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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Open champion Georgia Hall could add Evian trophy to her Major collection

Sung Hyun Park heads Asian challenge

Georgia Hall captured her first Major title at the British Open
1 of 1

Tournament starts 6am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf, 10am & 2.30pm

Georgia Hall’s surprise victory at the British Open has given the women’s game a mighty boost in the UK and fosters hope of a European triumph in the last Major of the year, the Evian Championship in southern France. 

With this being a PGA Tour rest week, Sky Sports are cashing in on this new-found popularity by giving the Evian main-channel status while consigning the men’s European Tour event in Holland to the red button.

Not since the glory days of Laura Davies when the now-Dame Laura won four LPGA Majors and was top money-winner in 1994 has Britain had a brighter star.

True, GB and Ireland have spawned other fine champions. Alison Nicholas won the 1997 US Open, Karen Stupples and the evergreen Catriona Matthew had their week in the sun at the British Open, and Charley Hull bagged a $500,000 jackpot at the 2016 LPGA Tour Championship.

But Hall, the 22-year-old from Bournemouth who was winning for the first time as a pro at the British, can improve past them to become an all-time great European alongside the magnificent Davies and the exceptional Annika Sorenstam.

She almost followed up her Royal Lytham success in Oregon, leading by two going into the final round of the Portland Classic. But a first victory in the States eluded her and she had to settle for second place, still a good result.

There may be an even better one this week as Georgia - so named because she was born while Nick Faldo was winning the 1996 Masters - has already shown her liking for the Evian by finishing tenth on debut last year. She’s a far more confident young lady now.

With little-known Swede Pernilla Lindberg holding the game’s great at bay to win the opening Major of the year, The Inspiration, in April, this has been quite a year for European golf.

And with Hall going well and Swedish six-footer Anna Nordqvist defending the Evian title she won in a playoff in a weather-ruined tournament reduced to 54 holes, Europe may not be finished for the year yet even though 21 of the world’s top 25 have made the trip to France.

Michelle Wie is one missing draw card but Asians are out in force with Korean Sung Hyun Park and Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, the world numbers one and two, leading the pack. 

Both have won a Major this year and Park was Evian runner-up on her debut in 2016.

Sung Hyun Park is eyeing a second Major of the year

Jutanugarn’s Evian credentials are less impressive as ninth place was easily the best of her three visits. Victory for Park would make the 24-year-old the LPGA’s first four-times-in-a-year winner. 

It is only three weeks since she blitzed the field in the Indy Women in Tech Championship in Indianapolis with a fabulous 23-under-par show and it's hard to see why she is not favourite. The general 16-1 looks too good to miss.

The market has Jutanugarn, Canada’s recent winner Brooke Henderson and Australia’s in-form Minjee Lee ahead of her in the betting. Lee has finished in the top four in three of her last five starts but has not won a Major in 25 attempts. The 14-1 seems too short.

Henderson, only 20, is a real talent but, like Jutanugarn, has only a ninth and two down-the-field efforts at Evian. Again, 14-1 is no great bargain.

Preferred on course form and price are former world number ones Lydia Ko and Shanshan Feng.

Ko, the 2015 winner and still only 21, was only a shot out of last year’s play-off and was runner-up as a 16-year-old amateur when Suzann Pettersen won in 2013. 

After a barren 2017 when she was reorganising her game, coach and equipment, she bounced back this year with victory in the Mediheal Championship and played nicely on her two latest outings.

Chinese veteran Feng has been super-consistent in finishing third, fourth and sixth in the last three Evians. She looks booked for the frame.

Nordqvist has changed coaches and is experimenting. The new swing is still bedding in, so it will quite a feat to retain her title, while Hull has had injury problems and is struggling for form.

Bigger dangers are Meijer Classic winner So Yeon Ryu, second and third in the last two Majors, and Japan's Nasa Hataoka, while English prospect Bronte Law has posted good results in her rookie year in the States and is a lively outsider at 80-1.

Staking plan
G Hall
2pts each-way 25-1 general
Sung Hyun Park
2pts each-way 16-1 general
L Ko
1.5pts each-way 20-1 Betfair
S Feng
0.5pt each-way 22-1 bet365, Paddy Power, Sky Bet
B Law
0.5pt each-way 80-1 Betfred

The lowdown
The fifth hole at Evian Golf Club

Course Evian Resort GC, Evian-les-Bains, France

Prize money $3.85m ($57,500 to winner)

Length 6,482 yards Par 71 Field 120

Course records – Old course 72 holes Juli Inkster (2003) 18 holes 63 Helen Alfredsson (2008), Stacy Lewis (2012) New course 72 holes 263 In Gee Chun (2016) 18 holes 63 In Gee Chun, Sung Hyun Park (both 2016)

Course winners taking part Paula Creamer, Inbee Park (twice),
In Gee Chun, Anna Nordqvist

When to bet By 6am Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Mix from 10am Thursday

Time difference France is one hour ahead of UK & Ireland

Latest form – Portland Classic (LPGA Tour) 1 M Alex, 2 G Hall, 3 A Uehara, 4 Minjee Lee, 5 M Khang; French Open (LET Tour) 1 C Hedwall, 2 L Bergman, 3 NK Madsen, S Kemp, L Carlsson, L Sobron

Course overview A tight parkland test that hosted the Evian Masters as an LPGA Tour event from 2000 in a European beauty spot close to the France-Switzerland border. Substantially altered in 2011-12 in line with its upgraded status as a Major and a name change. For Masters, read Championship. All tees modified and fairways reworked with special attention given to the greens, all remodelled and made firmer with large surfaces. More numerous and more ambitious obstacles, in particular water hazards, were created and deeper bunkers repositioned.

Story of last year In a tournament reduced to 54 holes by bad weather, Sweden's Anna Nordqvist prevailed in a play-off with American Brittany Altomare after they had tied on

Weather forecast Rainy but warm (24C to 26C) for first three days, better on Sunday

Type of player suited to challenge Still not a long course after the changes, it rewards basic skills over power, particularly now greater demands have been made on position and strategy.

Key attribute Accuracy

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Hall has already shown her liking for the Evian by finishing tenth on debut last year
E.W. Terms
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