GULLANE, Scotland – With the clue in the title, the world of professional golf has always been about money. Last month, Cameron Smith’s Open Championship win at St. Andrews netted the Aussie $2.5 million, out of a total prize pool of $14 million. This week’s AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield isn’t quite that level financially, but things are definitely looking up for the best players in the game.
On Sunday evening, the winner of the last major championship of the year will receive $1,095,000, which is $225,000 more than Anna Nordqvist earned for her victory at Carnoustie 12 months ago. A total of $7.3 million in prize money (down from $5.8 million, or 26%) will be split among players who play well enough to make the 36-hole cut, meaning all five women’s majors have boosted their paydays to record highs in 2022.
The increase in Muirfield’s overall purse is even more striking when zooming back to the last four years. The total prize money awarded in 2018 to Royal Lytham and St. Annes was $3.25 million, a year before the R&A teamed up with AIG as a championship sponsor. During this time, the stock market has therefore increased by 125%.
Those numbers were the focus of a press conference given by R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers on the eve of what he called “a world-class championship”.
“This is our opportunity to shine a light on the immense talent of the athletes competing here this week, as well as to inspire the next generation of players,” Slumbers said. “I am extremely excited about what this week has to offer. We must use this week to stress the need for a broader commitment to women’s golf.
Part of that mission, to the dismay of traditionalists, is the presence of not one but two pro-ams in the days leading up to the championship. Again, the answer to all questions is “money,” a fact Slumbers was quick to acknowledge.
“Pro-ams are part of the business model for women’s professional golf,” he said. “I haven’t been shy about saying over the years that professional golf is a business and pro-am is a key part of that in the women’s game. But it’s also a fantastic opportunity to invite people to see not only what we’re doing together, what Muirfield is doing as a golf course, but also for them to be able to say, ‘you know what, there really special things happening? » .’ So there is a commercial reality and there is marketing.
Slumbers’ often bold and sometimes inspirational words are especially significant because of where they were spoken. Still in the early days of its foray into mixed membership, The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is well aware that the eyes of golfers the world over are on them. But were they forced to accept a Women’s Open before being reintroduced into the Open Championship rotation for what would be the first time since 2013?
“Absolutely not,” Slumbers said. “Absolutely not. They are two very independent decisions. But let me explain why we brought the championship here, because I think it’s really important that people understand. We are absolutely focused on how to get the best venues we can get that mean the most to golf and to host the championship there and when you look at the history of our game there is no more important course [than Muirfield], other than maybe the Old Course, if you want to achieve that. Just walk around and listen to some of the players and their views. It’s something special.
Regarding the contrast between the fear that male players would destroy the Old Course last month and the assertion made more than once this week that level par could be good enough to win, Slumbers was again dismissive. . The day before, he had played the first pro-am of the week alongside Atthaya Thitikul, a Thai rookie from the LPGA, sixth in the Rolex world rankings. Thitikul, who insists she ‘hates’ golf, played Muirfield’s front nine in 30, even after missing a short putt on the eighth green.
“It’s a tough golf course at the best of times and there’s a big difference between playing for fun in a pro-am and putting a card in your hand,” Slumbers said. “We are playing just under 6,700 yards. We have three of the par 5s not far from the start of the championship. The greens are about the same as at St Andrews [last month]. This is going to be a tough test. We expect more wind, which will make some of the closing holes, 12 to 15, really difficult. I think the players will find a way to score, but you have to play really well to shoot low here.
In effect. The battle will begin on Thursday when 2009 champion (and local resident) Catriona Matthew hits the first tee shot at 6:30 a.m. local time.