Exclusive: Evian will be LPGA’s 5th major in ’13

The Evian Masters, long a favorite among LPGA players for its Parisian stage and bulging purse, is going to be an even bigger hit.

Beginning in 2013, Evian will be designated as a major championship, the LPGA’s fifth, sources told Golfweek.

The LPGA’s number of major championships has been a moving target over the years. The tour’s current majors – Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wegmans LPGA Championship, U.S. Women’s Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open – have been a foursome only since 2001. Before the British Open achieved major status, the du Maurier Classic was the tour’s fourth major, from 1979 to 2000.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, bagging a major was more difficult: The LPGA had three majors on its schedule from 1979 to ’82, and only two for most of the ’70s.

For years, Evian has pushed to become a major. According to sources, tournament officials agreed to numerous changes proposed by LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, notably a lengthening of scenic Evian Masters Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains from its current 6,344 yards. On this year’s schedule, the Evian precedes the Women’s British, so the French stop likely would move to the fall.

A formal announcement is expected to be made during the July 21-24 Evian event.

Opinions at the recent U.S. Women’s Open were mixed.

“More chances to win,” said Jiyai Shin, whose eight LPGA victories include the 2008 Ricoh Women’s British Open. “That’s a good thing.”

Not necessarily so, according to a winner of multiple major titles who requested anonymity.

“As a traditionalist, I originally probably would be opposed to something like that,” said the veteran player. “But certain situations and a commitment from a certain sponsor over a long period of time has raised the purse that we play for at the U.S. Open. That commitment, we don’t have from any of our other sponsors.”

Evian awards $3.25 million in prize money – the same purse as the U.S. Women’s Open.

Another change also is in the works: Sources tell Golfweek the Wegmans LPGA Championship, now played at Locust Hill Country Club, could move to a three-course rotation in the Rochester, N.Y., area and push back a couple of weeks in June, to distance the event from the U.S. Women’s Open.

This year, three majors and the Evian Masters were held in a six-week span. The idea that one player could get red-hot in the summer and sweep the season-ending awards isn’t widely embraced on tour.

There has been discussion that the LPGA may not stop at five majors, either. With so many Asian events on the schedule and numerous young Asian stars – add recent Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu to the talent from the East – the LPGA could possibly designate a major in Asia, too. One candidate for elevation: the early-season HSBC Champions in Singapore.

After all, can there be too much of a good thing?

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