Minjee Lee wins 2021 Evian Championship – as it happened

Last modified: 04: 07 PM GMT+0

Pretty much a perfect day for Minjee Lee, then, as she wins her first major title. It had long been coming after a series of high finishes at the ANA Inspiration and the British Open. But what a way to do it! A flawless 64 - with a few birdie chances left out there, too - followed by one of the great carpe-diem approaches in the play-off. Not such a great Sunday for Jeongeun Lee6, though, who fought back bravely after a dismal front nine, only to fall at the last. Ah well, she’ll always have Charleston, as well as Friday’s 61. She’ll be back. Commiserations to Lee6, and many congratulations to the new Evian champion Lee. Thanks for reading this hole-by-hole report!

-18: Lee, Lee6 (Lee won at first play-off hole)
-17: Noh
-15: Furue
-14: Thitikul
-13: Maguire, Hall, Chun, Ko
-11: Anannarukarn, Yang
-10: Park, Stephenson, Lang

That’s a record-equalling performance by Minjee Lee, who started the day seven shots behind Jeongeun Lee6. It’s a feat only previously achieved in the majors by Patty Sheehan at the LPGA in 1983 and Karrie Webb at the 2006 Kraft Nabisco (now the ANA Inspiration). Webb, the seven-time major winning Australian, is Lee’s hero, so there’s a pleasing circularity to this story.

After giving Jeongeun Lee6 a consoling hug, and being sprayed with champagne and then bottled water (Evian of course) by friends, the new champion Minjee Lee talks to NBC: “I had 173 metres into the pin ... I said 5-iron but had some adrenaline and my caddy said 6-iron, so thanks to Gilly ... it was really close and I’m really happy ... I never thought about winning while playing, I just tried to make as many birdies as I could ... I saw the leaderboard maybe once or twice ... I just tried to play to the best of my ability and [dissolves into laughter] it’s really great to win a major!” She goes on to thank her family for all the sacrifices they have made, even though it’s early in the morning back home. “I know they’ll be really happy and I am too!” She then takes ownership of a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot and has a healthy swig. She deserves every drop. What a way to win a major!

Minjee Lee wins the Evian!

The eagle putt doesn’t drop, but Minjee Lee cares not a jot! Finally, the Aussie rules at a major championship!

Jeongeun Lee6’s par putt stays high on the left. Bogey, and so Minjee Lee will have three putts for the Evian Championship!

Jeongeun Lee6 wedges onto the green, but she’ll be putting for par from 15 feet before Minjee Lee has a look at eagle from half the distance. This is over, and Lee, who will have two putts for the title, allows herself a smile. After all the waiting, she’s going to make it at last!

Oh this is awful to see. Jeongeun Lee6 hits her iron thin. She peers after it with pleading eyes, holding onto hope for a split second. Then her face falls, and her head bows, as it lands in the reeds at the front of the green and splashes into the water. What a heartbreaking end to her fine fightback. She’ll most likely need a miracle chip-in now.

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Minjee Lee with a 6-iron from 190 yards. She plays one of the shots of her life, creaming it straight at the flag, landing softly on the front of the green, the ball rolling pin high to six feet! What a chance for eagle! The pressure is piled onto Jeongeun Lee6.

Jeongeun Lee6 responds with an almost identical drive. A little down the left, the camber of the fairway bringing it into the middle. She’s a good 20 yards longer than her opponent. Meanwhile a fun fact from the dude at NBC: these two players were born one day apart in May 1996. For the record, Minjee is the older of the pair.

Minjee Lee has today’s low score after her round of 64, so it’s her honour. She sent her tee shot into the trees down the left earlier, but there’s no such drama this time. She cracks one down the middle.

It’s a sudden-death play-off. Both players are transported back to the 18th tee by buggy. Some fun and games coming up! Jeongeun Lee6 has birdied the hole every day; Minjee Lee has made three birdies and, on Friday, an eagle. Anything can happen here, and probably will. Here we go!

