AIG Women’s Open 2023: Preview

Ashleigh Buhai defends her title as the AIG Women’s Open, the final major of the season in women’s golf, tees off at Walton Heath. Here’s our preview.

The 47th edition of the championship will see 144 players, including all the Rolex World Golf Rankings’ Top 50 players, tee it up in the fifth and final women’s major of the year. The tournament will take place August 10-13.

South Africa’s Buhai will return as defending champion after last year’s epic four hole play-off victory over In Gee Chun at Muirfield, but it will be a tough test defending her title. She missed the cut at last week’s Freed Group Scottish Open and finished T-20 the week before at the Amundi Evian Championship, though she did win the ShopRite LPGA Classic back in June.

Main contenders

The first four majors this season have all been won by first-time major champions, Lilia Vu at the Chevron Championship, Ruoning Yin at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and Allisen Corpuz at the U.S. Women’s Open. France’s Celine Boutier was the latest to do so after her breakthrough success at the Amundi Evian Championship at Evian Resort in France two weeks ago.

She followed that up last week by winning the 2023 Freed Group Women’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links by two shots from South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim. That was the 29-year-old’s third victory of 2023 and right now she’s possibly the best female golfer on the planet.

World’s number one and two Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko, who has won twice this season after injury spoiled her 2022 season, will resume their battle at the top of the world rankings. American Korda returned to No. 1 after finishing in a tie for 9th at The Amundi Evian Championship, to overtake South Korea’s Ko who finished in a tie for 20th in France.

World number three Lydia Ko and number four Atthaya Thitikul are past winners of the Smyth Salver, the trophy awarded to the low amateur at the AIG Women’s Open, and both will be looking to win their first title at this event, while world number five Minjee Lee has finished in the top five the last three years.

20-year-old sensation Rose Zhang from America, arguably the brightest young star in golf, is going to attract plenty of attention. The prodigy, currently ranked at 32, won her first LPGA Tour title at the Mizuho Americas Open in June, on her professional debut.

She then finished joint eighth at the recent KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, her first major since turning pro, before recording T-9 finishes at both the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach and the Evian Championship. She will be making her third AIG Women’s Open appearance and first as a professional, and victory at Walton Heath would make her the youngest Women’s Open champion in history.

Tournament format

The event follows a traditional format with four rounds of strokeplay. 144 players will play in the opening two rounds, heading out in groups of three, with a single-tee start with every group going off the 1st, with the first group starting at 6.30 am.

The cut will be made after Friday’s second round. The top 65 players including ties will make the weekend with players heading out in pairs based on their position on the leaderboard. In the event of a tie, a sudden-death play-off will take place on the 18th hole.

Key tee times

(Local time)

0747 Jiyai Shin (Kor), Yuka Saso (Jpn), Gaby Lopez (Mex)
0758 Minjee Lee (Aus), Nasa Hataoka (Jpn), Danielle Kang (USA)
0809 Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Jin Young Ko (Kor), Leona Maguire (Irel)
0820 Nelly Korda (USA), Lydia Ko (Nzl), Charley Hull (Eng)
1227 Georgia Hall (Eng), Celine Boutier (Fra), Atthaya Thitikul (Tha)
1238 Lilia Vu (USA), Lexi Thompson (USA), Linn Grant (Swe)
1249 Ashleigh Buhai (Rsa), Brooke Henderson (Can), Rose Zhang (USA)
1300 Allisen Corpuz (USA), Hyo Joo Kim (Kor), Hannah Green (Aus)

Walton Heath Golf Club

The AIG Women’s Open will be played on a composite of the Old and New Courses at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, just south of London. It will play as a par 72 at 6,881 yards. 16 of the Old Course holes are in action, along with the 12th and 13th from the New Course.

The club was founded in 1903 and has staged the European Open, the 1981 Ryder Cup and the 2011 Senior Open. It’s a classic heathland course with tree-lined fairways, so accuracy off the tee is key. Unlike its male counterpart, the Women’s Open has never adopted a links-only policy, so this year’s championship will be a heathland test.

Weather forecast

The weather will be mixed, as the low jet stream which has plagued England’s summer so far this year remains in place. Expect some sun, rain and light winds, with temperatures between 21 and 26 degrees, cooling towards the weekend.

Prize fund

The official total prize fund for 2023 will be confirmed by the R&A on Wednesday, August 9. 

It will at least match that of 2022 when there was a total of $7.3m up for grabs, which was a $2.5m increase on the 2021 purse at Carnoustie and more than double the amount on offer back in 2018. The winner in 2022 took home $1,095,000; 2nd $720,028; 3rd $521,598; and 10th $157,299. 

There has been a huge rise in prize money across the board in women’s golf in recent years. The 2023 LPGA season was record-breaking, with a total prize fund of $101.4m, with 21 tournaments carrying purses of at least $2m.

The season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, taking place in November, will have a $7m purse, with $2m for the winner – the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.

Tournament winners

2015 Inbee Park, 2016 Ariya Jutanugarn, 2017 In-Kyung Kim, 2018 Georgia Hall, 2019 Hinako Shibuno, 2020 Sophia Popov, 2021 Anna Nordqvist, 2022 Ashleigh Buhai.

Future venues

The 2024 AIG Women’s Open will head to The Old Course at St Andrews, which plays host for the third time. Wales will then host for the first time when the 49th edition is held at Royal Porthcawl in 2025. The venue for the 50th Women’s Open in 2026 is yet to be announced.

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