Why this is no ordinary AIG Women's Open at Muirfield

This is no ordinary AIG Women’s Open. Not when we are talking about it being the event’s first visit to what many people regard as possibly the best course in the world.

General view of Muirfield, where the AIG Women's Open is being held for the first time this week. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.
General view of Muirfield, where the AIG Women's Open is being held for the first time this week. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.

“Everyone wants to win here,” declared Georgia Hall, the 2018 champion, of Muirfield, which has staged 16 men’s Opens but not the women’s equivalent until this week.

As a consequence, the final major of the 2022 season has attracted a stellar field. It boasts 44 of the top 50 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.Defending champion Anna Nordqvist is one of 11 past champions in the line up, which also includes 15 of the LPGA Tour 16 winners this season.

According to the bookmakers, world No 3 Nelly Korda and two-time major winner Lydia Ko are the favourites to land a newly-announced $1.095 million first prize on Sunday.

Look at recent form in this event, though, and one name really jumps out. Australian Minjee Lee tied for third in 2020 then ended up in a share of fifth last year. Prior to that, she’d racked up three other top-15 finishes.

Her brother, Min Woo, won last year’s Scottish Open over the wall at The Renaissance Club and that’s not the only double, so to speak, in her sights.

Lee, of course, is trying to emulate compatriot Cameron Smith’s brilliant victory in the 150th Open at St Andrews just under three weeks ago, as is fellow major winner Hannah Green.

The par-71 course will be playing at 6,680 yards, which is marginally shorter than last year’s test at Carnoustie and also Kingsbarns in 2017.

The players have been raving about it, which should be music to the ears of the Muirfield member and has certainly put a smile on the face of Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive.

“This is a tough golf course at the best of times,” he said on the eve of the $7.3 million tournament. “We have three of the par 5s not quite on the championship tees, but they are not far off the championship tees.

“The greens are running about the same as they were at St Andrews two weeks ago. They are running 10 (on the stimpmeter) this morning and they will slowly move up.

“This is going to be a strong test. We are forecast more wind, not as much as this, but from the same direction (south-west to westerly), which makes some of the closing holes, 12 through 15, really challenging. You need to play really well to score low around here.”

Former European Tour winner Dean Robertson, who is caddying for Louise Duncan, is predicting that a level-par aggregate might be good enough to get the job done. If so, that would be eight shots higher than last year’s total.

A total of 17 Great Britain & Ireland players are in the line up, including a Caledonian contingent comprising 2009 winner Catriona Matthew, Gemma Dryburgh, Michele Thomson and Louise Duncan.

The latter was still an amateur when she produced one of last year’s great storylines by tying for tenth, with English duo Jess Baker and Caley McGinty among the Smyth Salver contenders this time around.

It’s been a brilliant run of top events in Scotland and what a cracker to finish it off.

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