That’s some comeback by Jeongeun Lee6. More accurately, it was some collapse on the front nine, then it was some comeback coming home. And they call football a game of two halves. Both players will therefore be feeling rather good for contrasting reasons: Lee6 after a successful salvage job, Minjee Lee after her wonderful blemish-free round of 64. Play-off coming up!

-18: Lee, Lee6
-17: Noh
-15: Furue
-14: Thitikul
-13: Maguire, Hall, Chun, Ko

Minjee Lee and Jeongeun Lee6 to play-off

Jeongeun Lee6 tidies up, and it’s an eventful level-par 71! Out in 39, back in 32, with birdies on the final three holes to force a play-off with Minjee Lee!

It’s so close but so far for Yealimi Noh, whose birdie putt from eight feet slips by. A final round of 67, and ultimately that wayward drive cost her. She won’t be celebrating her 20th birthday tomorrow with the Evian trophy, but once the sting subsides, she’ll celebrate the greatest week of her young career and build from there. A bittersweet smile. What a performance! What a prospect.

Jeongeun Lee6 has a downhill 20-foot eagle putt for the win. She’s not going to die wondering, and gives it a good run. It’s never turning back enough from the right and rolls three feet past. Still some work to do if she’s to salvage a place in a play-off, and she’s missed a shorter one today.

Lydia Ko up first. She slots her fairly straight eagle putt away without fuss, and it’s a final-day 70 for the 2015 champion. On the putting green, Minjee Lee hears the eagle-volume roar and, unsure of what’s just happened, starts chomping on her nails. No need to worry ... yet.

Noh is left with a 90-yard approach. She sends her wedge over the flag. For a second, it looks as though her ball will roll into the bunker behind the green, but it bites on the apron and spins back. She’ll have an uphill look at birdie from eight feet. What a climax we have here!

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Lee6 takes a 7-iron from the centre of the fairway. She sends her approach pin high. She’ll have a 20-foot look at an eagle that’d secure the title! Whatever happens, this is some comeback after the view-through-fingers collapse of the front nine.

Ko, with nothing to play for in terms of the title, takes a shy at the green from the rough. She makes it over the water - just - and could sell that shot and outcome to either of her partners for a few pennies. Noh declines to follow her lead, and wedges out. She’ll need to get up and down from distance to make birdie and force a play-off.

Lee6 splits the fairway with her drive. Noh sends hers into the second cut down the right. She might have to lay up from there, as may Lydia Ko, who has never really got going today, and is currently one over for her round, -11 overall.

Both Noh and Lee6 have birdied this hole every time they’ve played it this week. A first par would be so painful; a first eagle would most likely win it. Birdie would book a place in a play-off.

Jeongeun Lee6 is left with a tricky left-to-right downhill slider. But she steers it in for birdie. This is such a staunch response to that front-nine collapse; since the turn, Lee6 is three under. She’s back to within a shot ... as is Yealimi Noh, who makes no mistake with her shorter birdie putt. What a denouement we have here!

-18: Lee (F)
-17: Noh (17), Lee6 (17)

Birdie for Ayaka Furue on 18. She’s back in 32, signing for a 67. She’s the new clubhouse leader for less than a minute, as Minjee Lee rolls in her birdie putt! She’s signing for a flawless 64, having birdied four of the last five holes! Is Lee about to win that elusive first major? It’s up to Yealimi and Jeongeun Lee6.

-18: Lee (F)
-16: Noh (16), Lee6 (16)
-15: Furue (F)

Minjee Lee has left herself a 110-yard approach. She sends it screeching to a halt, 12 feet from the flag. A good look at a potentially title-clinching victory coming up. Mind you, Jeongeun Lee6 and Yealimi Noh may have a thing or two to say about that: they send gorgeous wedges into 17, Lee6 landing hers eight feet away, Noh about half that! Some astonishing golf under extreme pressure right here, right now.

Minjee Lee, under the branches down the left of 18, takes her medicine and punches out. Back on 17, Jeonguen Lee6 and Yealimi Noh take turns to find the fairway with their drives.

