Rain forecast threatens completion of 54-hole Evian


EVIAN LES-BAINS, France – Heavy rain forecast for Sunday and Monday threatens the Evian Championship’s completion even with the event shortened to 54 holes.

“We’re expecting at least five times as much rain over night tonight than we received Thursday morning, which put the course under water and unplayable,” Heather Daly-Donofrio, the LPGA’s senior vice president of tour operations, said Saturday morning.

Thursday’s first round was washed out and re-started on Friday.

Though LPGA officials do not want to push the Evian Championship’s finish to Tuesday, it remains an option if they can’t get 54 holes in by the end of Monday.

“We haven’t ruled Tuesday out yet,” Daly-Donofrio said.

The forecast calls for 100 percent chance of rain beginning Saturday night and through early Sunday morning. The chance of rain is forecast at 80 percent about the time tee offs are expected to begin Sunday.

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Based on its forecasts, the LPGA is hopeful there will be windows of opportunity to play Sunday and Monday.

The Evian Championship’s debut as a major has been fraught with logistical challenges. The LPGA announced Friday evening that the event would be shortened to 54 holes, something short of a true major championship test.

“We felt it was important heading into the second round that players knew what they were playing for,” Daly-Donofrio said. “It’s hard, particularly in the week of a major championship, to have a lot of uncertainty as far as: How many holes are they going to play? What is the cut going to be? What is the plan? We felt that was very, very important for the players.”

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan knows what he will face if the sun breaks through Sunday and the tour could have completed a 72-hole major.

“A couple people asked me, `What if the weather man is wrong, and it’s a beautiful, sunny day tomorrow?’” Whan said. “I said I would love to apologize if we play a beautiful, sunny 18, and the winner walks down the 18th and 160 countries are watching us on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Evian. That would be a dream to me if the weather reports were wrong.”

Whan steered the LPGA to a bold new future making Evian its fifth major. The first year’s complications fuel complaints about the event's new major designation.

Evian Resort Golf Club, redesigned since last year’s LPGA event, is not in the championship condition tournament officials hoped after a terrible winter and cold, wet spring challenged the redesign. The first round opened with patches of grass marked as ground under repair, with greens reacting inconsistently to approach shots, putts bouncing on greens that grew bumpy in the afternoon and with lift, clean and place in effect.

Whan told Golfchannel.com that Evian and the LPGA are committed to honing a major championship test.

“If you know anything about Evian, you know status quo isn’t their thing,” Whan told Golfchannel.com. “They want players to revere this course as a top-notch course, and we’ll keep working on it until we get that.”

Given the weather this week, Whan was asked if the Evian Championship’s future remains as a September event on the LPGA schedule.

“Sounds maybe humorous, or painful, to say now, but one of the reasons we decided to play in September was to play in what we called dry September here,” Whan said. “Given what we’ve lived through, sounds strange to say sitting here, but we’re more convinced of September than ever. We see July as consistently rainy.”