Park’s surge began last year in France
Inbee Park can point back to last July in France as the beginning of her one-year roll as the LPGA’s top player.
The South Korean fended off veteran Karrie Webb and American Stacy Lewis by two strokes to capture the title. During the final round, Park showed a remarkable putting touch that included 11 one-putt greens in a 6-under-par 66. That one-putting display was highlighted by a 25-footer for par on the 14th hole and a 30-footer for birdie on the final green. For the week, Park had only 98 putts (28, 23, 25 and 22 in each round). Runners-up Webb (121 putts) and Lewis (118) had a lot of ground to make up on the greens.
“These greens are really tough to putt, and I really had tough time the last five years putting over here and didn't play good over here,” Park said last year. “I was not really confident with the greens.
“This year I came and the greens were a lot quicker than the last five years. I like the fast greens, so I think that really suited me as well.”
Park has won seven times and placed second five times since breaking through last year in France for her first win since the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open.
Since her shot at going 4-for-4 in majors ended at this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open (a T42), Park finished T13 at the CN Canadian Women’s Open and withdrew prior to the Safeway Classic two weeks ago because of an illness.
The Evian Championship’s major move
The Evian Championship becomes the LPGA’s fifth major championship this week, marking the first time the LPGA has had a fifth major in one season. The Champions Tour, the men’s circuit for players age 50 and older, has five majors that include the Senior PGA Championship, Regions Tradition, Constellation Senior Players Championship, U.S. Senior Open and the Senior British Open. The Senior British became the fifth major in 2003.
Here’s list of LPGA major championships over the years:
|Kraft Nabisco Championship||1983-current|
|Wegmans LPGA Championship||1955-current|
|U.S. Women’s Open||1950-current|
|Ricoh Women’s British Open||2001-current|
|du Maurier Classic||1979-2000|
|Titleholders||1937-42, 46-66, 1972|
|Women’s Western Open||1930-67|
|The Evian Championship||2013-|
Lewis on a roll entering Evian
If streaks are any indication of success, then Stacy Lewis will surely feel comfortable this week at the Evian Championship. Last year at this tournament, Lewis opened with a 63 that included a personal record seven consecutive birdies and placed second, her second straight runner-up finish in France. Lewis enters this year’s Evian Championship with 74 consecutive holes without a bogey – the final two holes of the CN Canadian Women’s Open (she withdrew after the first round) and the entire Safeway Classic two weeks ago.
Lewis’s trip to Europe begins a hectic travel schedule for the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year. If she played in every event, Lewis would visit France, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico and the United States on the LPGA and then Dubai for the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters Dec. 4-7 on the Ladies European Tour.
Changes to course at Evian
Along with its new place as a major championship, the Evian Championship has practically a new course. The Evian Resort Golf Club underwent a nine-month rebuild. The architectural firm EGD, led by South African Dave Sampson and Britain Jeremy Slessor and with work with American Steve Smyers, reworked all of the tees and fairways and made the greens larger and firmer.
The par-71, 6,428-yard course is highlighted by “The Evian Puzzle,” the par-5 15th, par-3 16th, par-4 17th and par-4 18th holes that are situated in front of the clubhouse as the tournament concludes. The signature hole will be the fifth, a former blind par 4 converted into a par 3 with an island green and a 100-yard long water hazard.
At home in France
Karine Icher is the leading player from France in this week’s tournament. Icher, 34, has been on a roll recently, finishing with a 2-1-1 record for Europe in the Solheim Cup and then finishing second (with first-place money) in the CN Canadian Open behind amateur Lydia Ko. She is ranked 21st in this week’s Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Gerina Piller will be in France this week without her husband, Martin. The former PGA Tour member is exempt until the second stage of the Web.com Qualifying Tournament, to be played Nov. 12-15 at TPC Craig Ranch in Dallas. Martin plans to tag along to Asia at the tournaments in Malaysia (Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Oct. 10-13), South Korea (LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Oct. 18-20) and Taiwan (Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Oct. 24-27). … The purse this week is $3.25 million, the same as the U.S. Women’s Open, and the richest payday on the LPGA. … Golf Channel will carry the first three rounds Thursday-Saturday with five hours live each of the first three days. Golf Channel’s Sunday morning coverage will lead into NBC’s noon-1:30 p.m., EDT final-round coverage. Terry Gannon and World Golf Hall of Famer Judy Rankin will lead the NBC coverage team.