There’s more than a major championship at stake at the Evian Championship in France this week.
The Rolex world No. 1 ranking and Rolex Annika Major Award are also up for grabs.
No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, No. 2 Lexi Thompson and No. 3 Sung Hyun Park will be grouped together in the first two rounds.
Thompson and Park are both in position to end Ryu’s 12-week reign at world No. 1 at Evian Resort Golf Club. The trio is scheduled to go off Thursday at 2:18 a.m. ET.
Ryu, Thompson and Park are also all in the running to claim the Annika Major Award for the best performances in the majors this year. Thompson has to win this week to be eligible for the award.
Plus, the trio is in position to make a big move at the Rolex Player of the Year Award, with double points up for grabs. Ryu leads the points standings, but Thompson, Park and I.K. Kim could overtake her this week.
As far as the world rankings go, Thompson could move to No. 1 with a finish of fourth or better this week, depending what Ryu and Park do.
Park can go to No. 1, but only if she wins.
Ryu said Tuesday that the No. 1 ranking has come with more pressure than she has let on, and it may have been showing up in her performances this summer. Ryu has two victories this year, including a major (the ANA Inspiration), and she leads the LPGA in top-10 finishes (10), but she said she hasn’t felt comfortable over her last four starts. She missed the cut at the Cambia Portland Classic in her last start two weeks ago.
“After the U.S. Open, to be honest, I haven’t played well,” Ryu said. “I always feel comfortable in Scotland, but even though I was feeling great, I couldn’t play well there.”
Ryu said she resolved to arrive this week with a new mindset, to better accept and embrace the pressures that come with the No. 1 ranking.
“Before, I didn’t really want to take that pressure, and I just wanted to ignore that,” Ryu said. “Now, I’m just trying to face the pressure.”
Ryu said she has felt escalating pressure from fans, who she knows only mean to encourage her, to cheer her toward the Rolex Player of the Year Award and other honors. She said she also has felt escalating internal pressure.
“I expect a lot from myself,” Ryu said about carrying the No. 1 ranking. “I never allow myself to make bogey, or finish outside the top 10.”
How is she changing her thinking? She said she isn’t expecting perfection.
“I’m a human being,” she said. “As long as I did my best, I should let that go.”
Thompson and Park arrived in France coming off victories in their last starts. They are co-favorites among the bookmakers. SkyBet, Paddy Power and SportingBet make both 8-to-1 favorites to win. Ryu is 14-to-1 with SkyBet and 16-to-1 with Paddy Power and SportingBet.
Thompson won the Indy Women in Tech Championship last weekend. She has two victories and five second-place finishes this year.
The No. 1 ranking, Thompson said, is a goal she is pursuing, but . . .
“A lot of us out here want to be No. 1, but it’s not something we can put on our minds and put that pressure on ourselves,” Thompson said. “We just have to work on our games and let it go once we get to tournaments and show the hard work pays off.”
Park won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in her last start. She has won two of her last four LPGA starts, dating back to the U.S. Women’s Open in July. She is in position to make a run at joining Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win both the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season.