You can’t blame the player. In fact, you should applaud Sung Hyun Park for turning things around so quickly. But the early first-round leader of the shortened Evian Championship highlighted the mistake made by officials who wiped away Thursday and chose to make the final major championship of 2017 the equivalent of a shootout in the NHL.
Park got off to an awful start on Thursday in winds that gusted upward of 40 mph. In her first five holes, she had a triple bogey and a quadruple bogey and stood at 6-over par an hour and a half into the tournament. Even if play had been suspended and resumed on Friday morning, it would have taken a herculean effort for Park to climb back to level par. Instead, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champ got a mulligan. The early scores were wiped away and, for the first time in modern history, a major was shortened to 54 holes on a Thursday.
With no wind and spongy-soft conditions (the tournament was played under lift-clean-and-place on Friday), Park’s high, long ball flight worked perfectly. She played those same first five holes in 4 under. On the par-5 13th (her group’s fourth hole) she improved by six shots – after making quadruple-bogey 9 on Thursday, she had an eagle 3 on Friday. She added five more birdies and a single bogey for 8-under 63, setting an early target score in a tournament that is now more of a 100-yard-dash than a major-championship test.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised,” Park said of the decision to cancel yesterday’s play.
Karen Stupples, a former major champion who is working the Evian event for Golf Channel, said, “I feel kind of empty by it, and a little upset.”
So Yeon Ryu, who shared the lead at 2 under in the early, brutal conditions on Thursday is far too kind to say she was upset, even though she didn’t have her best stuff on Friday. Ryu put herself in some unrecoverable spots around the sloping Evian Resort greens. She shot 4-over 76, leaving her in danger of missing her second cut in as many starts.
Just what role Thursday’s decision played on the psychology of the players is unknown, but as Ryu told me on Friday by text, “They’d already made the decision before we had a meeting. You cannot call it a meeting, really.” Then, proving her mastery of the subtle dig in a second language, Ryu said, “It is what it is.”