The first year of the Chevron Championship’s Houston era is complete. The move from Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, which hosted the tournament for over 50 years, was never going to be a seamless transition. As Garrett wrote on Wednesday, there’s a delicate balance between creating new traditions and honoring the history of the Dinah Shore. After four rounds at Carlton Woods, we know more about what worked and what didn’t.
One of the best ways to confront the narrative questioning the event’s “major-ness” was for it to produce an exciting tournament and a worthy champion. Most of Sunday’s final round didn’t deliver much excitement, with tough playing conditions putting the day firmly in the “slog” category for many of the contenders. And then things got weird at the 18th.
There was an all-world shank from A Lim Kim. Atthaya Thitikul dumped her approach in the lake. Allisen Corpuz hooped one into the mesh of the grandstand. A clutch birdie from Angel Yin, who struggled down the stretch after leading most of the day, put her in a playoff with clubhouse leader Lilia Vu. The final hole chaos continued into the playoff with Vu and Yin both going for the green in two. With a free drop in play just beyond the green, Yin inexplicably under-clubbed her approach into the lake. Having the advantage of playing second, Vu put her approach safely past the green, and just as she did in regulation, drained a birdie putt for her first major and second win of the year. For Vu this marks an incredible ascension into the top tier of the women’s game for a player who almost quit a few years ago. It was also a storybook finish for the new-look Chevron Championship, an exciting conclusion that offers the tournament momentum to move forward and make its own history.
When Chevron’s move to Houston was announced, it was the last domino to fall for Mission Hills and the heyday of the Dinah Shore. But the first women’s major had been declining in prestige for decades. From losing the “Dinah Shore” name to the carousel of companies sponsoring the event, it was on the low rung of the major hierarchy. The final blow came in 2019 when the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur was held on the same weekend and attracted four times the viewers of the Chevron ANA Inspiration.
No longer competing with the ANWA for viewers should help the ratings. But the week still feels “less than” due to a couple of things Chevron hasn’t yet done. While the sponsor shouldn’t be expected to return the event to its former glory overnight, a good start would be to get the purse in line with the other majors. The $5.1 million in prize money awarded on Sunday pales in comparison to the purses at the U.S. Women’s Open, KMPG Women’s PGA Championship, and Women’s British Open. Matching or even surpassing those events would be a drop in the bucket for a company of Chevron’s size.
The bigger issue at hand isn’t as simple of a fix. If Chevron is going to stick with the same venue year in and year out, the course needs to be world class. Simply put: the Club at Carlton Woods ain’t it. If Chevron is set on staging the tournament in the neighborhood of its world headquarters, the discussion of whether it still deserves the “major” moniker will continue for years to come. Sunday was a great start in the latest chapter of the women’s first major, and there isn’t a magic bullet to fix decades of decline. Making these two changes would surely speed up the process.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.