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The Evian Championship, the LPGA season’s final major, began disastrously, with the first round aborted because of high winds and rain. My colleague Beth Ann Nichols quoted the normally agreeable LPGA players complaining that the Evian needs to be moved back to July, when weather is less of a concern, and griping about the course.
It didn’t end much better, despite a sudden-death playoff between Anna Nordqvist and Brittany Altomare that should have been compelling TV. The playoff was held in heavy rain and hail, which probably would have led to a cessation of play if not for the desire to get a winner before darkness, which was nearing.
The weather proved difficult for the players and the production crew. As Nordqvist and Altomare were preparing to hit their second shots on the playoff hole, 18th-tower analyst Judy Rankin said, Let’s get back to the problems at hand.
OK, and there are plenty of them, said Sandy Mackenzie, the on-course reporter. This first ball is sitting so deep, there is absolutely no chance . . .
Then coverage faded to a commercial break and we never saw the second shots from the right rough. Mike Ritz attributed the problem to technical difficulties when the show came back on air. A Golf Channel spokesman said the production issue was weather-related.
The conditions were so bad that Altomare had to wait to hit her approach shot while the grounds crew squeegeed puddles off the green. She had to wait again on her fifth shot as the grounds crew walked across her putting line to clear more puddles. It was a terrible visual for the end of a major championship.
Nordqvist mercifully ended it by getting up and down from the greenside rough for bogey. Not exactly the thrilling conclusion one might have hoped for.
Anchor Terry Gannon started to fete Nordqvist The 30-year-old from Sweden (is) the winner of this Evian Championship. . . before his voice faded and Ritz took viewers to a quick exit. No interviews with Nordqvist and Altomare, no trophy presentation. This closing sequence was cleaned up on the replay that aired on NBC, though we only saw an interview with Nordqvist on the abbreviated Golf Central Pregame.
By the way, Brandel Chamblee made a good point on the pregame show, noting that Nordqvist caught a break when her approach to 18 landed between two bunkers rather than in one. She gets it up and down out of the bunker 22 percent of the time, Chamblee said. That is the lowest percentage of anybody getting it up and down out of a bunker I’ve ever seen for a professional player. (If we’re being picky, Laura Davies and Mariah Stackhouse have lower sand-save percentages. Still, it’s a good observation.)
There are a lot of good things happening at the LPGA, and the Golf Channel crew that follows that tour is usually good listening. But like the year’s first major the ANA Inspiration and the Lexi Thompson kerfuffle the year’s final major probably was a week when everyone would like to take a mulligan.
(Note: This story appears in the Sept. 16, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)
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