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.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.