EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — The Evian Championship will bid farewell to September, and hopefully its bad weather, when the final women's golf major of the season starts Thursday.
It's the final edition of Evian before it reverts to its former July slot in 2019, a move that players hope will avoid more weather-hit days like last year's opening round — which was wiped out by a severe storm.
However, rain and possible thunderstorms are forecast for the first round at the picturesque hillside course overlooking Lake Geneva, after Wednesday's final practice was held in sunshine and 83-degree (28 C) heat.
"It deserves to be played in great conditions," defending champion Anna Nordqvist said Wednesday. "It's really one of the best events we have all year."
Nordqvist won her second career major last year in a playoff through a hailstorm that was chilling even to a native Swede.
"Everyone who has grown up in Europe knows that September can be a little sketchy. July is going to be great," she said.
The 2017 edition saw Thursday's round stopped because of the storm before all scores were struck and a Friday restart was ordered. Twice in its five years as a major, Evian became a 54-hole event.
Evian is also the last chance for the United States to win a women's major this season. The previous four went to Europe or Asia: The ANA Inspiration to Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden, the U.S. Women's Open to second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, the U.S. Women's PGA to top-ranked Sung Hyun Park of South Korea, and a crowd-pleasing English win for Georgia Hall at the British Women's Open.
Since the French event's status was raised to a fifth major in 2013, American players have won at least one of them each year.
Only two of 21 tournaments had American winners since the LPGA Tour returned to the U.S. in March from a swing through Asia. Annie Park won the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June, and two weeks ago Marina Alex won the Cambia Portland Classic.
The top-ranked American, No. 5 Lexi Thompson, is seeking her first title in 2018 and skipped the British Open last month. Thompson, the runner-up here in 2015, wrote on Instagram that she wanted "to recharge my mental batteries, and to focus on myself away from the game of professional golf."
Now ranked No. 42, Brittany Altomare is returning to the site of her career-best result as runner-up to Nordqvist last year.
The American challenge also includes 16-year-old Rachel Heck of Memphis, who received a wild card to play in her second major. At the 2017 U.S. Women's Open, she placed 33rd.