2022 AIG Women's Open Preview
A FRANTIC spell for women’s golf comes to a head when Anna Nordqvist defends her Women’s Open title at Muirfield. It comes after the Evian Championship and the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.
This is the final major of the year, with the world’s best heading to one of the most famous golf courses on the planet. It is a remarkable turnaround - it is not so very long ago that Muirfield was ostracised over its refusal to admit women as members. Thankfully, things have moved on.
Nordqvist is one of the most successful players of her generation with 13 professional victories, her most recent coming on the Ladies European Tour earlier this month. Nordqvist has also notably chalked up three major wins and in the Solheim Cup is one of Europe’s leading points-scorers of all time.
The Swede’s amateur career was just as successful and alongside England’s Georgia Hall she is one of only two golfers to have won the R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship, Women’s Amateur Championship and AIG Women’s Open.
Reflecting on her victory last year, Nordqvist said, “As a European, the AIG Women’s Open is a major that means a lot to me. It was also an extremely special win because it was so close to where my friends and family live, so I felt very much at home. The support I had from the crowd was unbelievable and I hope it is just as warm this year at Muirfield when I try to defend my title.”
Nordqvist is one of 11 past champions in the field at Muirfield. The others include Sophia Popov, Georgia Hall, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis and veterans Catriona Matthew and Laura Davies.
These champions have provided inspiration to generations of female golfers including the prodigious talent that now tops the Women’s World Golf Rankings. Of the 18 players from the top 20 who are teeing up at Muirfield, 14 are already major champions.
One player seeking their first major victory at the AIG Women’s Open is Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, who was the low-amateur at the championship in 2018 and 2019.
The 19-year-old’s rise through the professional rankings continues an exemplary amateur career which saw Thitikul make headlines in 2017 as the youngest player to win a professional golf tournament aged 14 years, four months and 19 days.
Thitikul credits her compatriots, the Jutanugarn sisters, Moriya and Ariya - the 2016 Champion - as inspiration during her prolific adolescence.
Thitikul said, “They [Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn] were already established on the LPGA Tour when I was taking up the sport and when Ariya won the AIG Women’s Open that was a huge moment because it showed that it’s possible for a girl like me to reach the pinnacle of the sport.”
While Thitikul’s own ascent through the rankings over the past 12 months has been impressive, few can match that of Sweden’s Linn Grant, 23, who was 444th in the world when the AIG Women’s Open was played at Carnoustie in 2021. Six wins since then on the LET Access, Sunshine Ladies Tour and LET - including a sensational victory co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour where she beat the field of women and men by nine shots - now see her ranked 102nd, and she is only heading in one direction.
America’s Nelly Korda, now fully recovered from a blood clot in her arm, will start among the favourites. She has already won seven times on the LPGA Tour and once on the LET and last year secured her first major victory at the Women’s PGA Championship.
Only the United States (eight) and England (eight) have produced more individual winners of the Championship than Sweden (five) and South Korea (five), and Grant hopes to join predecessors including Helen Alfredsson, Sophie Gustafson, Liselotte Neumann, Nordqvist, and women’s golf legend Annika Sörenstam.
Nordqvist highlighted the strength and diversity of the talent within the women’s game, saying, “As a competitor I am always looking to test myself against the best players, and the AIG Women’s Open is one of the greatest challenges in golf. The field is so impressive. We have legends of the game who we all looked up to and aspired to follow in their footsteps, as well as a long list of fantastic players on tour, not to mention some of the younger players who are stepping up and ripping it.
“It’s truly great to see the strength of our sport and it’s through championships like the AIG Women’s Open that we are able to showcase the rate it is growing and building. It’s definitely an exciting time for women’s sport and, with this stage, the history and the players, I don’t think it gets much more exciting than the AIG Women’s Open.”
The Women’s Open was won in 2015 by Inbee Park, in 2016 by Ariya Jutanugarn , in 2017 by IK Kim, in 2018 by Georgia Hall, in 2019 by Hinako Shibuno, in 2020 by Sophia Popov and last year by Anna Nordqvist.
Muirfield is one of the most famous links courses in the world and if the wind blows it will provide a brutal test for the world’s best women golfers. It is vital to keep the ball on the fairway if you are to have any chance of scoring well here. It will measure 6,700 yards for the women and is a par 71.
Linn Grant is living the dream, having won six times in a year. She also beat the men in the Scandinavian Mixed. The Swede is a certain major winner and could well make the breakthrough this week. Georgia Hall, winner in 2018, loves links golf and has a tournament victory to her credit this year, claiming the Aramcoi Saudi Ladies International and finishing in a tie for eighth place at the recent Evian Championship. Brooke Henderson won the Evian last month and will be looking to add another major to her collection.
Linn Grant. Would be a surprise winner but she has the game to shock the world’s best
Brooke Henderson. Class act
Nelly Korda. Fit and firing again
Five to Follow:
Linn Grant. A winning machine
Brooke Henderson. Wonderful short game
Nelly Korda. Has no weaknesses
Georgia Hall. Looking to win this for second time
Lydia Ko. Brilliant temperament
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Louise Duncan. Will have massive local support
Catriona Matthew. Still capable of mixing it with the best of them
Atthaya Thitikul. Fantastic prospect
Jessica Korda. Desperate to step out of her sister’s shadow
Rose Zhang. World’s best amateur
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