Minjee Lee, Evian’s new queen
After all the suspense, the 25-year-old Australian claims her first major in the blazing Evian sun. Her first three rounds of 68-69-65 placed her in 5th place (11-under overall) before heading into the final round. Her final round of 64 (-7) this afternoon away from the limelight of the final group meant she made her way alone back to the clubhouse to await the final scores of her direct opponents, Yealimi Noh (USA) and Jeonguen Lee6 (KOR). The South Korean player, the current world number 26 and already with the US Women’s Open 2019 title to her name (her only LPGA Tour win) was unable to maintain the 5-shot lead she had this morning. However, she managed to take it to a play-off with three birdies in a row on her three last holes and at 18-under joined Minjee Lee who was waiting patiently on the putting green.
Meanwhile, Yealimi Noh only made par on 18 after a putt that just missed birdie. In trouble in the rough on her final hole, the American was unable to reach the green in two and was forced to replace the ball to be in with a hope of playing wedge-putt and joining in the final battle. Her approach shot left her with a putt of around 6 feet, which she hoped would be her last on today’s round. At the age of 19, she probably has many good days ahead of her.
It meant a play-off was necessary to separate Minjee Lee and Jeongeun Lee6. The two players had had very different weeks leading up to this moment. The first of them only grew in strength throughout the tournament, from an opening 68 (-3) to a final 64 (-7). The latter already seemed the clear winner having completed her first 36 holes in 15-under under par, even equalling the course record (61, -10) on Friday. A difficult weekend punctuated by eight bogeys (versus two over the first two days) introduced a doubt over her potential future victory.
In the play-off, both players had a perfect opening, finding themselves just yards from one another after the first shot. Minjee Lee’s gamble to reach the green with an iron shot 30 feet from the flag paid off, landing six meters behind it. After this fantastic iron shot, Jeongeun Lee6 sent her second shot into the water hazard surrounding the 18th green. Her final hope was to convert her green attack to a last birdie which would have forced the Australian to finish with a putt for an eagle. Unfortunately, the fairytale ended there for the South Korean, who saw her co-competitor left with just 8 inches to take her first major title.
Leona Maguire dazzled, Pauline Roussin-Bouchard best amateur
The Champions Course was without a doubt the venue for an incredible spectacle this week thanks to the talent of the greatest players in the world with a profusion of birdies on show. Up until Friday morning, Hyo-Joo Kim was the only one to hold the course record, an incredible 61 (-10) set during the first round of the 2014 tournament. It was equalled twice during the 2021 edition of The Amundi Evian Championship.
First of all, it was Jeongeun Lee6 who equalled the South Korean’s record, carding a bogey-free round of 61 on Friday morning. Today, Leona Maguire achieved the same feat. The Irish player aced this final day, also shooting a round of 61, featuring ten birdies and eight pars. The world number 60 will remember her second participation in Evian, where she finished in 6th place, her first top-ten placing at a major having previously come 15th at the last KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Among the amateurs, France’s Pauline Roussin-Bouchard gave a memorable performance. Alain Alberti’s protégé finishes in 38th place, one shot ahead of Tsubasa Kajitani (JPN), the winner of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur 2021, where she finished one place behind her. By making it into the Top 40 this week, she has once again proved that she is capable of competing with the world’s top players. Still a student at the University of South Carolina, the young French player will be signing her first professional contract in the months ahead.
A round-up of other news...
- Amongst the Korda sisters, in the end the world rankings were respected. Nelly (number 1) finished 19th whilst Jessica (number 8) finished in 38th place.
- Pajaree Anannarukarn from Thailand, frequently at the top of the leaderboard over the first two rounds, had a more difficult weekend. Her last two cards of 72 (+1) and 71 (par) still allowed her to take a respectable 10th place.
- Four players, including former winners In Gee Chun (2016) and Lydia Ko (2015), shared 6th place in the final rankings. The brilliant 24-year-old player from New Zealand was unable to make enough birdies to take the title.
- The now former defending champion Jin Young Ko (KOR) made up for her disappointing round of 76 (+5) yesterday by carding 69 (-2) today. After teeing off in 74th place this morning, she finishes 60th.
- Hyo Joo Kim (KOR), whose mastery of the Evian course has been mentioned often this week, shot a final round 72 (+1) to finish in 17th place, which is nothing surprising.