Yealimi Noh’s birdie putt at 16 stays high on the right. She remains one off Minjee Lee’s lead ... and she’s joined there by playing partner Jeongeun Lee6, who curls in a gentle downhill right-to-left birdie putt. The overnight leader, who most expected to be mid-procession right now, is back in this! And it’s far from over, because up on 18, the leader Lee has just hooked her drive into trees down the left. It is all happening.

-17: Lee (17)
-16: Noh (16), Lee6 (16)

Lee makes it! She steers in a big right-to-left breaker to save her par, and the current Best Player Never To Win A Major remains one clear as she heads to the par-five 18th ... a hole that’s been giving up its fair share of eagles today.

-17: Lee (17)
-16: Noh (15)
-15: Lee6 (15)
-14: Thitikul (F), Furue (17)

Good news: it doesn’t look as though being put on the clock has affected the final group too much. Yealimi Noh and Jeongeun Lee6 both whip their tee shots at 16 to six feet, and will have super looks at birdie. Meanwhile up on 17, Minjee Lee zips a ludicrously fast long birdie attempt ten feet past the hole. Big par putt coming up.

Jeongeun Lee6, approaching the last-chance saloon with extreme prejudice, digs deep to salvage her par. She’s hanging on in there. Then Yealimi Noh shoves a short birdie effort wide right. She walks off looking fairly miserable, and no wonder: this final group has fallen more than a hole behind, and has been put on the clock. Noh was fined $10,000 in March for slow play at the Kia Classic, a punishment she considered unjust; this latest censure has come at exactly the wrong time as she battles to win her maiden major.

A potentially dream-shattering sand shot by Jeongeun Lee6 at the par-five 15th. Hitting three out of a greenside bunker, she doesn’t commit, and her ball only just pops out before toppling down a swale. Her chip up is heavy handed, and she’s left with an eight-footer to save her par. Meanwhile it’s par for Lydia Ko.

Closing birdie for the exciting 18-year-old Thai, Atthaya Thitikul. She signs for a 65, and is the new clubhouse leader at -14. She left a couple of shots out there on the greens, too. Back on 16, Ayaka Furue sends a tramliner into the cup for a second birdie in ta row, while her playing partner Minjee Lee leaps into the lead after sticking her tee shot to six feet and making the putt. This, it’s fair to say, is heating up nicely.

-17: Lee (16)
-16: Noh (14)
-15: Lee6 (14)
-14: Thitikul (F), Furue (16)
-13: Maguire (F), Hall (F), Ko (14)

Minjee Lee can’t quite reach the par-five 15th in two, but gets up and down to birdie anyway. She grabs back a share of the lead. Birdie too at 15 for the Japanese debutant Ayaka Furue, who has been quietly hanging around at the fringes, but is now making a belated move. Meanwhile it’s pars all round for the final group at 14. Lee6 in particular was unfortunate not to make her birdie putt.

-16: Lee (15), Noh (14)
-15: Lee6 (14)
-13: Maguire (F), Hall (F), Thitikul (17), Furue (15), Ko (14)

Lee6 and Ko take turns to use the bank to the left of the par-three 14th to guide their ball towards the flag. Ko gets the friendlier, softer bounce, her tee shot ending up 12 feet from the cup. Lee6 will have a much longer look at birdie. Noh sends her tee shot over the flag, 20 feet past.

Yealimi Noh reclaims sole ownership of the lead by caressing a wedge at 13 to six feet, then calmly slotting the putt into the centre of the cup. As easy and fuss-free as that. Pars for her partners. Birdie meanwhile for Atthaya Thitikul on 17, who has passed up some chances recently, and should be at least two strokes better off. Too little, too late?

-16: Noh (13)
-15: Lee (14), Lee6 (13)
-13: Maguire (F), Hall (F), Thitikul (17), Ko (13)

Having three-putted the 15th, Atthaya Thitikul pulls her short birdie putt at 16. The flag stick costing the young Thai a fair few quid here. She remains at -12. We’d given her that. But a putt finally drops for Minjee Lee, who sends her tee shot at 14 to 12 feet, and knocks the putt in for a tie of the lead!

