Women’s British Open boosted to most lucrative female event

With 8,000 fans per day permitted, much focus is on world number one Nelly Korda

USA’s Nelly Korda tees off at the 16th during a preview day ahead of the  Women’s Open at Carnoustie, Scotland. Photograph:  Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

USA’s Nelly Korda tees off at the 16th during a preview day ahead of the Women’s Open at Carnoustie, Scotland. Photograph: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

 

The Women’s British Open has been handed a status and financial boost ahead of tee-off at Carnoustie, Scotland, with a $1.3 million prize fund increase to $5.8 million, rendering the tournament the most lucrative in female golf. The champion on Sunday on Scotland’s east coast will collect a cheque for $870,000.

Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive, announced the fillip for this major with considerable glee on Wednesday. And no wonder: Slumbers promised the pot at Muirfield in 2022 will be at least $6.8 million. Between 2014 and 2016, the purse had been fixed at $3 million, with the winner’s share always under $500,000. Slumbers has credited AIG, the event’s main sponsor since 2019, with helping to elevate its status.

“Together we are on a journey to increase prize money in a financially sustainable way,” Slumbers said. “Many of you will have heard me say many times that professional golf is a business. For women’s golf to close the gap with the men’s game it requires greater investment and support from golf bodies, sponsors, the media and our fans to grow its commercial success, generating the income and the revenues to make prize fund growth viable and financially sustainable.

“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.”

Own pace

The US Women’s Open, played at the Olympic Club in June, had a $5.5 million purse. It now remains to be seen whether the United States Golf Association responds to the R&A’s stance.

“There should never be a race,” said Slumbers. “This is not a competition. This is about moving in a direction, and everyone has got to move at their own pace. We have been fortunate with the team we’ve got, with the championship we’ve got, to be able to move at the pace that we want to move at.”

The elephant in this particular room relates to the R&A-administered Open Championship. Its latest prize pot of $10.75million is almost double what will be available at Carnoustie in the coming days. Slumbers was circumspect over whether or not financial parity between his male and female Majors is a realistic goal.

“I’m a glass-half-full guy,” said the chief executive. “We have 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 – and keep building the value of the sponsorship, the number of people who come to watch, the value of the media rights. If we are successful on that, then we’ll continue down this journey.”

Dominant

With 8,000 spectators per day permitted at Carnoustie, much focus is on the world number one Nelly Korda. The recently-crowned USPGA and Olympic champion opted not to undertake press conference duties before her first round, leaving others to discuss Korda’s current position.

Catriona Matthew, Europe’s Solheim Cup captain, went so far as to say a long sequence of winning by Korda would represent another benefit to the sport.

“Without a doubt she’s got that potential to be dominant,” said Matthew. “She hits it long. To be world No 1 you have to do everything well. If she can keep that form going I don’t see why she couldn’t be dominant.

“I think it is good for women’s golf to have a dominant player. You saw how Tiger Woods elevated the PGA Tour. If you have someone that becomes dominant, she starts to be known by non-golfers, which then maybe encourages them to come and watch golf. So, yeah, I think it would be a good thing.”

Not that Matthew is waving white flags in respect of an upcoming clash with Korda’s US team in Toledo. “For Solheim to have the world No 1 player, it’s a great thing,” the Scot said. “In match play, as we’ve seen in a lot of 18-hole events, anyone can beat anyone. Certainly all the pressure will be on her to beat our team.” – Guardian

Ruaidhrí Croke's Women’s British Open lowdown

Course: Carnoustie.
Prizemoney: €5 million (Winner €745,000)
Length: 7,480 yards. Par: 72.
Defending champion: Sophia Popov.
Course overview: The fearsome Carnoustie returns to our screens this week for what will be an interesting four days of viewing. Commonly known as the toughest course on the British Open rota, it is hosting the women’s event for the first time since 2011. This is, of course, where Pádraig Harrington claimed his first Major title in 2007 and most recently it was the scene of Francesco Molinari winning the Claret Jug in 2018. The focus this time for the women will be on whether the notoriously tough course plays as it should. In 2011 it was set up extremely easy with Yani Tseng winning at 16 under par and the Ladies' Golf Union coming in for criticism for not giving the players the real test. It seems this time they’ve answered those jibes and the course will play 990 yards longer and much more like the Carnoustie we know.
A look at the field: World No 1 Nelly Korda comes into this event as the in-form player on the women’s tour after winning the US PGA at the end of June before claiming the gold medal at the Olympic Games earlier this month. The Californian is  seemingly in unstoppable form but Carnoustie this week will present a completely different challenge to what she has faced recently and a so-so record at the Women’s British Open likely dents her chances. Lydia Ko has also been in good form recently and will fancy her chances this week. Primary Irish hopes lie with Leona Maguire (first round tee-time: 12.27pm) who has finished inside the top-23 in her last seven events. Castlewarden member and Wake Forest alum Lauren Walsh (first round tee-time: 11.21am) is also in the field this week as an amateur as the 23-year-old gets her first taste of Major golf.
Tips: Leona Maguire (33-1) comes into this week in some great form as outlined above and she has links pedigree, finishing low amateur at the 2016 Women’s British Open. Her last round at a Major was a record low 61 in last month’s Evian Championship and she also finished in a share of 15th at last week’s Scottish Open. Georgia Hall (33-1) won this event in 2018 at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s and has found some good form recently with three top-15s in her last five starts.
Weather forecast: It looks set to be a particularly links-like four days this week with stiff breezes forecast for each day and plenty of rain, particularly on Saturday and Sunday.
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Golf from 11am.

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