7 players to keep a close eye on at The Amundi Evian Championship 2022
July 13, 2022 | R. Forgues
The world number 1 is obviously one of the favorites, due both to her status and her impressive consistency over recent years. After a truly frustrating 2020 season, cut short by the global health crisis caused by Covid-19, she is back to her best form. As the boss, she won five LPGA Tour tournaments (Volunteers of America Classic, Cambia Portland Classic, Cognizant Founders Cup, BMW Ladies Championship, CME Group Tour Championship) between July and November 2021. An incredible final sprint, on a par with her talent, which she kept going brilliantly as soon as the 2022 season was under way, claiming victory at the HSBC Women’s World Championship (her latest win to date). The 27-year-old South Korean has not won another major since The Amundi Evian Championship 2019, despite several opportunities to do so. As she takes on The Champions Course once again, she will be attempting to put an end to this 3-year drought, which proves to what extent winning a Grand Slam tournament is a matter for champions.
Whatever the discipline and the context, the defending champion is always one to watch. Even more so when she makes a clean sweep, like Minjee Lee has since her win last year here in Evian. She has not missed one cut since August 2021. The Australian could win a second The Amundi Evian Championship title in a row, achieved only once in the history of the tournament by Laura Davies (1995 and 1996). At that time, the event was not yet the major as we know it today, meaning that Minjee Lee would achieve an incredible feat, were she to become the first player in the Grand Slam era to be victorious two years running. She would also be the first player to win the major twice, which has not yet happened, as since 2013 (the year the competition became a major), The Amundi Evian Championship has always had a different winner. This season, she has already held high two trophies including at the US Women's Open in June, and missed out on victory by one shot in a play-off at the last KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Meaning she is on cloud nine.
In front of her home crowd, on a course she knows by heart and at an event which she hasn’t yet got the better of, Céline Boutier will have her work cut out for her. The French number 1 (23rd in the world), a contented LPGA Tour player for a number of years, struggles to make it into the limelight in Evian, where she has never finished higher than 29th place (2014 & 2021). She seems ready to finally break through this glass ceiling and once and for all see her name in major’s Top 10 finishers, something she has already done at all the other Grand Slam tournaments. Once again this year, Céline Boutier can count on the unconditional backing of her supporters, who come each year to encourage the twice-winner of the Solheim Cup. At the age of 28, just a few months after her magnificent 4th place at the last The Chevron Championship, the time has maybe come for the Clamart native to stand out in Haute-Savoie (France). The new generation of French players, led by Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, has been on a roll for some years and would be only too pleased...
Based on her stratospheric amateur performances since early 2021, we can count on the young 19-year-old American to put on a show at the Evian Resort Golf Club. The winner of the US Women’s Amateur 2020 and the world number 1 amateur, Rose Zhang is capable of playing at a sufficiently high level to rock the boat, even alongside the leading players in the world. In fact, this could be felt right from her first major among the elite, at the ANA Inspiration 2018, when she made the cut before finishing her week in 60th place. Taking part in The Amundi Evian Championship for the second time, the Team Amundi US player has nothing to lose. Quite the contrary, it is a new opportunity for her to measure herself against the crème de la crème of women’s world golf, while waiting to sign her first professional contract. Last year, she finished in a place of honour, 58th. This year, following her 40th place finish at the last US Women's Open, she no doubt hopes to do better than on her first visit. Based on her latest results, it's difficult to imagine it could be any other way. In the history of the women's golf majors, the only amateur player to win a Grand Slam title is France’s Catherine Lacoste at the US Open 1967. You never know, Rose Zhang did win the US Women's Amateur 2020 with a wrist injury...
If there is one player who tames The Champions Course to perfection, she is the one. (Almost) every year, Hyo-Joo Kim takes to her favorite course and effortlessly displays her talent in the leading group. An example of the baffling ease with which she performs in Evian: on her first participation she carded a first-round 61 (-10) dotted with ten birdies, which still the remains the course record since it was renovated in 2013. This round, which contributed to her winning the title (In 2014), marked the beginning of the Hyo-Joo Kim era. Since this staggering week, which she won with a one-shot lead over Karrie Webb - winner of the event in 2006 - she has quite simply never missed the cut in her seven participations. Even better, she has produced five Top 20 finishes including runner-up position in 2019, when she missed out on a second title due to a third round that was not up to scratch (73, +2) with a fatal triple bogey on 14. The current world number 8 recently finished 5th at the last KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and won the LOTTE Championship in April. Looking at the first part of her 2022 season, Hyo-Joo Kim is on form. Her four Top 8 finishes on the LPGA Tour set the tone: as usual, the South Korean is not coming to Evian (just) to admire the scenery.
In Gee Chun
After an outstanding start to the 2021 season, Nelly Korda was gradually overshadowed by the South Korean Jin-Young Ko, who produced seven Top 6 finishes - including four wins - in a row to set things straight after her disappointing visit to Evian (60th place). However, it cannot be said that the 23-year-old American let the end of the season pass her by: four Top 20 finishes including a win at the Pelican Women's Championship where she got out of a tight spot following a four-player play-off. Nelly continued to play like a Korda. And if this good run was not enough, she got off to the same start this year on the LPGA Tour, continuing her incredible run with five consecutive Top 20 finishes, taking her flurry of achievements to nine Top 20 finishes in a row, before her 30th place finish at the last KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. On the front page of the French magazine L’Equipe on 8th July, she confided: “It’s been crazy, it’s incredible, I can’t believe everything I've achieved.” A gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last August, now a major championship winner thanks to her victory at the LPGA Championship two months prior to the Games (June 2021). It is often said that the second Grand Slam trophy is harder to win because it’s the one that provides “confirmation”. But in a family that is like no other, made up exclusively of top-level athletes, winning is not rocket science. She has never made it into the Top 10 at The Amundi Evian Championship, so why not do it in style by lifting high the trophy on 24th July.