-15: Lee (14), Noh (12), Lee6 (12)
-13: Maguire (F), Hall (F), Ko (12)
-12: Thitikul (16), Furue (14)

Georgia Hall makes her eagle on 18! Two fine strokes into the heart of the par-five, then a 25-footer poured into the centre of the cup. The former British Open champion ends the week with a 64, and she’s currently tied for the clubhouse lead with Ms 61, the record-equalling Leona Maguire. Good luck picking a winner out of this lot!

-15: Noh (12), Lee6 (12)
-14: Lee (14)
-13: Maguire (F), Hall (F), Ko (12)

Jeongeun Lee6 takes advantage of her good fortune at 12. Having been lucky to find the fairway, a friendly bounce cancelling out an errant drive, she wedges to 12 feet, then knocks in the putt. A desperately needed birdie. She clenches her fist in determined celebration, punching the air a couple of times before bumping it with her caddy. Lydia Ko is pretty pleased with her par, meanwhile, getting up and down from a swale front-left of the green.

-15: Noh (12), Lee6 (12)
-14: Lee (13)

Minjee Lee lets yet another birdie opportunity pass her by. To be fair, this putt came the closest of the lot, stopping the width of a dimple short. But she remains one off at -14. Soon to be one behind: Atthaya Thitikul, who responds to that deflating par on 15, having putted for eagle, by swishing her tee shot at 16 to kick-in distance. She’ll move to -13.

Minjee Lee sends her approach at 13 pin high. She’ll have a look at birdie from ten feet. She really needs to make one, having passed up very similar opportunities at 10, 11 and 12. Getting past the -14 mark is proving troublesome for the 25-year-old Aussie. Meanwhile a disappointing three-putt par for Atthaya Thitikul at 15. She remains at -12, having harboured dreams of moving to within a shot of Yealimi Noh’s lead.

A huge stroke of luck for Lydia Ko on 12. She sends a potentially disastrous hook towards the boundary fence down the left. Her ball hits a tree and drops before going OB. A little break for Jeongeun Lee6 too, as she sends her drive into the rough down the left, only for her ball to skip out and back onto the short stuff. Her yardage book and card fell out of her pocket mid-swing, incidentally, crashing to the floor like a hackneyed metaphor. Noh splits the fairway.

Jeongeun Lee6 birdied 11 on Thursday and Friday. She holed out from the fairway for eagle yesterday. But the luck’s not with her today. She fires her approach straight at the flag, but the ball bites hard and spins 20 feet away. Her birdie putt then stops one dimple short. She drops her head in anguish, but at least this is a world away from that horror showing on the front nine. Pars for Ko and the leader Noh.

Another birdie for Georgia Hall, this time at 17. If she wants a share of Leona Maguire’s clubhouse lead, she’ll need an eagle up the last. Perfectly possible.

Atthaya Thitikul can’t make her birdie on 14. She remains at -12. It was a hole birdied a few moments earlier by Georgia Hall, who is shaping up for a strong finish. The 2018 British Open champion is currently -10 with the final two holes to play.

Lee6 can’t make her birdie putt on 10. A little bit disappointing, but she’d have surely grabbed par with both hands when observing her drive whistling towards the trees. Ko pars as well. Things are getting real.

-15: Noh (10)
-14: Lee (11), Lee6 (10)
-13: Maguire (F), Ko (10)
-12: Furue (11), Thitikul (13)
-11: Chun (12)

Noh isn’t the only teenager fighting for the title. The 18-year-old Thai, Atthaya Thitikul, is right in the hunt, and she rolls in a 20-footer on 13 for a birdie that brings her to within two of the lead. She’s -13, and looking good for another at the par-three 14th, having fired her tee shot to 12 feet.

A nerve-settling wedge into 10 for Lee6. Having wriggled out of trouble, she fist-bumps her caddy. Sometimes the smallest things can turn things around. Goodness knows she needs something. Big birdie putt coming up from 15 feet or so. Meanwhile what moxie on display from Yealimi Noh, who having skied that drive, cracks a long iron front-right of the green, about the best she could do from distance, then lobs high and screeches her ball to kick-in distance. That’s a lovely par save.

