Those who focus on the numbers often look at the Amundi Evian Championship as an anomaly. The lowest 18-hole score in major championship history (61) came at the Evian Resort Course, as well as the lowest 72-hole score relative to par in a major (21 under).
A lot of that has to do with the weather. Evian-les-Bains sits at the base of the Alps and on the shores of Lake Geneva making it one of the most scenic venues in sports. But it also spends four or five months a year under a blanket of snow. That’s followed by a summer where warm air off the lake hits the mountains and shoots upward to produce some of the most spectacular thunderstorms in Europe. Add it all up and you have a golf course that is relatively short – 13 of 18 holes offer approach shots of 8-iron or less for much of the field – that cannot be made firm and fast. The slopes are always a challenge and a number of renovations have added movement to the greens. But these are the greatest players in the world. With perfect weather on a soft golf course, you can’t make it tough enough.
Once you accept that fact and get over the misguided idea that a major championship needs to produce over-par scores, the Amundi Evian Championship has conjured some spellbinding drama, with more expected on Sunday.
Last year, for example, you saw the largest final-round comeback in LPGA Tour major championship history when Minjee Lee made up seven shots and won in a playoff. In 2019, Jin Young Ko shot a closing 67 to leap past Hyo-Joo Kim and hold off Shanshan Feng. A year before that, Angela Stanford birdied the final two holes and then waited while Amy Olson made double at the last to hand Stanford her only major title.
It’s a heck of an event no matter what they shoot.
Going into this final round, fans are in for a treat. That’s because you have three of the nicest people the game has ever produced in the top spots on the leaderboard.
Brooke Henderson, seeking her second major, continues to maintain the lead after shooting 68 on Saturday. The margin is two over a resurgent So Yeon Ryu, the two-time major winner and former world No.1 who is currently ranked 108 in the Race to the CME Globe and 51 in the Rolex Rankings. Those two will make up the final pairing and will no doubt give a masterclass in kindness.
Just to give you a sense of their personalities, when informed that she has a lot of German fans because of her sponsorship deal with Skechers, Henderson looked quizzical but then quickly beamed and said, “Well, thank you so much for the support. It's amazing to have fans from all over the world. Hopefully you can come out to some events and cheer me on in person.”
The surprise contender, and a player for whom this week could mean the most, is also on the “nicest people in sports” list: Sophia Schubert, who shot 66 on Saturday and sits alone in third place. The 26-year-old from Oak Ridge, Tennessee is an LPGA Tour rookie but played three years on the Epson Tour, winning the 2021 Carolina Golf Classic and earning her card as part of last year’s graduating class.
“My ball striking has really helped out here,” Schubert said of her highest position ever going into the final round of an LPGA Tour event. “I've worked on it a lot when I've been home. I’ve made a few adjustments with my clubs, and I'm just really happy with where my game is right now.
“I think the key out here is just staying patient and just commit to every shot.”
A former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, the University of Texas graduate will be in the penultimate pairing on Sunday with a chance to make her first LPGA Tour win a major.
“This is what I've worked so hard for, worked hard to be at this point,” Schubert said. “I'm just trying not to think about it in a way. I mean, I get to play with some of the best golfers in the world and I think to myself that I deserve to be here. I'm just trying to keep my confidence up and just keep going.”
Scoring records might fall on Sunday, but so what? Evian will almost certainly produce some gripping final-round drama. And if any of the top three players on the leaderboard pull off a victory, this major will have a role model for congeniality as a champion.