CHUN RELISHES 2016 EVIAN MEMORIES
It’s been a whirlwind week of event after event for 2016 Evian Championship winner In Gee Chun, whose smiling face seemingly adorns all of Evian-les-Bains thanks to the promotional signage liberally sprinkled around the picturesque downtown area. Who knew that a poster could help someone get dinner?
“If I’m going to town, everyone recognizes me,” said Chun of the slightly surreal phenomenon. “In France, normally (the) restaurant is open 7 p.m. ... Maybe around 6 p.m., I went to town, but some see and recognize me, so they gave me food earlier, before open. I really appreciate it, yeah. So I had dinner.”
On the golf course, it’s all business for the 23-year-old from the Republic of Korea. She spoke glowingly of her experience in 2016, which saw her return a record-setting -21, the lowest score in the history of men’s and women’s major competition.
“It’s a big honor to me,” said Chun of that record-setting performance. “Before (I) start (the) last round, I already know what I need. I need to make a low score. So I had a lot of pressure, but I did really well. That made more confidence, and then keep going for my goal.”
A SPECIAL PLACE FOR LYDIA
Two years ago, Lydia Ko won the 2015 Evian Championship and became the youngest major winner in LPGA Tour history (18y/4m/20d), and the youngest male or female major winner in the modern era (youngest since Young Tom Morris (17y/5m/8d) at the 1868 Open Championship). Her final-round 63 was also the lowest final round in a major.
Now 20, Ko returns to Evian Resort Golf Club hoping to reignite the magic that led to her ninth career LPGA win and a moment she’ll never forget.
“When you’re playing, you don’t really feel that overwhelmed or you don’t really get to sense what’s going to go on if you do, and being able to win, and I think that really happened to me when my putt went in the hole on the 72nd hole,” Ko said.
Ko enters this week on a winless streak that has lasted 28 starts since her last victory at the 2016 Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I, the longest stretch of her career. Last week, she co-led alongside Lexi Thompson going into the final round at the Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim before finishing with her second runner-up result of the season.
“To me just seeing those putts go in I think gave me a lot of confidence, and I think it gave me more belief in myself because I felt like there were a lot of positives and a lot of good things going on, but I just wasn’t able to put it all together,” said Ko. “So it was nice to be kind of in that position again, and even though I wasn’t the one holding the trophy at the end of last week, I still felt like I played good golf and tried my best out there, and the most important thing was just being in that atmosphere, being in that kind of position again, and it just builds your confidence.”
MULTITASKING MAMA – ICHER BALANCES MOTHERHOOD AND PROFESSIONAL GOLF
For Karine Icher, it’s a “family affair” weekly on the LPGA Tour. The 38-year-old from Châteauroux, France, some 300 miles from the Evian Resort Golf Club, travels the world with family in tow – husband Fred Bonnargent on the bag and 6-year-old daughter Lola in the LPGA’s Smucker’s Day Care Center.
“She goes to school when she’s home, and she does home school on Tour because we have a day care on the LPGA and we have two nannies that are traveling with us every week in the States, so it makes it easier,” said Icher of Lola, who started school this week in Icher’s French hometown and then will rejoin Mom and Dad at their American home base after the Asia swing. “We can combine being a mom and being a player for a few more years, and that’s definitely a big help. But it’s for sure a nice adventure, but it’s a big challenge.”
Icher sat out much of the 2011 season after giving birth to Lola, but has played full-time ever since. She is also the model of consistency, never missing more than five cuts in a season since 2012 and carrying a scoring average between 71.1 and 71.4.
This fact hasn’t been lost on her follow competitors – Icher says that she fields five or six questions a week from players who want her tips. Her advice? Leave golf on the golf course.
“Maybe before I was too much focused on my golf and I was thinking golf 24 hours, seven days a week, and now I have to shrink like six hours of training into two because I don’t have enough time because I want to spend time with her,” said Icher, who has four career runner-up finishes but has not been able to crack the winner’s circle. “So probably I do more quality than quantity, and it helps me a lot, and then when we go back to the hotel or at home, we leave the golf bag in the garage, in the car, until the next morning.”
ROLEX ANNIKA MAJOR AWARD UP FOR GRABS
In 2016, Lydia Ko became the third winner of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, given annually at The Evian Championship to recognize the player who, during a current LPGA Tour season, has the most outstanding record in all five major championships and has won at least one of the titles. Ko joined Michelle Wie (2014) and Inbee Park (2015) as winners of the award.
“It was a huge honor to win the RAMA, especially as it is named after Annika and what she’s done for not only the women’s game but golf in general is huge,” said Ko. “And because of players like her, the Tour is as big as it is today and as popular as it is today. We’ve got a lot to thank her for, and to kind of have an award to really celebrate how consistent you’ve played in the major championships, you can only receive it after winning a major that season, so it’s I think an amazing award, and I don’t think any other tour does it, so I think it’s an award that you feel really special and honored in so many different aspects.”
The 2017 recipient will be determined on Sunday. ANA Inspiration winner So Yeon Ryu leads the RAMA standings, and has the most chances to receive the award on the 18th green.
Rolex Annika Major Award - Finish Position Scenarios:
|1||So Yeon Ryu||78||138||102||96||92||90||88||86||84||82||20|
|T2||Sung Hyun Park||60||120||84||78||74||72||70||68||66||64||62|
Green = guaranteed win; blue = potential win; red = cannot win
A win by any of the first four players – Ryu, Kang (KPMG Women’s PGA Championship), Sung Hyun Park (U.S. Women’s Open Championship) or In-Kyung Kim (Ricoh Women’s British Open) would guarantee the award. If Kang, Park or Kim finish third and tie Ryu with 78 points, Ryu has a T3 finish at the U.S. Women’s Open that would give her the award. Also, with a win at The Evian Championship, players ranked 5-12 in the points standings may also have a chance, depending on the finish position of Ryu, Kang, Park and Kim.
Karine Icher is playing in her fifth Evian Championship, and also played in the Evian Masters in 2002-10 and 2012; her best major finish is T20, coming in 2015.
Lydia Ko is playing in her fifth Evian Championship; she took the victory in 2015, and has two other top-10 finishes.
Last week, Ko became the fastest player in LPGA history to cross $8 million in career earnings at $8,021,004 in her 93rd start. The previous mark was held by Yani Tseng, who crossed that threshold in her 98th event. Next up – the $9 million mark, currently held by Lorena Ochoa. She crossed $9 million in her 119th career event as an LPGA professional.
In Gee Chun is playing in her fourth Evian Championship; she took the victory in 2016.
“I return my trophy, but I like get it back.”- In Gee Chun
“Sometimes I say, oh, like my putter is like my boyfriend, it’s like a love-hate. But I 100 percent – well, 99 percent love it.” - Lydia Ko
“The American players who were in the Solheim Cup, they all want babies, so soon they’re going to be all moms, which is good for Europe.”- Karine Icher