Yealimi Noh, the new leader of the Evian, skies her drive at 10. She guffaws, wide-eyed, covering her mouth in a what-just-happened fashion. She’s very fortunate that her ball reaches the fairway. Just. The deposed Jeongeun Lee6 flays her tee shot towards the trees down the left. Her ball takes a walk down the cart path before finally opting to stop. She’ll get relief, but whether she has a route to the green isn’t yet clear. Lydia Ko, who is right in this despite having spent most of the day so far driving like Seve, finally finds a fairway. The smart money right now will be on her and Minjee Lee.

Lee6’s par putt never looks like dropping. It flies past the right side of the cup, more than the width of a ball away, and stops six feet past. That is nothing short of appalling, and given that her head is clearly addled at the moment, she does very well to tidy up for bogey. But that’s five shots gone in the last seven holes. The hunted becomes hunter. Meanwhile Minjee Lee passes up opportunity to grab a share of the lead by missing a five-footer for birdie on 10.

-15: Noh (9)
-14: Lee (10), Lee6 (9)
-13: Maguire (F), Ko (10)

Jeongeun Lee6 is in danger of falling apart. From the back of 9, she chunks a chip, then leaves an awful long putt 12 feet short. Her head must be swimming right now. Meanwhile it’s a par for Yealimi Noh, and birdie for Lydia Ko, despite her drive failing to find the fairway.

Minjee Lee gets up and down from a bunker at the par-five 9th to turn in 32. Nice and steady may win this race. She’s one off the lead at -14. Coming up behind, Yealimi Noh finds the same trap, while Jeongeun Lee6 flies her second over the back. This really is too close to call now. Who’d have thought it, a couple of hours ago?

-15: Noh (8), Lee6 (8)
-14: Lee (9)
-13: Maguire (F), Ko (8)
-11: Chun (11), Furue (9), Thitikul (11)

Leona Maguire shoots record-equalling 61

An eagle chance for Leona Maguire, from the fringe at the par-five 18th. If she holes it, she’ll be the first person, woman or man, to shoot 60 in a major! Sadly, she misreads her putt from 15 feet, which breaks violently to the right, and ends five feet from the hole. But she’s not letting history totally wriggle from her grasp, and rolls in the birdie putt for a record-equalling 61! She’s alongside Kim Hyo-joo and Jeongeun Lee6 in the record books, both players having made their mark on this very same course. She’s the clubhouse leader at -13.

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How will Yealimi Noh react, now the hunter is one of the hunted? By creaming her drive at the par-five 9th straight down the middle, is how. Lydia Ko’s tee shot flies into the thick rough down the right, but Jeongeun Lee6, who could be forgiven for being in shock, finds the short stuff.

Yealimi Noh bounces back in style. She swishes her tee shot at the par-three 8th to 15 feet, and gently strokes a right-to-left downhill slider into the cup for her birdie! She turns 20 tomorrow, and a first major championship would be one hell of an early birthday present. And this is properly on now, because Jeongeun Lee6 yips a two-footer for par, and her five-shot overnight lead is gone. She walks off shaking her head, as well she might. Bogey for Lydia Ko as well, the result of a weak chip.

-15: Noh (8), Lee6 (8)
-13: Lee (8)
-12: Maguire (17), Ko (8)

Another birdie for Leona Maguire! This is a sensational effort from Cavan’s finest. She sends her second at 17 to six feet, and tidies up for her third in a row. She’s on course for a 62 ... and if she can make something on 18, a par five, she’ll equal the all-time 18-hole major-championship record!

Noh can’t make her long par putt on 7, and that’s a very untidy bogey. Ko does very well to get up and down from the back to scramble her par. Lee6’s 12-foot birdie effort never looks like dropping, but she’ll be more than happy with another par, the bleeding stemmed, her cushion at the top back to two strokes.

