Evian-les-Bains was appropriately named on this soggy Sunday. The spectacular little resort town snuggled between Lake Geneva and the foothills of the French Alps, awoke bathed in a steady rain for the final round of the Evian Championship, nature providing another element to a true major championship test that was passed with flying colors by Jin Young Ko.
With the win, the 24-year-old South Korean moves back to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings and ends a streak of 10 consecutive different winners in the majors. She also has a leg up on the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award and Rolex Player of the Year with her third win of the year. With the ANA Inspiration in April, Ko is the first multiple-major winner in a season since Inbee Park in 2015.
“They are my friends, Hyo Joo and Sung Hyun,” Ko said about her comfortable final round pairing with Hyo Joo Kim and Sung Hyun Park. “So I thought last night I can do. If play really good I can win. So I will try to focus on my game. I never saw other players shots or scores. It's good to me, so I got win.”
Ko had reached No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings after winning the ANA Inspiration but surrendered it to Sung Hyun Park on June 30. She may not give it up so quickly this time.
“I don't know, I don't know,” she said when asked how she will handle the attention of being No. 1 this time. “I just try the same thing as this week. I will find motivation of my golf on the course. So it will be hopefully getting better.”
A 20-foot birdie putt on No. 17 gave Ko a comfortable two-stroke lead going to the par-5 18th and she played it conservatively for a two-putt par that sealed the win.
Jennifer Kupcho may have gotten the attention of Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster with a tie for second at 271 with Kim and Shanshan Feng after a bogey-free 66, an impressive effort for a rookie in the final round of a major making just her eighth LPGA start, punctuating it with a birdie-birdie finish.
“It's crazy,” Kupcho said. “I definitely played really well this week, and it's exciting to see that I can compete where my game is right now. Excited for the rest of the season.”
The composure she displayed on Sunday under major championship pressure might throw her into consideration for one of the two captain’s picks for the U.S. Solheim Cup team.
“Yeah, it was fine.” Kupcho said about handling the pressure. “I was just out there having fun. Coming into the day obviously I was a long ways back, and I was just like, I'm going to go play well. I play really well in the rain so I wasn't worried about it. Came out and played really well.”
Ariya Jutanugarn eagled the 18th hole to finish at 273, one stroke better than her sister Moriya, who was celebrating her 25th birthday, and Sung Hyun Park. At 275 were Inbee Park and Megan Khang followed by Carlota Ciganda at 276, In-Kyung Kim and Ally McDonald at 277 and Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Mi Jung Hur at 278.
Kim led all the way in the final round until she got a horrible break on the 187-yard par-3 14th hole when her tee shot plugged in the bunker up against the lip. She blasted out but the ball rolled back in and landed in her footprint. The next shot took her to the fringe and, now frazzled, she three putted for a triple bogey to give Ko the lead by two.
“On the teeing ground I heard a loud noise and thought maybe I should have backed off or switched my target,” Kim said about the shot she pulled into the left bunker. “It was a really difficult round. There were a lot of things that didn’t work out today, so that’s disappointing. There were a lot of chances that came up today and I think I learned a lot from today.”
A week that started in blistering heat near 100 degrees ended swaddled in waterproofs with the one constant being the quality of the golf, which matched the exquisite presentation of the tournament. As play began in a steady drizzle, Kim led by one stroke over Park with Ko four back.
This was a day at Evian Resort Golf Club that explored every element of the players, testing not just shot-making but also preparation, patience and the ability to adjust on the fly to the challenging conditions. The first adjustment was needed when starting times were pushed back two hours to ready the course, which handled all the rain magnificently.
After a tentative first five holes in which neither Kim nor Ko made a birdie, a wild roller coaster ride of run began on No. 6. Over the next eight holes, Ko made four birdies and Kim made two but never both on the same hole as the lead bounced around between one and two strokes. Then came the disaster on No. 14.
In the end, however, it was a tournament won by Ko. She hit fairways, she hit greens – missing only one of each on Sunday – and she made putts. Now it’s onto the AIG Women’s British Open where Ko has a chance to do something last done by Inbee Park in 2013 – win three majors in a season.