so fast co-leader Jessica Korda crouched down on the 18th tee box with Laura Davies as their umbrellas caved in around them.

“I was terrified,” said Korda, who shared the lead at 2 under with World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu. “I have never been that scared on the golf course before.”

Still, Korda was 2 under for the round through eight holes and miffed that her efforts had been scrapped.

“It sucks,” she said.

Mike Whan knows that whatever he decides, people will be upset.

“Like anything, every time I make a decision, 80 percent like it, 20 percent don’t,” he said.

Two-time Evian winner Ai Miyazato, who is playing in her final LPGA tournament, said it never crossed her mind that today’s scores would be wiped out.

This was the best decision, Whan said, to “have the cleanest, fairest competitive round that’s still going to finish on a Sunday with somebody jumping from an airplane with a flag behind them.”

That last statement, which refers to the elaborate 18th green celebration that includes a parachutist, shows the importance to the sponsor of having a Sunday finish. No tournament on the LPGA schedule has more glitz and glamour than Evian, where there are galas and cocktail parties and fireworks that rival Disney World throughout the week. Evian rolls out the pink carpet here, and it’s lovely to see.

But, as one player put it, “it’s never been about golf here.”

Not in a traditional sense anyway.

So what to do?

Former World No. 1 Stacy Lewis chose not to come to Evian this week. She’s back home in Houston, and from where she sits, there’s an obvious fix: move the tournament back to July.

“The biggest issue to me is the date,” said Lewis, via text. “September is the rainy season. Evian needs to be played in July around the British again. It is the only thing you can change and make it better immediately. The golf course needs work and that will take time. We have had issues with the weather and golf course every year. I don’t understand how we let this continue.”

Spain’s Beatriz Recari agrees.

“Obviously it’s draining better,” said Recari, “but it’s a challenge this time of the year. It’s such a great event, (the sponsors) believe in women’s golf so much. My honest opinion is that it should be moved back to July, the way it was. “

It’s admittedly not an easy fix. Other tournaments would have to move to accommodate a British Open/Scottish Open/Evian swing. (The LPGA played two majors in a span of three weeks this year so that’s not an issue.)

Lewis would like to see the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship moved to a later date. That would hold the interest of American fans longer, putting a U.S.-based major last on the schedule before the tour goes overseas.

There are other things to consider, of course. Like Rolex perhaps wanting to keep the Rolex Annika Major Award presentation at Evian, close to their headquarters in Geneva. Television always plays a role, of course, and tournament contracts are up at various stages. It wouldn’t be easy to move the dates of the Evian Championship, but certainly worth the effort.

“I think we should learn from this,” said Recari. “We need to take action.”

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