Event: Evian Championship
Date: September 14-17
Location: Evian Resort Golf Club
TV: Sky Sports Golf - Thurs-Fri 10am-1pm & 2.30pm-5.30pm & Sat-Sun 11.30am-4.30pm
Karen Stupples believes the number of women’s majors should not be increased beyond five despite the dominance of Asian golfers at the top of the world rankings.
Speaking exclusively to bunkered.co.uk ahead of the Evian Championship, where she is working as an on-course reporter for Golf Channel, England’s most recent female major champion rejected the possibility of an Asian addition to the calendar unless one of the current five events lost their major status.
“If you were being honest, there’s probably an argument that there should be a major in Asia – but you don’t need anymore than five majors,” said Stupples, acknowledging the fact that 13 of the world’s current top 20 are from the continent.
“When you think about the other women’s tours, the KLPGA Tour has its majors and the JLPGA Tour has its majors, too. Each tour has its own set of majors and there are some tournaments that are bigger than others and attract the best players anyway.
“If you were in Asia and you wanted to make a tournament bigger, you could just increase the purse. And don’t forget, in the men’s game the Players has one of the strongest fields in golf and that’s not a major.
“The Evian was lucky in the timing of how it all worked out to get that major status. It was the same with the Ricoh Women’s British Open when the du Maurier Classic in Canada ceased to exist as a major. It’s a lot about timing but I don’t see any of the other majors going anywhere anytime soon.”
"Evian is still evolving"
The Evian Championship gained major status in 2013 after 12 years as a LPGA and Ladies European Tour co-sanctioned event. Already, its list of champions includes Suzann Pettersen (2013) and Lydia Ko (2015, above), but Stupples believes the tournament has not yet achieved parity with its major counterparts.
“I think it’s still evolving,” added the 2004 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion. “It’s always been well thought of, even before it was a major, but with the other four being more well established, it’s going to take time to build up that same history and drama that the others already have.
“But I can see it definitely elevating itself to the same level and with input from sponsors and the LPGA, who are determined to make it a success, I can definitely see it going that way.”
Lexi playing 'as good as I've seen'
Among the favourites this week is Lexi Thompson, who heads into the event off the back of her ninth LPGA Tour title at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, and Stupples can't see many others challenging the 22-year-old in France.
“Lexi, quite frankly, is playing as good golf as I’ve ever seen,” she added. “She always hits the ball well in terms of her driving and greens in regulation but this year has seen her make huge strides in her putting, chipping, bunker shots – the whole of her short game has been upgraded. She says she’s been working hard on it and the results are so impressive.”