The climax of women’s major season is closing in, with the Women’s Open at Walton Heath to come in just two weeks. Though first it’s to France for major #4 of 2023, as we take in the Evian Championship at the Evian Resort. Renowned LPGA tipster Jamie Worsley has his full preview and four selections. 

The Evian Championship 2023 Tips

  • 2.5 pts Ayaka Furue each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 20/1 
  • 2 pts Nasa Hataoka each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 25/1
  • 1 pt Anna Nordqvist each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 55/1
  • 0.75 pt Andrea Lee each way (1/5 – 6 places) – 150/1

Tournament History

After debuting in 1994 as an LET event and then becoming a co-sanctioned LPGA event in 2000 – in which time it was known as the Evian Masters – the Evian Championship received major championship status in 2013. Making it the newest of the five women’s majors.

The event was switched to a September slot when it was upgraded to a major, after initially always taking place around the summertime. Though following being reduced to a 54-hole event for the second time in five years in 2017 – due to bad weather – the decision was made to switch it back to its previous summertime slot, which came into effect in 2019.

Helen Alfredsson won the event three times (1994, 1998, 2008) in the pre-major days, including the inaugural 1994 edition. She was followed by Laura Davies in 1995, who then became the only person to defend her title in the event in 1996; with a further two players recording two victories in the Evian: Annika Sorenstam (2000, 2002) and Ai Miyazato (2009, 2011).

Norway’s Suzann Pettersen won the first major edition in 2013 in a weather-reduced 54-hole contest, beating off a then 16-year-old Lydia Ko into 2nd, who was still an amateur at the time. Ko then returned to take the title in 2015, to become the youngest women’s major winner in history, aged just 18.

Though no player has managed to retain, nor regain this title since its upgrade in status, 2014 champion, Hyo Joo Kim came closest when 2nd in 2019.

Last year saw Canada’s Brooke Henderson win her second major title, with a one-stroke victory over surprise challenger, Sophia Schubert. Henderson returns to defend this week, hoping to go one better than Kim managed in 2019 and become the first two-time winner of this major championship.

The Course

Located aside Lake Geneva and set against the backdrop of the Alps, the Evian Resort is a small, compact and severely hilly course, with origins that can be traced back to 1904.

Then, Willie Park Jr. – designer of the Old Course at Sunningdale amongst other notable courses – designed an initial 9-hole layout, which was increased to 18 holes in 1922. Cabell Robinson stepped in to update the course in 1994, readying it for the first staging of the Evian Masters and in 2012, the course was once again renovated – this time by Dave Sampson of Euro Golf Design – in preparation for that first major championship staging of the event in 2013.

This is a course all about precise ball-striking. The densely tree-lined fairways are largely narrow, many are sloped – resulting in some uneven lies – and they require players to hit the correct side of them to avoid line-of-sight obstructions.

They are protected by thick rough and a smattering of fairway bunkers, whilst it is no surprise in this setting to find elevation changes throughout. Something which players will have to adjust to both off-the-tee but especially with their approaches.

The greens are about average in size and predominantly shaped either long and narrow or shallow and wide. They’re full of severe slopes and undulations and will be setup to play firm and fast.

Most are elevated and many are at an angle to your position in the fairway; with false-fronts, run-offs leading to collection areas and pot bunkers awaiting to penalise any lack of precision into the greens.

Water is a strong feature over the closing holes, protecting the entire front of the par 3 16th and is well in-play on the risk/reward closing par 5, sitting front-right of the putting surface.

The course offers a strong challenge, possessing an average winning score of -15.7 over the seven fully completed renewals since it turned into a major. Though scoring has been decent enough over the last two years, with Brooke Henderson winning with a score of -17 last year and Minjee Lee with a score of -18 in 2021, whilst In Gee Chun’s -21 winning score in 2016 shows further that the course can be got at a little more if conditions allow. Providing your ball-striking is on point.

The Stats

Key Stats:

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation
  • Driving Accuracy
  • SG: Putting

The key word here is precision and with conditions likely to be receptive this week due to significant rainfall prior to the start of the event, high-class approach play should be the most important factor into penal greens complexes.

This is nothing new as many top-quality approach players have enjoyed success here. We have tournament-specific stats for this event last year and it shows that the top 2 players, Brooke Henderson and Sophia Schubert, both produced strong iron-play, ranking 14th and 21st respectively.

Minjee Lee is one of the best iron players around and won the event in 2021, which is also the case with 2019 winner, Jin Young Ko, 2016 winner In Gee Chun and our champion in 2015, Lydia Ko.

Further to that, most winners here ranked high in greens-in-regulation when winning, as did many of their nearest challengers. Brooke Henderson ranked 5th in GIR on tour last year, Jin Young Ko hit more greens than anyone in 2019; whilst Anna Nordqvist in 2017 and Lydia Ko in 2015 ranked 3rd and 2nd respectively. In fact that 2015 edition saw the top 2 on the leaderboard rank as the top 2 players in GIR that season, as Lexi Thompson in 2nd ranked 1st.

