It seems not even the LPGA views the Evian Championship as the fifth major in women’s golf.
For the second time in five years, tournament officials announced that it was shortening the event from 72 to 54 holes.
Speaking with reporters on-site in France, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said that “while we did not make this decision lightly, we believe this is the right decision to have the fairest, most competitive tournament for all players in this field.”
Except this decision should have taken no time at all.
Push the Evian to Monday. To Tuesday. To next month. Whenever.
If you want the Evian to be viewed like a major – and, to be fair, its worthiness was debated long before this week – then you have to treat it like one. Every attempt should be made to play 72 holes.
Instead, Whan and Co. pulled the plug Thursday, after heavy rain left the hilly course saturated and potentially dangerous for players and caddies.
No group finished nine holes, so officials, fearful that conditions Friday would be drastically different, decided to scrap the first-round scores. That was bad news for world No. 1 So Yeon Ryu and Jessica Korda, who moved into the early lead, already 2 under on their rounds. “Yeah, I’m super pumped about it,” Korda tweeted sarcastically.
By trimming the Evian to 54 holes – a format rarely used by the LPGA in regular events, anymore – the tour is making clear what we already suspected about the status of this so-called major, which was elevated, controversially, in 2013.
That year (almost by karma) torrential rain prompted officials to reduce the tournament to 54 holes, the first time a major had been shortened since the 1996 LPGA Championship. And now here we are, five years later, at the same event, dealing with another abbreviated major.
“Some people will definitely not like it,” Whan said, “and I’ll be the one taking the brunt of that, and that’s OK.”
It’s hard to imagine any men’s major – or heck, even The Players – reducing one of the biggest events in golf to three rounds. Whenever a men’s major is interrupted by bad weather, one of the most common refrains by players is that they’ll stay there as long as it takes to finish the event. No one wants to win a major with an asterisk.
This is not to ignore the realities of women’s golf. The LPGA doesn’t have the same financial backing as the men, making a Monday or Tuesday finish undesirable for everyone involved, but the Evian’s credibility takes a serious blow with only 54 holes of competition.
That the decision was made Thursday made the optics even worse. The forecast for the next two days is fine, but Whan noted that there might be even more rain Sunday.
“If we said 72 holes and we start again (Friday), we’re probably looking at Monday and Tuesday, and that’s not great for anybody,” he said.
Except in this case, it could be. The LPGA has an ideal scenario next week, with no tournament on the schedule. They could (and should) stay in France as long as it takes to complete all 72 holes.
“Nobody likes to see major holes go away,” Whan said. “Nobody likes to see majors being reduced in size. But the most important thing is we really have a quality, fair, competitive major competition, and we feel this is the best way to do that. Not sure everybody will agree, but we think it was the best decision.”
Not if the goal is to prove that the Evian really is a major.
Unfortunately, this decision said plenty.