Mickey Walker: Another stellar Major year for the ladies’ game
Well done to In Gee Chun who set all manner of amazing records in her victory at the Evian. Not only does she possess a rhythmical, repetitive swing but also a deadly short game and a wonderful smile which is never far away.
Chun’s win propelled her up to third in the world rankings and if she continues to play as she did on the shores of Lake Geneva, in time, she could well join her compatriots Se Ri Pak and Inbee Park as the next Korean member of the Golf Hall of fame.
In the fullness of time we will find out if In Gee fulfills this promise but, in the meantime, her performance at Evian not only broke several records but her ever-present smile and demeanour made her a huge fan favourite. The week in Evian started with warm sunshine and the fast-running course in the best condition that it’s been in since its redesign prior to the first playing of the tournament as a Major in 2013.
From the first day the weather changed with heavy intermittent rain which was forecast for the four days. This led to the necessity of preferred lies and significantly slowed up play, but didn’t detract from an otherwise impressive and entertaining week.
Overall, it’s been a great year for women’s golf in the Majors, with five different winners from five different nations. Lydia Ko, who is still only 20 years old, won the ANA Inspiration, needing to birdie the final hole for a one shot victory.
Next up was the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship won by Canada’s Brooke Henderson after a magnificent final round of 65 to catch Lydia and subsequently birdie the first extra hole of a play-off.
The US Women’s Open was next and again it needed a play-off to decide the winner. This time it was the American Brittany Lang versus Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist in the three-hole play-off.
Once again the USGA, who run the Championship and are responsible for setting and administering the rules of golf, came in for criticism for the timing of when they told Anna that she had incurred a two-shot penalty for touching the sand during her backswing in a fairway bunker on the 17th hole.
Ultimately this would cost Anna a chance to win but the timing of when both Anna and Brittany were told of the rule infraction caused both players to alter their strategy on the final hole of the play-off.
Then came the Women’s British Open played on the Marquess at Woburn. This was comfortably won by Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, the 20-year-old big-hitting sensation whose career had stalled when she had required shoulder surgery following a water fight with her older sister Moriya.
In 2016 following her recovery she had considered giving up playing such was her frustration at her poor performances but then, after working with Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott on the mental side of her game, she turned her game around and, having won four LPGA tournaments prior to arriving, proceeded to lead from start to finish to win her first Major – and all without a driver in her bag!
There is no question in my mind that women’s golf globally is in great hands with the likes of the wave of youngsters in Lydia, Brooke, Ariya and In Gee vying to become, or in the case of Ko, remain as the World No 1!
With so many talented young players excelling and winning Majors this year, it will be interesting to see if that trend will continue next year, or will more players in Brittany Lang’s age group – Brittany was 31 when she won the US Women’s Open – step up to the plate?
Of course there are still a number of tournaments for the stars of the LPGA to excel in as their tour heads to Asia before returning home to Florida and I, for one, will be watching with interest.
Lady Golfer’s consulting editor Mickey Walker captained Europe in the first four Solheim Cups. She regularly appears on Sky Sports as an expert summariser.