Soft conditions should see the longer hitters managing to find more fairways than usual, though whilst the last two winners have both possessed more power than accuracy. Hitting fairways has overall proved fruitful.

Brooke Henderson is one of the best drivers on tour and a player able to marry her power with accuracy. She ranked 31st on the LPGA last season in driving accuracy, whilst runner-up, Schubert ranked 27th.

2019 was a pretty conclusive year in driving accuracy as Jin Young Ko, Hyo Joo Kim and Shanshan Feng (who finished 1st, 2nd, 2nd), ranked 9th, 7th and 8th on tour in fairways hit.

Anna Nordqvist was the 8th-straightest driver on tour when winning in 2017, followed home by the 15th-straightest, Brittany Altomare. Whilst in 2016, winner In Gee Chun and runner-up, So Yeon Ryu, both ranked top 25th in driving accuracy.

Finally, with the difficulty of these greens we should also look to strong putters this week. Brooke Henderson ranked 9th on the greens when winning here last year and runner-up Sophia Schubert was 5th; Jin Young Ko, Lydia Ko and Anna Nordqivst among the list of strong putters to win/perform well.

Correlating Events (Course)

2023 LA Open/2022 Palos Verdes Championship (Palos Verdes Golf Club)

Palos Verdes is a hilly, tree-lined course, which possesses elevation changes throughout and narrow fairways. Making it a near-ideal comp course for this week’s event.

2019 champion Jin Young Ko was 2nd there last year, whilst our 2015 and 2014 Evian champions, Lydia Ko and Hyo Joo Kim, have both finished 3rd.

Other form-ties are on offer from Carlota Ciganda, with top 5s in both; Georgia Hall, who was 2nd there this year and has multiple top 10s here and with a 3rd in LA to compliment her solid record here, is Megan Khang.

Meijer LPGA Classic (Blythefield Country Club)

Though the fairways at Blythefield are wider, the tree-lined course isn’t short on strategy, with many tight driving lines which can bring about issues with line-of-sight if not finding the correct half of the fairway. These similarities in the respective driving tests have resulted in many form-ties between the two events.

Brooke Henderson has won both events, with other past champions: Anna Nordqvist, In Gee Chun, Lydia Ko and Hyo Joo Kim all possessing multiple top 5s in the Meijer Classic.

2019 Evian runner-up, Jennifer Kupcho has won there; Amy Yang has a number of top 10s here and has finished 3rd at Blythefield; Carlota Ciganda has finished 2nd.

Founders Cup (Upper Montclair Country Club)

Additionally, I quite like Upper Montclair Country Club as a final comp. It’s another course where the trees hug the fairways and requires precise driving to avoid trouble and give you the best angle to attack the greens.

Both renewals of the Founders Cup there have been won by former Evian winners: Jin Young Ko earlier this year and Minjee Lee in 2022. Carlota Ciganda, Megan Khang and Georgia Hall strengthen the form-tie with top 10 efforts there in the last two years.

The Weather

The course is set to suffer from a deluge of rain and thunderstorms in the days leading up to the event. Fortunately, the worst of that weather is forecast to disappear when tournament play begins, though it is set to rain further over the weekend.

Winds are predicted to be largely benign but could gust at close to 20mph throughout the week, however unless this is constant it shouldn’t trouble the players too much and if the course is indeed receptive, scoring could be lower than usual.

The Field

We have a superb field in attendance this week, with just four of the world’s top 50 not in attendance. They are led by world #1 Jin Young Ko, who is one of eight former winners entered; the retired 2013 champion, Suzann Pettersen is the only absentee.

Rose Zhang makes her first start here as a professional, hoping to bounce back from a first pro missed cut on her latest start; whilst amongst the exemptions for the LET players is a start for exciting 17-year-old German, Chiara Noja, who will be making her debut in the event.

Selections

With the quirks of this course, it’s no surprise to see each of the last seven Evian Championship winners holding prior experience in the event.

This makes Hyo Joo Kim a strong 12/1 favourite considering her current form, however there are plenty with a little more juice in the price just behind who match the same criteria and are well suited to the venue. With that, I’m going to kick off my selections this week with Japan’s Ayaka Furue.

2.5 pts Ayaka Furue each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 20/1 

It was at this event in 2021 that Furue put everyone on notice of her talents, as she finished an excellent 4th on debut. She then built on that later that year by earning her way onto the LPGA via the Q-Series.

She has been a model of consistency throughout her pro career so far, missing just 9 cuts in over 120 starts worldwide; recording seven victories in Japan before that step up and has continued to thrive on the biggest stage.

In her rookie season on the LPGA, Furue missed only three cuts and recorded four top 10s. Including a first victory in the co-sanctioned Scottish Open – a title she defends next week.

Her form has been excellent again this year, as she’s hit the top 10 eight times in 15 starts and turned six of them into top 5s; a 2nd in the Bank of Hope Match-Play her best result. She comes into this with no finish worse than 14th in her last seven starts.

