The two-time major winner Ariya Jutanugarn breaks a run of pars with birdie at 8. She’s keeping herself within touching distance at -9. Meanwhile a word on Lee Mi-hyang, the runner-up at this year’s ANA. Her round has gone from bad to worse since that double at 3; bogeys at 4, 5 and 6 have crashed her all the way down the leaderboard to -5. Missing a short birdie putt at the par-five 7th won’t have improved her mood. Another year to wait for a major breakthrough that’s surely got to come for the 26-year-old South Korean.
This is golf, and even seven-time major winners can struggle. Inbee Park just needs this tournament to become only the second player, after Karrie Webb, to complete a five-major Super Grand Slam. (She’s already got a career Grand Slam to her name, for winning the other four, as per LPGA policy, the Evian only having been a fifth major since 2013.) It doesn’t look like she’ll complete the set today, sadly. Her tee shot at 7 is tugged into rough down the right; the second is a full-blown slice. Her third goes straight left into a deep bunker at the front of the green. She can’t get up and down, and that’s her third bogey of the day. She’s -8 and though she’s only six behind, her game doesn’t look in any sort of shape for a challenge.
The reigning ANA champion Ko Jin-young has been going along smoothly. Five pars to open. But now she strokes in a 20-footer for birdie at 6 to move within two strokes of the lead. Up on 8, Kupcho, competing in only her eighth tournament as a professional, clips her tee shot to six feet and knocks in the putt. This is heating up rather nicely, despite the state of the weather!
-14: Kim (6)
-12: Feng (6), Ko (6), SH Park (6)
-10: Kupcho (8)
-9: I Park (6)
Meanwhile on 6, Feng looks utterly disgusted with herself upon sending her second shot into the green. But her ball screeches to a halt three feet from the flag. A lucky break? Or maybe she was just moaning about the weather, which would be fair enough. It’s rank. In goes the birdie putt, and the 2012 PGA champ is right in the mix now, currently on course to better her third-place finish here in 2015 … and surely now entertaining thoughts of a second major title. She looks relaxed out there – the histrionics back up the fairway aside – unlike a few of her competitors.
-14: Kim (5)
-12: Feng (6), SH Park (5)
-11: Ko (5)
Kim nearly drains a monster for birdie across 5. A tap-in for par. Par for Ko as well. But it’s a third bogey of the day for the world number one SH Park, who races her birdie putt six feet past, then pulls the one coming back, the ball lipping out. She looks highly uncomfortable in her rain gear, tucking various hanging bits under her arms as she addresses her putts. None of this augurs well for the rest of the round, because this weather isn’t going away.
The rain is coming down in stair-rods now. All three members of the final group find the par-three 5th with their tee shots, though the leader Kim tugs her effort miles left of the flag. She’s lucky the green is so big. SH Park meanwhile suffers some bad luck for once: she fires an iron straight at the flag. A couple of feet further, and it would have rolled extremely close indeed. But her ball careers off a downslope and rattles 15 feet past. Still a birdie chance, but it deserved so much more.
Inbee Park is hanging on by her fingernails. Her tee shot at the par-three 5th comes up short. But she does extremely well to get up and down from sand, avoiding the ignominy of three bogeys on the bounce. She remains at -9. With the rain getting heavier and the wind rising, the South Korean superstar’s hopes of landing the one major to elude her aren’t over yet. “Fantastic leaderboard,” writes Lucy Wesson. “With this weather, anything is possible. And you have the Jutanugarns and two solid Americans looking for their first titles (Kupcho and one of my favorites, Khang) ready to pounce! Great tournament! And I will be here with bells on for the women’s Open Championship next weekend, unless wearing bells is frowned upon round these parts.” They force me to sit in the corner of the office in a jester’s hat, so I think you’ll be fine.
Two putts for SH Park. A par she’d have grabbed with both hands when her drive was arcing towards bother. She can’t keep getting away with those wild tee shots, though. At some point, she’ll cop a bad lie. Ko ends up with her fourth par in four holes. And finally Kim, who is an inch’s worth of energy away from guiding in a left-to-right curler, but has to settle for par as well. It’s as you were at the top.
SH Park’s third drive of the day, and yet again it’s pulled left. And for the third time, she gets the benefit of a break, her ball stopping one bounce short of the really thick stuff. She’s able to hoick her second into the heart of the green, though that’s two-putt territory. Her partners Kim and Ko are also on in regulation, with half-chances for birdie from 15 feet or so. Meanwhile another birdie for Moriya Jutanugarn, at 6, and she rises to -9.