-16: Lee6 (7)
-14: Noh (7)
-13: Lee (8), Ko (7)

Fun and games on 8. Pajaree Anannarukarn had been going backwards at speed, after bogeys at 3, 4 and 5. But the 22-year-old Thai, whose best result at a major is a tie for 14th at the 2019 PGA, birdied 6 and now picks up another 8 in entertaining fashion. She splashes out elegantly from a greenside bunker. Her ball stops stubbornly on the lip. She takes every second of her allotted time, and eventually the ball drops of its own accord! No need to get the putter out. She’s -10.

Noh is still 85 yards from the flag, and in thick rough. She finds the green, but not in particularly convincing fashion, and she’ll be left with an uphill 30-footer for her par. Ko meanwhile sends her third down a swale to the back. This is all good news for Lee6, who is on in regulation.

Leona Maguire is not far off acing the par-three 16th! She kicks in for birdie, and if she pars the final two holes, she’ll be signing for a wonderful closing round of 63. As things stand, she’s -11. Meanwhile back on 7, the problems continue for Yealimi Noh, whose third snags more rough down the right. Having done so well to close the gap, she’s in danger of running up a score here.

Minjee Lee birdies the long par-five 7th to move to within three at -13. Could this finally be the Australian’s time in the majors? Back down the hole, a bit of bother for Yealimi Noh, whose drive nestles behind a tree down the left. She’s forced to chip out sideways, but overcooks it and whistles her ball into the rough on the other side. That’s careless, and could prove costly.

Georgia Hall hit the turn in 33, and continues to move in the right direction. The erstwhile British Open champ birdies 10 to move to -9. Sarah Kemp drops her first shot of the day at 10, slipping to -9, her first top-ten finish at a major suddenly in a little danger. And Amy Yang, who has 18 top-ten finishes to her name without ever breaking through to win, birdies 11. It’s her third of the day, and the 31-year-old Korean is -9.

Ko is the only member of the final group to make her birdie putt on 6, and it’s all happening at the top of the leaderboard. Lee6 will take succour from snapping that run of three bogeys.

-16: Lee6 (6)
-15: Noh (6)
-13: Ko (6)
-12: Thitikul (9), Lee (6)
-11: Chun (8)
-10 Maguire (15), Kemp (9), Furue (6)

Thitikul makes her eagle putt on 9. Exactly what that absurdly good second shot deserved. The 18-year-old Thai is properly involved in this tournament now! She’s out in 31. If she keeps going, and sets a clubhouse total that gives the leading pack pause ... well. Speaking of which, a two-putt birdie for Maguire at 15 and she’s hovering on the fringes too.

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Another eagle putt coming up. This time for Atthaya Thitikul on 9, and this one is a doozy, straight at the flag and rolling serenely to five feet. A huge chance to get properly involved. Meanwhile on 6, all three members of the final three-ball lightly pepper the pin. Lydia Ko will have the best look at birdie. Leaderboard action ahoy!

Minjee Lee now has a realistic chance of breaking her major duck. A 20-foot birdie putt at 6 shaves the hole, and the 25-year-old from Perth remains at -12. Meanwhile Leona Maguire sets up a look at eagle on 15, using the slope on the right-hand side of the green to gather her ball to 20 feet.

... and now it’s just the one, because Lee6 can’t make her par saver. It’s three bogeys in a row, and this is now officially a crisis for the 54-hole leader, who had a five-shot advantage when she took to the tee just over an hour ago.

-16: Lee6 (5)
-15: Noh (5)
-12: Lee (5), Ko (5)

Ko and Lee6 take turns to splash delicately out of the sand. The results are as good as can be expected, but they’ll still have ten-footers to save their par. Noh then pours in her birdie putt, and the lead is suddenly cut to two ...

Noh cranks up the pressure by swishing her tee shot at the par-three 5th pin high to ten feet. Another look at birdie coming up! Ko meanwhile pulls into the bunker to the left. What response from Lee6, coming off the back of two bogeys? Not a good one. She follows Ko into the sand, where she’ll find herself shortsided. Another important matchplay-style exchange coming up.

Sarah Kemp has a dozen wins to her name on the Australian tour, but the 35-year-old from Sydney has no record to speak of at the majors. Her best performance - and this is by some distance - is a tie for 37th at the 2014 PGA. Kemp is looking good for something very special this week, though. She’s following up rounds of 67, 69 and 70 in some style, with birdies at 1, 5 and 6. She’s -10 for the week and on course for the biggest week in her career.

