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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the Evian

The final women's major of the year is finally here -- the Evian Championship in Évian-les-Bains, France. This year we've got a real race for the Annika Award and if one of the four major winners wins this week, they'll get it.

This year's major winners -- Ko, Henderson, Lang and Jutanugarn

Lydia Ko is the defending champion but she won't have to contend with Inbee Park this time. Inbee's thumb is still causing problems and she's had to put it in a cast, so she has withdrawn from Evian. All she can do now is sit home and stare at her gold medal. What a bummer! ;-)

Tony Jesselli has his standard preview of the event at his website, which lays out just how tight the year's various competitions have become and how Evian can affect them. I'll let you pop over there to get that info, then you can come back for my "5 to Watch" this week.

And this is a tough one, simply because the only realistic approach is to go chalk and pick Ko, Jutanugarn, Henderson, Sei Young Kim and Haru Nomura. They're the Top5 in the Race to the CME Globe, and together they account for 15 LPGA victories this season, including three of the majors and 48 Top10s. The odds favor one of them winning.

But if I just go chalk, why bother to do a "5 to Watch" at all?

So this week I'm choosing "5 to Watch" from outside the Top5 dominators I just mentioned. I'm also going to ignore players who have already won this year. The new Evian re-design favors ball strikers, so consider these my most likely upset picks.
  • Despite not having a win in a couple of years, Stacy Lewis still sits at #7 in the Race. Look, the woman just keeps getting into contention. It's only a matter of time until she closes one out and gets out of this runner-up funk she's been in. Evian's as good a place as any.
  • Amy Yang is #11 in the Race and she always seems to find her way to the top at majors. She was T8 here last year and finished T3 in the US Women's Open a couple months back. Look for her to make a run.
  • Gerina Piller has been all around the lead all season with eight Top10s. That's often enough to be at #13 in the Race. This is a place where she hasn't played well... but this year, who knows?
  • Mo Martin sits at #18. She's had a so-so year with only three Top10s, but two of those came in her last three starts, including another runner-up at the Women's British Open. She missed the cut here last year but it was her first time at Evian. I expect better from her this time.
  • And my flier pick is Karine Icher at #21. She's been inconsistent this season but she's coming off a runner-up finish at Manulife... and this is a home game for the Frenchwoman. Granted, she doesn't have a good record at Evian, but that's why she's a flier pick.
You can make really good cases for players like Minjee Lee, Mirim Lee, So Yeon Ryu and Suzann Pettersen as well. I.K. Kim is coming off an LET win so she's on form as well. I wouldn't argue with any of those picks... or a large number of other players who I didn't pick. (Marina Alex, anyone?) But it's the last major of the LPGA and LET seasons, so I'm going for a home run with a long shot!

And that long shot is (drum roll, please)... Mo Martin. I really debated between her and Gerina, but I think Mo is in better form right now.

Coverage starts Thursday on GC. Bear in mind that there will be multiple broadcasts -- live from 5-8am ET on Thursday morning, then back for more coverage at 9:30am-12:30pm. I guess they'll have Morning Drive in-between.

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