The LPGA's fifth major, The Evian Championship, has been controversial at times and, at its worst, a disaster. The France event has a stunning setting, a big purse and a great party atmosphere. But in September, it must be bottling season for Evian, as the rain pours and pours on a nearly annual basis.
The weather was so bad in 2017's edition that commissioner Mike Whan felt compelled to wipe out scores on Thursday after suspending play while gale-force winds blew players off the course. The event -- again, a major -- was shortened to 54 holes and won by Anna Nordqvist in a playoff over Brittany Altomare in a borderline squall.
It was a bad look. The LPGA did its best at the time to defend the decision, but the feedback was clear: If Evian was going to remain a major, it had to move back toward the French summer where it had camped out on the schedule before becoming a major.
Whan has come around on the notion, and he's finding a way to move The Evian Championship back to a more weather-friendly date.
“We will get Evian back to a summer date, it may not be in ’18 but certainly by ’19,” said Whan on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive". “When I think about the Evian Championship, the challenges we faced are all man-made and I’m the man who made them.”
This shift implies some other moves in the schedule, including the possibility that the KPMG Women's PGA Championship could become the final major of the year in the fall instead of The Evian.
Whan is also planning to move another weather-plagued event from this year. After The Evian debacle, the inaugural McKayson New Zealand Women's Open faced even more brutal weather at times, with players expressing fear for their safety as winds blew flagsticks, umbrellas and scoring infrastructure around the golf course. Belen Mozo even suggested the LPGA made player safety secondary to other issues. The event won't be played in autumn 2018 so that it can be moved to spring 2019 in aim of finding better weather.
Given the backlash over both events, Whan had little choice but to pursue a scheduling make-good. However, he went above and beyond to take ownership, as a leader should, of a problem.
“Whether or not we should have scrapped Thursday’s rounds, I’m going to grind about that probably for 10 years," he said, "but 54 [holes] was the right decision because it was going to rain there until Wednesday.”