For the second hole in a row, Noh passes up a very decent birdie opportunity. A makeable right-to-left slider stays out on the high side. Ko can’t get up and down from sand; bogey. And Lee6 sends a clumsy chip four feet past, her putt coming back lipping out. Consecutive bogeys, and the lead is now three. Noh will be cursing those two missed birdie putts; she’d be right on Lee6’s shoulder had she made them. Still, par on the hardest hole on the course isn’t to be sniffed at, and she’s closing in.

-17: Lee6 (4)
-14: Noh (4)
-12: Lee (4), Ko (4)
-11: Chun (5), Furue (4), Thitikul (7)

Are Lee6’s nerves beginning to jangle already? Another wayward tee shot, this time at 4, gets a lucky bounce out of the rough down the right and into the semi. That leaves a long second, and she can’t get over the false front of the green, leaving a chip and a putt for par. Ko doesn’t take advantage, sending her second wide right of the green, but Noh gives herself another look at birdie, this time from 12 feet. Of the final three-ball, the debutant is looking the most composed, while the two former major winners are a little bit scrappy.

Three birdies in a row for Atthaya Thitikul. The 18-year-old from Thailand is making her Evian debut, and is doing so in some style. The birdie blitz, at 4, 5 and now 6, takes her up the leaderboard to -11. Were it not for the four shots she dropped in five holes on the front nine on Friday, she’d be seriously in the mix. That’s not to say she’s out of it, but like so many others in the chasing pack, she’ll require a collapse from Lee6 if she’s to have any hope.

Noh’s birdie effort is poor. It’s always missing to the left, from the second it leaves the face of her flat stick. A chance for Lee6 to escape without any damage ... but she doesn’t take it, pushing her putt to the right. She walks off with a smile and a sigh, having made her first bogey of the day. Her lead is cut to four, though it could have been worse had Noh taken her chance. Ko pars in fuss-free fashion.

-18: Lee6 (3)
-14: Noh (3)
-13: Ko (3)
-12: Lee (3)

Rookies winning majors is in vogue right now, after Collin Morikawa’s antics at Sandwich last week. How about his fellow Californian repeating the trick here at the Evian? Yealimi Noh has just sent a crisp 8-iron to six feet at 3, while Jeongeun Lee6 is left with a monster putt, having sent her drive up a bank to the left of the fairway, and only just making the fringe with her second. Lee6’s putt isn’t all that, and she’s left with a six footer of her own for par. Big couple of putts coming up.

It’s been a mixed morning for England’s biggest stars. The 2018 British Open champ Georgia Hall birdies 3 and 6 to rise to -8. But Charley Hull is two over for her round through 3, and she’s quickly dropping down the standings. She’s -7 overall.

The leading trio play the par-three 2nd in distinctly average style. Lee6 only just finds the front of the green, with the pin towards the back. She sends her long birdie putt four feet past, though strokes the one coming back into the centre of the cup for her par. Ko’s story is pretty much the same. Noh has the best chance of birdie, but clumsily clanks a 12-foot chance three feet past, and only just makes the par putt, the right-hand lip snatching the ball just in time. Lee6’s five-stroke lead remains intact, and she’s one hole closer to home.

Another birdie for Leona Maguire! This one comes at 10, and at this rate the in-form Irish star will be hunting down the historical 61s shot by Kim Hyo-joo and Jeongeun Lee6. Just the four more birdies required, as she’s already six under for her round. She’s -9.

Updated

Ko and Noh follow Lee6 in to make it three birdies out of three, and it’s been the fastest of starts by the leading group. There’s a low score out here for someone today.