The former world number-one Shanshan Feng clips her second at 4 to eight feet. That’s beautifully controlled, and she knocks in the putt for birdie. She moves to -11, but it’s back-to-back bogeys for her playing partner Inbee Park, who pays the price after completely mishitting her second, a low hook into some mutant cabbage down the left. At the moment, this looks like a four-way fight. Mind you, there’s an awfully long way to go, and it’s raining again to boot.
-14: Kim (3)
-13: SH Park (3)
-11: Feng (4), Ko (3)
-9: Kupcho (5), I Park (4)
-8: A Jutanugarn (5), M Jutanugarn (5), Khang (5)
A break for SH Park, who once again finds her ball sitting up in the rough after a wild drive. It allows her to swish a lovely lob wedge into the heart of the green, setting up a birdie chance from 15 feet. And in it goes! Not so much luck for the leader Kim, whose drive was heading for a bunker but caught in the rough just in front. She’s forced to play her second standing down in the sand, her ball well above her feet. But she nearly reaches the green anyway, manufacturing a lovely approach that sends her ball to the fringe. But she can’t get up and down, and suddenly the lead is back to one. It’s three pars in a row for Ko, meanwhile, and she’s just three off the pace at -11. And birdie for Moriya Jutanugarn on 4. She joins her younger sister Ariya at -8.
-14: Kim (3)
-13: SH Park (3)
-11: Ko (3)
-10: Feng (3), I Park (3)
-9: Kupcho (5)
Bogey for Inbee Park at 3, the result of a miserable approach pulled into thick filth down the left. She’s -10. Meanwhile her playing partner Lee Mi-hyang doubles, having zig-zagged her way down the hole. She’s -8, her chances severely compromised now. Back on the tee, Park Sung-hyun sends another drive into the rough on the left. That’s two out of two. She looks a little restricted in her rain gear, her swing not in sync. She’s spoken before of her dislike for playing in wet, cold conditions, and yesterday evening’s quotes – “I don’t think anything is going to change with the weather, I have played in the rain a lot of times, so I will focus on my game” – smacked of a player protesting too much.
It’s a bogey-bogey start for Park. The world number one races a long birdie effort at the par-three 2nd 15 feet past the hole. She can’t make the saver coming back, and suddenly Kim, who along with Ko makes a fuss-free two-putt par, has a healthy lead at the top.
-15: Kim (2)
-12: SH Park (2)
-11: I Park (2), Ko (2)
Caroline Hedwall shot a fantastic 64 on Friday, but the climate’s closing in on the 30-year-old Swede today. Bogeys at 1 and 3, and her slim chance of victory is gone. She clatters back down to -7. She’s slipped down the rankings to 11th a result, and her second top-ten career finish in a major (the first being a tie for third at the 2013 ANA) is suddenly in jeopardy. “Thank you for the live blog coverage of the LPGA Evian Championship,” begins Lucy Wesson. “As a woman golfer, I love finding good coverage of these events. And I love the random Orson Welles commercials – awesome call backs! Cheers from America while I’m having my morning coffee.” And it’s just a few hours until you can crack open one of Paul Masson’s famous Californian carafes. By the way, we’ll be covering all four days of the British Open live, so hopefully we’ll see you again later this week for that.
The aforementioned Mirim Lee is the only player within nine shots of the lead to be under par for her round so far. The chasing pack are static. Pars for Shanshan Feng, Lee Mi-hyang and super-slam-chasing Inbee Park at 2. Ah but here we go! Jennifer Kupcho, who at 22 has already made an indelible mark on the sport by winning the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur this year, birdies 3 to rise to -9. A lovely second shot pin high to eight feet. She wanders off smiling broadly, despite the rain coming down again.
Kim is the leader in scrambling on the LPGA Tour, and she displays her greenside smarts by sending a crisp chip up the bank to a couple of feet. Par. Park’s effort from a similar position is poor, however, an uncertain jab that checks the second it lands on the front of the green. She’s left with a 12-footer for par. It’s always missing on the right. That’s a poor opening bogey. Ko meanwhile lags up from distance and tidies up for par. The leader’s cushion at the top is now two.
-15: Kim (1)
-13: SH Park (1)
-11: I Park (1), Ko (1)
-10: Lee (1), Feng (1)
Kim’s ball is sitting up in the rough. She’s able to fire a low iron towards the green, and there her luck runs out: instead of creeping onto the front, close to the flag, her ball breaks left and down a swale. That was one turn away from perfection. It’s a thin line. Ko is on in regulation, though not particularly close. Finally it’s the turn of Park, who takes up a huge divot and comes up well short of the green. The importance of finding the fairway and avoiding the damp rough, illustrated perfectly right here.
