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Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Kinder Gentler Evian... NOT!

It's often said that US Open venues were toughened up after Johnny Miller shot a 63 at Oakmont during the 1973 US Open. What you may not realize is that 63 is the men's record at a major, not the women's record. Last year Hyo Joo Kim shot a first-round 61 at the newly-toughened up Evian course on her way to claiming the 2014 Evian Championship.

It appears that the Evian folks didn't care for that record.

Shanshan Feng at Evian

Although the course had been softened a bit by rain this week, players noted after the first round that some of the hole positions had been Sunday positions last year. Likewise, the rough is much thicker this year, the fairways seem a bit narrower and the already tricky greens are running fast, even though the course is playing shorter than it says on the scorecard.

It's certainly played havoc with the scores. (Bear in mind that par is 71.) While the lead after two rounds is -9 -- last year, the winning score after four rounds was only -11 -- players are definitely struggling with the layout. A total of 77 players made the cut at +5, but a number of big names -- including some Solheim players, all of which were there this week -- missed the cut badly:
  • Brittany Lincicome and Caroline Hedwall shot +6
  • Angela Stanford shot +7
  • Mel Reid, Caroline Masson and Brittany Lang shot +8
  • Paula Creamer shot +10
  • Azahara Muñoz shot +11
Inbee Park managed to post a 69 on Friday... but even she had to work for it. After a strong front side she made the turn with a bogey-double bogey, and things didn't get any better until late in the round. She's currently -1, T20.

You may be surprised to know that Michelle Wie is also at -1, T20. After playing poorly for a round-and-a-half she started finding her form again. That's sure to make US Captain Juli Inkster (who made the cut at +2, T37) happy.

In my Brooke Henderson watch, which you can find updated daily this week with the Rolex Rankings in the sidebar, you'll see that Brooke made the cut but lost ground Friday. She eagled the final hole to finish at +2, but she's got her work cut out for her if she hopes to qualify for the Asian Swing. Remember, she'll probably need a Top4 finish this week to do so.

As for the leaders, Morgan Pressel is at -8, only one shot off Mi Hyang Lee's lead, and those two will play together in today's round. As best as I can tell, Pressel's 65 on Friday is the low round of the week, though Lee shot 66-67 her first two rounds.

It will be interesting to see how things go this weekend. More rain is expected by Sunday and light winds (around 10mph) may make those dramatic elevation changes more difficult to gauge.

One thing that we can say for sure is that Evian's commercials aren't very truthful this week -- at least not where the players are concerned. After four days around this monster, I can assure you that they won't feel all that young.

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