As shown by that debut effort at the Evian and her subsequent 19th-place finish on her return last year, Furue has a game readymade for this event. She’s one of the straightest hitters on tour, ranking 6th and a superb 4th-ranked putter.

Her season-long approach stats are solid, though can be upgraded based on recent form, with many of her strongest iron performances coming in the second half of her starts so far in 2023.

Furue’s 6th at Pebble Beach last-time-out in the US Women’s Open shows further her ability to control her ball-striking on courses with regular elevation changes. I see little reason why she can’t go even better than that this week and land a first major title in France.

2 pts Nasa Hataoka each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 25/1

We’re going to stay in The Land of the Rising Sun and also coming into this after a strong effort at Pebble Beach on her last start, Nasa Hataoka looks in a good place to make another strong claim for a first major win this week.

Hataoka led my selections there and had every chance of the win, entering the final round with a one-shot lead. Though she proved no match for the hugely impressive Allisen Corpuz and endured a struggling major Sunday, shooting 4-over to drop to 4th.

However I’m more than willing to forgive someone for a poor round on a difficult day at Pebble Beach and with her game ideal for this week’s challenge, she can gain some redemption in the Evian.

Hataoka is enjoying a typically consistent year so far in 2023. She’s yet to miss a cut in thirteen starts and that 4th at Pebble Beach was her ninth top 25 and fifth top 10 of the season; as well as her best result to date.

She was strong in approach that week, ranking 12th and also ranked 8th in GIR. Which represents where she’s excelled this season as a whole, as she ranks 14th in approach and 24th in GIR. Hataoka is also straight off the tee, ranking 39th in driving accuracy, whilst in that US Women’s Open she produced her best putting performance of the year, ranking 10th in the field.

Hataoka put the putter to good use in the Evian last year, ranking 13th in the field, helping her on her way to a 15th-place finish; improving on her debut effort of 16th in 2018.

Positive form at the Meijer Classic, where she’s finished runner-up is encouraging, as are her top 10s at Upper Montclair and Palos Verdes.

Coming into this year I felt Hataoka was one of the best players on the LPGA yet to win a major. Her performance at Pebble did little to change my mind and I fancy her to make a strong push for that major breakthrough this week.

1 pt Anna Nordqvist each way (1/5 – 7 places) – 55/1

Former champion, Anna Nordqvist topped my model here this week and looks a big price with some encouraging recent form in the books.

Nordqvist comes into the week after popping over to Spain for a warm-up, finishing 5th in last week’s La Sella Open on the LET. That was her second top 5 finish in three starts after finishing 3rd in the Women’s PGA and comes in a season where she’s missed just two cuts in thirteen starts and recorded a further six top 20s.

The Swede ranks highly in each of the key stats I mentioned this week. She has the second-best GIR percentage of anyone on the LPGA and is an excellent 5th on the greens; when added to her rankings of 25th in approach and 29th in driving accuracy, she makes perfect statistical sense this week.

She won the weather-shortened 2017 edition of this event and has only missed one cut in nine starts since 2013. Her suitability for the test is highlighted further in a strong record at the Meijer Classic, where she’s recorded multiple top 5 finishes.

Taking home the Women’s Open in 2021 at Carnoustie gave Nordqvist a third major title and with the quality of her ball-striking this year, which is aligning with continually strong putting performances, her price carries plenty of value this week.

0.75 pt Andrea Lee each way (1/5 – 6 places) – 150/1

Former amateur star, Andrea Lee had a break-out year on the LPGA last year, winning her first title on the tour in the Portland Classic and finishing inside the top 5 on another four occasions; including a 2nd in the BMW Ladies Championship towards the end of the year. She hasn’t quite managed to hit those heights so far this year but there’s been suggestions it’s starting to come together over recent starts and she can continue to trend this week, at a course where her precise ball-striking can prove a huge asset.

Lee has missed four of her nine cuts this year and recorded just one top 50 finish, when 27th (out of 29) in the Tournament of Champions.

However, after a solid showing in the Bank of Hope Match-Play, she’s started to play a little better. First finishing 21st in the Mizuho Americas Open and put up her best finish of the year last-time-out when 20th in the Women’s US Open.

As mentioned, precise ball-striking is a sizable strength of her game and for the most part, this has fired in 2023, as she ranks 10th in driving accuracy and 20th in approach – areas in which she ranked 2nd and 3rd on tour last season.

Unfortunately, it’s the putter that has been causing all of the problems, seeing her rank 140th on tour, which is somewhat of a surprise after the solid putting displays of last year, when she ranked 42nd. Though over some of those improved recent results, it has started to behave a little better, particularly at Pebble Beach. Where in gaining 2.4 strokes, she produced her best putting performance of the year.

That is something I’m hoping she can carry into this week, at a place she finished 15th on debut last year, putting adequately. A 5th at Palos Verdes last year shows just why she was able to handle Evian on her debut.

Hitting the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, majors would’ve definitely been on the radar for the talented Lee and if able to build on recent performances, as well as that debut effort here last year, she can deliver a big result this week.

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