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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the Evian

It's the final major of the year, folks, so let's make this round of picks a good one!

Defending champion Anna Nordqvist

At least, I hope I can.

The Evian Championship is the ladies fifth and final major, after which the winner of the Annika Trophy (the major winner with the best overall record in all the majors) will be determined. The four players currently in the running are Pernilla Lindberg, Ariya Jutanugarn, Sung Hyun Park and Georgia Hall.

As usual, Tony Jesselli has a preview of the event at his website. I'll just say that the event will be played in Evian-les-Bains, France, and the defending champ is Anna Nordqvist. Of course, I suppose most of you know that, so let's move on.

But who to pick? That's a challenge, as only three women -- Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn and Sung Hyun Park -- are multiple winners in the last five months, none of whom have won at Evian before, and we've seen a number of first-time winners. That doesn't give us many favorites to choose from. So I'm going to try a different tack this time.

The Evian course is a tight one and not overly long (although it's mountainous), so I'm looking at driving accuracy (DA) and greens in regulation (GIR) to help me pick. Ironically, this doesn't really match well with this year's winners, but I haven't had much luck going on form so...
  • Marina Alex, surprisingly to many fans, is 6th in DA and 8th in GIR. Despite having only four Top10s this season, she did get her first win. True, having gotten her first win just a couple of weeks back, it's possible that she'll be a bit tired mentally. But she's played very well all year and it was just a matter of time till she won. I think Evian is a good track for her.
  • Jin Young Ko has been forgotten by many fans, but she had a win early this year. She's also -- wait for it -- 2nd in DA and 1st in GIR. Add in ten Top10s and you have the kind of consistency that could win on this tough course.
  • Shanshan Feng is 8th in DA and 6th in GIR. She hasn't won this year and she only has five Top10s, but she has a major pedigree and is entering the time of year when she typically plays her best golf. I wouldn't bet against her.
  • Chella Choi is 4th in both DA and GIR. She has only three Top10s and no wins this season. But again, Chella has been incredibly consistent from tee to green this season, and I believe she just needs one good week of putting to get her first major.
  • And my flier is... Nasa Hataoka. By any measure, Nasa is a longshot -- 95th in DA, 43rd in GIR. But she still has eight Top10s and one victory this season... and the girl is TOUGH. Evian almost always has tough weather conditions, and I believe her toughness may give her the edge she needs this week.
And my pick is... Jin Young Ko. Her problem this season seems to have been her putting, but that didn't stop her from picking up a win or ten Top10s. And let's face it, strange things sometimes happen at Evian. She's got experience and she's proven she's mentally tough as well, so I'm taking her to break through for her first major.

Coverage starts Thursday morning with two broadcasts.
  • 5:00am- 8am ET
  • 9:30am-12:30pm ET
Let's hope this major lives up to the others we've seen this year.

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