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Getting underway on the 4th – 7th August, the final Major of the season is set to be an enthralling one, as the links of Muirfield plays host to the AIG Women’s Open for the very first time in its history.
An elite field of some 144 players are set to descend upon Gullane, as a who’s-who of Major winners, Solheim Cup players and young rookies will vie it out for a chance to add a Major title to their resumes.
One player who has experienced that feeling is Georgia Hall, with the 26-year-old tasting success in the event back in 2018, when she claimed a two-stroke win over Thailand’s, Pornanong Phatlum. Describing the tournament as her “favourite event of the year”, Georgia can’t wait to be back in front of the British fans after a strong run of results in the recent Major championships.
“Playing at home is very special to me and having the support of the spectators and friends and family watching means it’s the most enjoyable week of the year,” explains Georgia. “For us players, the AIG Women’s Open is the biggest event on the calendar and the one that I always want to win regardless. Even though I have won it before it’s still the most important one to me.”
Claiming the title in her rookie year on the LPGA Tour, Georgia retained her LET Order of Merit crown following her victory, with the Wentworth-based golfer stating: “The win definitely gave me a lot of confidence. The more I was in contention the more comfortable I felt. Playing in your home country, some people think it's more pressure and more expectation, but to me, I just really enjoy the moment and I play better because of it.”
Currently, the women’s game is in the strongest shape it has ever been in, with increases in prize money, television coverage and tournaments being just some of the huge positives going on right now.
“When I turned professional eight years ago it wasn't at its best but, over the past three or four years, bigger companies have come in and they've doubled their prize fund,” Georgia explains. “We saw that at the KPMG Women’s PGA. They also increased it at the AIG Women's Open and the Chevron at the start of year.
"It just keeps getting better and better and I think companies are starting to compete and they want to have bigger tournaments for us. They want to show that they're supporting our Tour and I think it's fantastic.”
At the beginning of 2022, the US Women's Open announced that they would be offering the biggest purse in women's history at $10 million. Along with that event, the Chevron Championship also revealed a purse increase, with the AIG Women’s Open doing the same in 2021.
However, it’s not just the money that makes the tournament special, with the 26-year-old pointing out: “You’re playing championship golf courses and the best ones in Britain. That's what we’ve deserved and that's what we've been doing for years.
“There’s so much history behind every course that we play and the past champions that have won there. I think it's proven that what's happened over the years, us playing at St Andrews and Carnoustie last year, we can showcase our talent as well as the men.”
One of the courses that has been added to the rota is Muirfield, with the historic Links layout hosting the AIG Women’s Open for the very first time in its history, having held the men’s Open Championship 16 times. Georgia is excited to be part of the field teeing it up in early August.
“I’ve never played there and a lot of us women, I think, haven’t played there for numerous reasons, but I think it's great for the women's game and I’m just really excited. There’s obviously a lot of history there and I've heard it’s one of the best golf courses and one of the best links golf courses there is.”
The AIG Women’s Open is known for throwing up some surprising results. Back in 2020, Sophia Popov, who was then ranked 304th in the world, claimed the trophy by two. What’s more, she had only qualified after a high finish at the LPGA Tour's Marathon Classic at the start of August.
Heading into the tournament, Anna Nordqvist will be looking to defend the title she claimed at Carnoustie in 2021. Beating Georgia, Lizette Salas and fellow countrywoman, Madelene Sagstrom, by one stroke, the 35-year-old became the only non-American woman to have won major championships in three different decades (2000s, 2010s and 2020s).
This year, the competition will be incredibly fierce, with a number of players in red-hot form coming into the event at Muirfield. Add in the fact that the pool of talent inside the world’s top 10 has an average age of just 24.6, and the tournament is shaping up to be an epic.
“I think players that come through now don't have much fear,” says Georgia. “A lot of people cope differently under different types of pressure, but the rookies coming through are very, very strong and are very competent. I think that's how it should be because the more that we're in this situation of playing Majors, I think the more comfortable we are.”
Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.