By Vince Robitaille
GolfWRX Staff Writer
As yet another Olympic chapter commences, one ends this week in Evian-les-Bains. In its last edition as a non-major event, the Evian Masters will give impressions of trials and preparations; players, however, will treat it entirely otherwise.
When LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan announced, 53 weeks ago, that the Evian Masters would officially become what it had unofficial been for quite some time, namely a major tournament, many saw what resembled the grand opening of the proverbial floodgates and voiced their opinions accordingly. The prospect of further additions to the major circuit diluting the importance of the whole – a case could be made that with a supplementary fifth crown, a second on the Old Continent, a sixth seems all the more like, especially given Asia’s golfing prominence and the fact that it’s still left major-less. The option of a World Golf Championships-type series, most likely sponsored by HSBC – their omnipresence in the Australasian leg of the LPGA schedule prompting such an assumption – could provide a palliative alternative to the issue, but a need for much larger eligible pools of players seems to arise with such a choice; perhaps new administrative regulations from the KLPGA could deliver such an influx. Such pondering would be better suited once the 2013 Evian Masters rolls in, 14 months from now.
The clear favorite heading into the week is two-time and defending champion Ai Miyazato. The Japanese star is arguably back to her old form that permitted her climb to the top of the LPGA’s food chain back in 2010. A mildly disappointing 2011 campaign was overshadowed by the likes of Na Yeon Choi and Yani Tseng’s utter dominance, and has made the Evian Masters Golf Club her home away from home. The question, nonetheless, will be to see how the current World No.4 will adjust to her newly renovated home. The course being lengthened significantly in preparation for next year, as well as to what could be one of the quirkiest groups Yours Truly has witnessed – Miyazato sharing tee times with English legendary swashbuckler Laura Davies and hot-blooded Swede Helen Alfredsson.
While Miazato will be eyeing her third triumph nearby the ever-famous spring, dismissing two Ladies European Tour players in their mid-twenties, more precisely Melissa Reid and Caroline Masson, would be rather foolish. Reid’s recent familial horror story and subsequent victorious return to action stand for an accurate barometer of her mental toughness and talent; an illustrious second half of the season could be looming ahead, despite its tearful start. As for the young German, with the monkey off her proverbial back – the former Oklahoma State University student lifting her first professional trophy at the South African Women’s Open earlier this year – and steady play that has her sitting atop the 2012 Order of Merit, the table seems set for a breakout party.