In 2013 the Evian Masters, in Évian-les-Bains, France, will become the LPGA's fifth major. The event will be run by the LPGA, with tour officials handling course setup, officiating and dictating the field size, probably 115 players. There will be fewer sponsor exemptions, and they will have minimum performance criteria attached. Upgraded television production will meet acceptable levels for U.S. network broadcast.
I'm old school. I prefer the tradition of four majors, but the LPGA's schedule has shriveled from 33 official events to 24 in less than half a decade, so it's time to think differently. At least that's the way LPGA commissioner Mike Whan looks at it. Whan and Evian chairman and CEO Franck Riboud(left) needed some creativity to overcome the hurdles. The first is the course, Evian Masters Golf Club, which isn't major worthy. Enter architect Steve Smyers. The existing course will be torn up the day after the 2012 event and be redone by late spring 2013, thanks in part to Riboud's insistence that it be sodded, not seeded. The second problem was the schedule, which suddenly had three majors in one month. To fix that Whan has moved the Evian to mid-September, starting in '13. The last and largest obstacle was granting major status to an 11-year-old event. But consider the Kraft Nabisco, which started as the Dinah Shore in 1972 based on what seemed like a crazy mix of golf and celebrity. Many scoffed at making that event a major in 1983, and those same people will probably grouse about the Evian. Not me.
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA veteran and an analyst for NBC.