In an exciting development, the R&A has increased the prize pot for the season’s final major by $1.3 million to $5.8 million, with the winner on Sunday picking up $870,000.
With the support of finance and insurance giant AIG, it will then increase by a further $1m to $6.8m for the event’s first visit to Muirfield in a year’s time.
Also run by the R&A, the men’s Open carried a prize fund of $11.5m at Royal St George’s last month, when American Collin Morikawa picked up a winner’s cheque for $2.07m.
Slowly but surely, though, on what has been described as a “journey”, the equality gap is closing, with next year’s AIG Women’s Open purse set to be double what it was before AIG took over the title sponsorship in 2019.
“AIG has consistently continued to make a strong commitment to grow its investment, and this is exactly the sort of backing that women's golf needs to help it flourish,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, speaking at Carnoustie on the eve of the 2021 edition.
“That is why we are both delighted to announce today that we are setting a new benchmark for prize-money in women's major golf.
“We believe that this action to make changes sends a strong signal that more needs to be done, and I believe can be done, by everyone involved in our sport.”
Having talked in the past about their shared desire to grow the event, both in terms of its stature and prize-money, it was no surprise that both Slumbers and AIG president and chief executive Peter Zaffino looked pleased about the announcement.
It means the AIG Women’s Open has replaced the US Women’s Open, which was worth $5.5m this year, as having the biggest total purse, with the three other women’s majors currently carrying $4.5m pots or less.
“This is something we talk about frequently,” said Zaffino on the issue of pay equality. “It's incredibly important to both of us and we want to lead the way in setting a new standard.
“But having said that, we know there's more work to be done to fully achieve pay equity, but this is a great milestone and we're on our way.”
The increase in prize-money was warmly welcomed by the world’s top players on social media, with Stacy Lewis, last year’s Women’s Scottish Open winner, describing it as “amazing news”.
Slumbers, who has also been instrumental in a Women in Golf Charter being launched in his time at the helm of the St Andrews-based organisation, is hopeful that the prize fund can keep going up.
“I'm a glass-half-full guy,” he said in reply to being asked if he felt the two Opens could end up on the same financial footing one day. “I think we've closed a huge gap over these few years, so I look at that as a positive.
“I think the direction of travel is here. But I remain consistently of the view that we need to build the financial wherewithal of women's professional golf, particularly in our championship.
“I cannot talk for anyone else's championship, but, if we keep building the value of the sponsorship, the number of people who come to watch, the value of the media rights, and if we are successful on that, then we'll continue down this journey.”