LPGA Hoping France's Evian Championship Fits In As Season's Fifth Major
The LPGA Evian Championship has "built a reputation among pros for its first-class presentation and amenities, but now there’s a whole new standard to measure up to in its first year as an officially designated major," according to Randall Mell of GOLF CHANNEL. For a "number of years now, this event has felt like a major for the Europeans in the LPGA ranks," but there still is "scrutiny over whether this starlet will be a supreme enough examination to be worthy of its new status." The event, founded in '94, became a co-sanctioned LPGA event in '00, with the LPGA "announcing two years ago that it would be a major." The purse is "impressive" at $3.25M, equaling the U.S. Women’s Open as the "richest on tour." The largest "question looming over Evian’s worthiness as a major is the redesign of the Evian Resort Golf Club" in Evian-les-Bains, France. It was an $8M "undertaking over the last year," and now is a "different and more substantial test that architect Steve Smyers and European Golf Design created in their collaborative effort." Early reviews are that the course is "another year from being what Evian and the architects imagined." The event's elevation to major championship status is the result of Groupe Danone CEO Franck Riboud -- whose company owns Evian -- and his "ambitious vision," as well as LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan’s "bold leadership." Whan said, "I grinded over this a long time. If you asked me before I became commissioner how I would stand on designating a fifth major, I probably wouldn’t have been in favor of it." He added, "There was a list of 10 things I really thought kept this tournament from being a legitimate major. ... To Evian’s credit, we knocked all 10 off the list" (GOLF CHANNEL, 9/10).
RISK & REWARD: GOLF DIGEST's Ron Sirak wrote if there is "one thing Riboud has proven over the years ... it's that money is no object." Smyers and his crew from European Golf Design "literally worked under the snow and in a little more than 13 months." One thing Smyers has done is "open up the sightlines for the fans," as trees were removed, spectator mounds "were created and bleachers have been eliminated." But Sirak wrote, "Make no mistake about it, there is a lot of risk involved in the Evian Championship. Not everyone liked the idea of a fifth major, saying it messes with the history books." Some felt that with the Ricoh Women's British Open "already in Europe, a new major -- if there were to be one -- should go to Asia" (GOLF DIGEST, 9/9).
MAJOR IMPLICATIONS: GOLF CHANNEL's Mell noted to accommodate Evian as a major, the LPGA "moved the event to September, spreading out its biggest events with the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, the Wegmans LPGA Championship in early June, the U.S. Women’s Open in late June and both the Ricoh Women’s British Open and Solheim Cup in August." Golfer Angela Stanford said of it being the fifth major, “I’m OK with it. But you’re talking to someone who hasn’t won a major. It just gives me another chance" (GOLF CHANNEL, 9/10).