by Ronan MacNamara
Leona Maguire by Golffile
While the men’s major season has reached its conclusion with Collin Morikawa in sole possession of the Claret Jug for just the one calendar year we hope, the women’s major season is reaching its climax with two of the five major championships remaining.
This week the world’s best will tee it up in Evians Les Bains in South-East France for the Amundi Evian Championship. Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow will carry Irish hopes in their latest bid to become Ireland’s first winner on a major tour as well as our maiden major champion.
Temperatures are set to be similar to what we are currently basking in at home with scorching heat forecast for rounds 1 and 2 while storms could halt proceedings over the weekend too.
Jin Young Ko is the defending champion having claimed a two-stroke victory over American Jennifer Kupcho, Shanshan Feng and Hyo Joo Kim. The South Korean carded a final round 67 to claim her second major title of the season.
The Champions Course at the Evian Resort Golf Club opened its doors in 1904 and has been the host course since the events inception on the Ladies European Tour in 1994. Formerly the Evian Masters this was changed to the Evian Championship in 2000 and has since become the women’s fifth major.
Lexi Thompson is the most notable absentee from the field as she ramps up her preparations for the Tokyo Olympics which has been cast into further doubt and may be cancelled due to an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in Japan.
Danielle Kang, US Open Champion Yuka Saso, Nasa Hataoka and Shanshan Feng are other notable names to be absent from action this week.
Leona Maguire arrives in France in a rich vein of form similar that of Seamus Power who won in dramatic circumstances at the Barbasol Championship last week. Maguire has four top-20 finishes in her last four starts including two top-10s.
The Cavan native was forced to withdraw from the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational last week due to non-Covid related issues. She was due to team up with ANA Inspiration winner Patty Tavatanakit.
The Slieve Russell ambassador has enjoyed a great year, breaking into the world’s top-60 in the Rolex Rankings.
Her best finish in the Evian Championship came as an amateur in 2015, where she birdied her final hole to make the halfway cut. In doing so, she became the first woman ever from the Republic of Ireland to make the cut in a major. Maguire also finished as low amateur as she finished in a share of 34th.
The firm and fast conditions expected might play into the 26-year-old’s hands, who isn’t one of the longer hitters on the LPGA Tour – ranking 79th in driving distance – but is one of the most accurate.
The fairways are wide but are protected by penal slopes and thick rough. This plays similar to a firm and fast Royal St Georges in that respect with uncompromising bounces to be expected. Lexi Thompson took her frustrations out on Twitter as she criticised the golf course’s unrewarding nature in 2019.
Maguire’s much improved iron play will be key this week. The course overlooks Lake Geneva and the winds that derive from there can be unpredictable. Couple that with greens that vary in size and have elevation changes, commitment to irons will be a key factor this week. The former low amateur here ranks 20th in greens in regulation and looks set to be able to strike on the greens too, ranking 5th in putting this season.
At 45/1 Maguire could be a bargain price, especially considering she has major championship form this season with her best major finish (T-15) coming at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last month.
Stephanie Meadow will make her debut at the Evian Championship this week after a much needed top-10 finish on the LPGA Tour last week.
The Jordanstown native struck up a fruitful partnership with American veteran Christie Kerr as they finished in a share of 6th place at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
Stephanie Meadow by Golffile
It was a much-needed confidence boost for the 29-year-old having missed five of her previous six cuts.
Meadow has shown some major championship form this season too, claiming a top-20 finish at the ANA Inspiration and she can take confidence from that heading to France this week.
With some of the world’s best not playing there is certainly more of an open feel to this year’s Evian Championship.