Does Evian deserve major status?

By Randall MellAugust 5, 2015, 12:11 am

The Evian Championship wins just by being at the root of this uproar over what constitutes a Grand Slam in the women’s game. 

This debate over whether the Grand Slam should be defined by winning four major championships on the LPGA schedule or sweeping all five is brilliant misdirection.

The fact that we’re debating what is legitimately a Grand Slam is a massive triumph for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan. It means in our passionate lurch to debate we’ve acquiesced on a larger point. We’ve officially bestowed legitimacy to Evian as a fifth major.

David Copperfield would be proud.

Like a magician turning our attention to his alluring assistant – one provocatively named “Grand Slam" - Whan went on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" on Tuesday and pulled Evian out of his hat as a bona fide major championship.

While we are all in a huff over what constitutes a Grand Slam, we’re validating the Evian Championship as worthy of its elevated status.

But if we’re really intent on debating the sacrosanct principles of major championship golf, we probably ought to back up and take a harder look at Evian. That’s where this Grand Slam question should begin again.

Is winning Evian a measure of greatness worthy of keeping Inbee Park from being declared a Grand Slam champion?

OK, I was having some fun with the idea of Whan as a magician, because he didn’t impressively rebuild the LPGA by misdirecting people. He’s a true believer dedicated to a noble cause. He believes the women’s game deserves better, that the women deserve another large stage to display their gifts. That’s what he’s fighting for. It’s why he went all in when Evian started pushing to become a major.

No matter Whan’s motives, the Grand Slam debate serves to cloud a more important question about the LPGA’s major championship lineup.

Does Evian really deserve major championship status?

Whan took a calculated risk “declaring” it a major. His gamble comes with a price. Actually, it comes with a bill that will eventually come due. He asked us all, including his elite players, to believe Evian is a legitimate examination that rewards the greatness required to win a major. He owes it to all of us to deliver that examination.

Majors are way too important to the game’s greatest players and their legacies to diminish the meaning of winning one.

If Evian doesn’t measure up, it’s not fair to Annika Sorenstam, Inbee Park, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster, Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng, Laura Davies, Stacy Lewis and a host of other major championship winners in this era who poured their hearts and souls into winning them.

If Evian isn’t a legitimate major championship test, then equating the historic meaning of winning Evian to Park’s victory Sunday at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry isn’t fair to Park. It isn’t fair to Sorenstam, Webb, Inkster ... 

Whan defends Evian saying most of the LPGA’s majors got their starts as regular events. He cites the Colgate-Dinah Shore as an example of a regular tour event that dedicated itself to becoming a major and then became one. That’s not exactly how it happened. The Colgate-Dinah Shore became a great event first, and then its new title sponsor pushed for it to become a major. It was a regular LPGA event for 11 years before the tour granted Nabisco’s wish and adopted it as a major in 1983.

“We believed it was a major from about the second year,” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “It put us on the map, from Dinah Shore’s involvement to the commercial success. It was an easy decision.”

Notably, the LPGA and its players had no problem granting Nabisco’s desire to be a major its second year of title sponsorship because the event felt like a major anyway.

Like Nabisco, Evian pushed the LPGA to elevate its status, too, but Evian didn’t feel like a major before it was officially designated one, even with its giant purses. It feels like Whan declared it a major with the intent of helping Evian’s Franck Riboud build it into a great event. The fact that Evian Resort Golf Club underwent an $8 million redesign the year leading into its debut as a major underscores that assessment.

Evian Resort Golf Club was definitely not a major championship test in 2013, that first year, even with the major redesign.

Evian’s debut as a major was just short of a disaster with the course pock-marked with bare patches of turf, and with giant portions of the course marked as ground under repair. Yes, a hard winter and a wet summer were factors on a course built on a mountainside, but it was a huge mistake to play it as a major the first year of a redesign. Rain caused the event to be shortened to 54 holes, another challenge to its credibility as a major. Played the month after the Women’s British Open was staged at St. Andrews, Evian’s fifth-major designation seemed to have riled the golf gods.

Evian Resort Golf Club looked a lot better last year, but Hyo Joo Kim made a statement torching it with a 61 in the first round, the lowest score ever shot in a men’s or women’s major. You don’t shoot 61s in majors. You especially don’t shoot them in the first round of the first major you’ve ever played, as Kim did. Somewhere, Johnny Miller must have been shaking his head. It was yet more evidence Evian hasn’t earned its elevated status.

Here’s the deal, though. Ultimately, it won’t matter how Evian was designated a major. What will matter is if Whan’s vision of young girls dreaming of “going to the mountain” to play a major rivals their dream to leap into Poppi’s Pond at Mission Hills. If that happens, the LPGA’s created something special.

In Evian’s Riboud, Whan hitched his hopes to a benefactor with an ambitious vision and indefatigable will. Riboud has the resources to make Evian feel like a major. It’s just that the cart seems to have gone before the horse in making Evian a Grand Slam event. Riboud and Whan are trying to build a great event after designating it a major.

If Evian evolves as a real major, then the Grand Slam debate will have real legs.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.