-19: Lee6 (1)
-14: Noh (1)
-13: Ko (1)
-12: Lee (1)

Turns out Ko found a fairway bunker instead of the rough down the right of 1. A bit of a break, and she takes advantage by clipping her second to eight feet. That’s a fine shot, though it’s bettered by Noh, who powers out of the rough to five feet. Then it’s the only member of the final three-ball to find the fairway, and of course Lee6 ends up the furthest away, albeit only by a couple of feet. That’s golf for you. No matter, she rolls in the putt for an opening birdie, and it’s the perfect start for the leader, who moves to -19.

The first significant moves at the top have been made. A second birdie of the day for Chun In-gee, who rolls a delicate but fast 20-footer into the cup at 2. An opening birdie for Minjee Lee. And here we are.

-18: Lee6
-13: Noh
-12: Lee (1), Ko
-11: Chun (2), Anannarukam (1)

The final match of the 2021 Evian Championship takes to the tee! The leader Jeongeun Lee6 is up first, and can be forgiven for suffering a few jangling nerves; this tournament is hers to lose after all. But she sends her opening drive down the right-hand side of the fairway. Yealimi Noh’s tee shot ends up in the thick stuff down the right. And finally here’s Lydia Ko, perhaps the biggest danger to Lee6 with two majors in the bag, including this one in 2015. She follows Noh into the rough down the right. OK, this is on!

Here’s another former champion starting quickly. Kim Hyo-joo won this title in 2014, shooting 61 in the first round while doing so. That set a record low score for 18 holes at any major, women’s or men’s, a mark that still stands and was equalled on Friday by Jeongeun Lee6. Kim starts this morning with birdie at the opening hole, and like her compatriot Chun, moves to -10.

Chun In-gee won this title back in 2016 in record-breaking fashion. She posted a total of 21 under par that week, a mark that remains the lowest at a major tournament for women and men. There’s a fair chance that an on-song Jeongeun Lee6 will beat that today, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there’s plenty of golf to be played. Anyway, Chun sends her second at 1 to six feet, and guides in a gently oscillating birdie putt to move to -10.

Also going well: Lizette Salas. The 32-year-old Californian pushed Nelly Korda all the way at the PGA last month; she’s also got a second-place finish at the British Open on her CV, one putt away from taking Hinako Shibuno to a play-off at Woburn in 2019. There’ll be no similarly heady finish this week, but birdies at 1, 3, 5 and 7 have brought her to -7 and a top-ten finish is suddenly within reach.

The course is going to play a little longer as the result of the earlier rain. The Domaine du Royal Club Evian isn’t too much of a trek at the best of times, and there are a lot of front flag positions today, so that shouldn’t cause the field too many issues; in fact the softer greens will give the chasing pack a chance to get aggressive and put some early pressure on the leader. To illustrate, may we present as evidence Leona Maguire: the 26-year-old from County Cavan in Ireland has fair flown out of the traps today: birdies at 1, 2, 3, 7 and now 8 have whisked her right up the leaderboard to -8.

It’s a misty morning on the shores of Lake Geneva. There were storms last night, while some thunder rolled in a couple of hours ago. As a result, there has been a 40-minute delay. The final group is expected out at 11.30am BST. Meaningful action will be dispatched in your direction, with great feeling, the minute it occurs. Stay with us!

Preamble

This really should be a procession for the 2019 US Open champion Jeongeun Lee6. Thanks in large part to a major-championship record-equalling 61 on Friday, the 25-year-old with five namesakes on the Korean Tour sits atop the leaderboard after 54 holes in a very comfortable position.

-18: Jeongeun Lee6
-13: Yealimi Noh
-12: Lydia Ko
-11: Mingee Lee, Ayaka Furue, Pajaree Anannarukarn
-10: Ariya Jutanugarn

Then again, Lexi Thompson shipped a five-shot lead on the back nine at the US Open last month; Patty Tavatanakit had a five-shot lead going into Sunday at this year’s ANA Inspiration, and was very nearly denied by Lydia Ko’s final-day hail-Mary 62; Lee6 herself survived a late wobble when winning that aforementioned 2019 US Open; and it’s major-championship golf, so, well, y’know. Anything can happen. So let’s get out there and see what develops at Evian Resort Golf Club, Évian-les-Bains, France. C’est en marche!

Contributor

Scott Murray

The GuardianTramp

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