The Evian Masters won’t become an LPGA major until next year, but there are major implications for this week’s winner.
The $3.25 million purse equals the U.S. Women’s Open as the largest payday in women’s golf.
The winner in Evian-les-Baines, France, will take home $487,500 in earnings, the second largest winner’s check in the women’s game behind the U.S. Women’s Open ($585,000).
There is more to be won than that for Yani Tseng, who is looking to rebound from a series of sluggish starts and regain her dominant form. There’s a reassertion of confidence and momentum to be won.
Tseng, 23, is amid the first real challenge to her form since she seized the Rolex World No. 1 ranking 76 weeks ago.
Tseng will tee it up at the Evian Masters looking for her fourth LPGA title of the year, but her first victory since claiming the Kia Classic four months ago. If Tseng leaves France without a title, it will be her longest winless run since she became No. 1. It will mark her eighth consecutive LPGA event without a title. She hasn’t gone longer than seven in a row without a win since ascending to the top of the world rankings.
This hardly constitutes a slump, and given she has won three times already this year, it ought not create any panic, but Tseng has been so dominant that her success has created some burdensome expectations. She’s dealing with that amid this desultory run.
“I think I just feel a little more pressure,” Tseng said Wednesday in her Evian news conference. “I’m kind of thinking too much and trying too hard to play well, like I did before. I only play two, three bad tournaments, and it feels like the end of the world, like everyone is asking me what's wrong with me? What happened to your game?”
“But there was nothing wrong. It's really hard to play well every week. I always do my best to play well, and I learn a lot from mistakes the last two months. I think I'm ready to go. I feel fresh. I don't look back. I don't feel like I do anything wrong. I still keep working hard and try to balance my life. I feel very comfortable this week, and I feel very confident, too. I just can't wait to go out and see how I play this week.”
Tseng has failed to break par in her last 11 rounds. It should be noted eight of those rounds were in major championships.
That Tseng is concerned about her form is clear in her decision to let go of her long-time caddie, Jason Hamilton, after a disappointing U.S. Women’s Open in her last start. Tseng has hired Basil van Rooyen as her new caddie. He’s a veteran who has caddied for Mark McNulty, Graham Delaet, Mark James and David Frost.
Through this sluggish run, Tseng has been notably good natured, stopping to answer every media question asked, even after the most frustrating rounds. She hasn’t bolted from the scoring trailers after the worst of her rounds, but she feels the challenges.
“It’s pretty hard to be world No. 1,” Tseng said. “This is kind of my second year. No one knows how hard. It's not just playing good golf. Everything around the golf course, I need to handle. All the media and fans and pressure on the golf course and sponsors, it's really hard. But I think I'm getting better every time and learning a lot. I have a good team behind me helping out with those things.”
Tseng is learning how to deal with being held to a different standard than other players.
“It's hard winning every tournament,” Tseng said. “You enjoy, you try your best, and you're learning from other players. That's why golf is so challenging. I still have lots of passion.”
Tseng will be looking to show that as she and her fellow tour pros play the Evian Masters for the last time before it becomes a major.
Watch exclusive coverage of the Evian Masters on the Golf Channel Thursday and Friday, from 6:30-8:30PM ET, and Saturday and Sunday, 1-6PM ET.