The final group are out and about! And it’s not an ideal start for the leader Kim Hyo-joo, whose opening drive finds the thick, wet rough down the left. The world number one Park Sung-hyun’s first tee shot just creeps in there too, narrowly avoiding a large bunker. The third South Korean in the group, Ko Jin-young, finds the middle of the fairway. But her ball thunks to an immediate stop, evidence that there won’t be much run this afternoon.
“You’ve seen Orson’s other wine commercial, right?” Our old pal Tom Lutz, there, practically begging me to post this fine clip of a master at work. Action is imminent, I feel it necessary to add.
The early signs suggest low scores will come at a premium this afternoon. Of the early starters, many more players are over par for their rounds than under it. Yu Liu, Choi Hye-jin, Hsu Wei-ling and Caroline Masson are all three over already today, and none of them have played more than five holes. Amy Olson is four over through 4. Today could prove a battle. Enough to drive anyone to drink.
Umbrellas are up again on the shores of Lake Geneva. Nothing too dramatic, and the rain’s expected to ease off as the afternoon progresses. Expect the players to attack a few of the pins, the greens being so soft and receptive. On the other hand, the fairways are still a bit sodden, so the course will be playing a little longer. Pick-and-place rules are in effect. Nobody from the pack is making an early run, the sole exception being Mirim Lee, with back-to-back birdies at 2 and 3. She’s -6. The leaders will be out soon enough, and then we’ll really get going.
Guardian fake news dept. Turns out the last entry shouldn’t be time-stamped 11.33am, but misinformation o’clock. It’s the coverage that won’t be kicking in for an hour or so. In fact, the early groups have taken to the course already, with the sky looking considerably brighter. Nothing of note to report yet, other than Jing Yan’s entertaining start to the round: birdie, triple bogey, birdie. She’s level par for the tournament. Significant news when we have it. You’ve still got time to nip out for the Observer and 20 Bensons, if we’re being honest.
The course has taken a real hammering, and the start has been further delayed. The greenkeeping staff are doing their best to drain the waterlogged tees, fairways and greens, but it’s a big ask. Still, here’s some good news: conditions are improving, and they hope to get proceedings underway in the next 60 to 90 minutes. When they snap into action, so shall we.
When the LPGA awarded the Evian Championship major status back in 2013, the tournament was moved from July to September. Cue rain and wind affecting proceedings, to such an extent that organisers shifted it back this year to July. Well, guess what. Yep. No prizes.
Le Tour hasn’t been the only big sporting event in France to be seriously affected by the weather this week. The blistering heat of the first two days at the Evian Resort Golf Club in Évian-les-Bains was fine: only Lexi Thompson got hot under the collar, missing the cut then speaking of her annoyance at watching good drives taking hard bounces off cooked fairways and into trouble. But since then, storms have been an issue, with the field sent out yesterday in threesomes off split tees at seven in the morning to avoid a tempest.
That worked out well, with the poor weather only arriving as the final groups finished their rounds. But there’s been more meteorological bother, with heavy overnight rain flooding fairways and tee boxes. So today the players will again take to the Evian Resort course in threesomes, going off two tees, but this time the play’s been pushed back a couple of hours. The leading pack will be teeing off between 12pm and 1pm BST. But while Le Tour is all over bar the shouting, as the peloton ceremonially trundles into Paris, the 25th edition of the Evian is still very much up in the air, as the 54-hole leaderboard shows:
-15: Kim Hyo-joo
-14: Park Sung-hyun
-11: Ko Jin-young, Inbee Park
-10: Shanshan Feng, Lee Mi-hyang
-9: Caroline Hedwall
-8: Ariya Jutanugarn, Megan Khang, Chella Choi
Plenty of major-winning experience there. The leader Kim Hyo-joo won the 2014 edition of this tournament, shooting 61 along the way. Park Sung-hyun is the world number one, winner of the 2017 US Open and the 2018 PGA, and nearly snatched this year’s PGA from under the nose of Hannah Green. Inbee Park just needs this title to complete the current five-major set. Ko Jin-young, she of a swing so graceful she makes Freddie Couples look like Jim Furyk, won this year’s ANA. Shanshan Feng won the 2012 PGA. And Ariya Jutanugarn has both US and British Opens on her resume. In conclusion: it’s on! A bit later than anticipated, perhaps, but on.