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High stakes, great golf

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So Yeon Ryu, runner-up at the last year’s Evian Championship (and already a 4th-place finish in 2013) and the current world number 1, has her sights set on scooping up her third Major title this week in Evian to strengthen her reign of world golf in 2017.  

Invited to stay at the Hôtel Royal throughout the tournament, as is the tradition for all past Evian Championship winners (as well as the major tournament winners of the year), the Korean So Yeon Ryu, who won the ANA Inspiration at the start of April, confided on Tuesday afternoon to the international media that now during the 5th and final major of the season, she couldn't see herself staying anywhere other than at the iconic palace hotel which overlooks Lake Geneva, offering incomparable views of the lake.

The comfort provided by the Hôtel Royal does not explain everything. 

So Yeon Ryu is aware of the fact that she has a lot to play for as the season comes to a close. Not only is the Korean absolutely committed to remaining the the world number 1, she is eyeing the title of LPGA player of the year and would also like to claim the Rolex Annika Major Award, which each year rewards the top-performing player in the Grand Slam tournaments. Victory at The Evian Championship would quite simply enable her to kill three or four birds with one stone.

However, she currently has many rivals capable of throwing a spanner in the works. First and foremost, the two players behind Ryu in the world rankings, her compatriot Sung Hyun Park and the American Lexi Thompson. The first one has in 2017 provided confirmation of her immense talent. Joint runner-up with So Yeon Ryu at The Evian Championship 2016, the young 24-year-old champion won her first major title at the US Open mid-July, before victory struck again in Canada two weeks ago. Park, who is sure to be named LPGA Rookie of the Year 2017, could also steal the RAMA from Ryu. And even her world number 1 ranking.  

Lexi Thompson, after having come to terms with her enormous disappointment at the ANA Inspiration when she lost in a play-off after receiving a 4-shot penalty when she was leading the tournament six holes from the end, arrives in Evian with a win a week ago in Indianapolis. This victory provisionally (the Rolex Rankings - as we mentioned earlier - could still change between now and the end of season, the differences are so small) places her world number 2. Thompson has always shown her best golf in Evian. In 2015, she finished runner-up behind the untouchable Lydia Ko.

The fact that So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and Lexi Thompson are in the same pairing for the first two rounds of The Evian Championship is not insignifcant. All eyes will be on this grouping which will undoubtedly offer a great battle of woods, irons and .... mindset on Thursday and Friday, to the delight of the large crowds expected at the Evian Resort Golf Club.

We can’t rule out defending champion In Gee Chun from the list of favorites either. While history is not in her favor, with the last double win in Evian back in “prehistoric” times (Laura Davies in 1996) and in view of the fact that Chun has not added any more victories to her second major win in September 2016, she has finished runner-up five times since the start of the year, most recently two weeks ago in Portland, her last tournament.

Lydia Ko, another runner-up at her last tournament, just last week, has had  mixed results since the start of the season, but seems to have gradually found better form. Not exactly good news for her competitors. When Ko is playing her best, she doesn’t leave many players in her wake.  

And then there are the players who are less in the limelight, like the Korean I.K. Kim, who in particular won the British Open on the Scottish Kingsbarns course early August in the wind and rain. 29-Year-old Kim has played on the LPGA Tour for a decade and has finally joined the club of major champions where is firmly in place up with the leaders.

 

One thing is for sure, like each year, in view of the challenges ahead, there will be some spectacular golf on the greens in Evian.