It’s hard to make predictions given the history of the place. The Amundi Evian Championship has a history of come-from-behind winners, some of them charging from way behind on a course that can give up some historic low scores, but one that can also force some high numbers if a player is a little off. Just look at last year. Defending champion Minjee Lee was seven shots back when play began on Sunday – so far off the radar that no one mentioned her name until sometime after lunch. She won in a playoff.
With three holes to play in 2018, almost no one outside her caddie and family thought Angela Stanford had a chance. She won without a playoff.
A year before that, neither Anna Nordqvist nor Brittany Altomare were in the top 10 going into the final round. They went to a playoff in the sleet which Nordqvist won on the first extra hole.
That being said, the leaderboard at the halfway mark of this major is a who’s who of the LPGA Tour’s best. If this doesn’t excite you, you aren’t a real fan.
Brooke Henderson, putting better than she has since her rookie year and currently ranked second on the tour in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, shot a pair of 64s and carries a three-shot lead into the weekend. She hit 30 of 36 greens in the first two rounds and needed only 53 putts in two days. That will get the job done most weeks.
“You know, it feels really nice to get off to a fast start in a major championship,” Henderson said. “Feels like it's been a while. To get it this far under par is really awesome. And I feel like I'm hitting the ball really well, which is nice. Making some putts. So two solid days, and I'm just really looking forward to the weekend.
“The greens can be very challenging, but I feel like for the most part I'm hitting the ball in good places and been lucky enough to make a few putts.”
Henderson always moves the needle. Most of Canada tunes in to see their star. But adding to the drama, Nelly Korda sits at 11-under par, alone in second three shots back. Korda is making a run at the Ben Hogan comeback story of the year. Diagnosed with a dangerous blood clot in her left arm early in the year, she had emergency surgery and took four months off, coming back at the U.S. Women’s Open where she finished tied for eighth. Since then, she finished second in the Meijer LPGA Classic and earned another tie for eighth at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational with her sister Jessica.
Korda shot 64-67 in the first two rounds of the Amundi Evian Championship and looked like a player determined to regain the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings.
“Sometimes you don't miss where you want to, or you hit it where you want to, and you come up with a tricky putt. That's just Evian,” Korda said. “Everyone is going to have that. That's the defense of this golf course. You never have a flat lie and you're putting over a lot of ridges. I think I played well with the course setup.”
So, how does Korda feel, not only coming back after a dangerous health condition but also playing so well in an event where she doesn’t have the best history?
“Really good,” she said. “Honestly, super good. A little pat on my back after two days hopefully it keeps going that way.”
If it was just a two-player race, the weekend would be compelling. But there are 15 players within seven shots of the lead, including past Evian champions Hyo Joo Kim, Lydia Ko and Jin Young Ko. The latter of those two are former and current world No.1s. Another former No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings and two-time major champion, So Yeon Ryu, sits tied for third, five shots back.
Sei Young Kim, Nasa Hataoka, Charley Hull, Carlota Ciganda, Atthaya Thitikul: any one of them can get hot and make this thing one of the best major shootouts in recent memory.
But they’d better get hot. With her semi-new left-hand-low putting grip, Henderson looks like she’s having a blast.
“Just continue to try to do what I've been doing the last two days and see what happens,” she said when asked what the plan was for the weekend. “You know, the putter has been hot for me the last couple months, and it's a really great feeling. It's nice to have a little bit of momentum.
“I won a couple months ago, had some nice top finishes in majors again a few months ago. Had nice time off.
“I'm ready and looking forward to the rest of this week and the following two weeks.”