A truly international field will gather at Walton Heath this week to contest the AIG Women’s Open, one of the five major championships in women’s golf.
Some 144 of the world’s finest players will come from far and wide to tee it up at the Surrey venue, which is hosting the prestigious championship for the first time since it was established in 1976.
Australia, China, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand and the USA are among the many regions that will bring a strong global flavour to the season’s final major.
In the last ten years, the championship has produced winners from eight different countries, including South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai, who beat South Korea’s In Gee Chun in a memorable four-hole play-off at Muirfield 12 months ago.
Buhai, defending her title, will be among a number of former winners at Walton Heath, including Anna Nordqvist (Sweden), Hinako Shibuno (Japan), Georgia Hall (England), Jiyai Shin (Korea) and Ariya Jutanugarn (Thailand).
“It’s very special to come here as the Champion,” said Buhai. “Obviously, there is a little bit of hype coming into the week as well. It’s something I’ve got to manage but it’s all for a good reason. As defending champion, I just have to embrace it and enjoy the week. Anytime I go into any tournament now, the belief is there I can win if I’m playing well.
“The secret is staying in the moment and making sure don’t think about the outcome by getting ahead of yourself. My swing had been there for a long time but, working with my sports psychologist, it was learning to do something I can control and committing to it.”
However there could just as easily be a new name on the trophy. This has been a season of first-time major winners, with Lilia Vu winning The Chevron Championship, Ruoning Yin the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Allisen Corpuz the US Women’s Open and Celine Boutier the recent Amundi Evian Championship.
That range of champions reflects the strength in depth of women’s golf internationally. Nelly Korda, Jin Young Ko and Lydia Ko, all riding high in the top-three of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, will need to be at their best if they are to mount a challenge at the AIG Women’s Open.
Also aiming to make an impact is Rose Zhang, arguably the brightest young star in the women’s game. On her professional debut in June, the 20-year-old won the Mizuho Americas Open. She has since secured top-ten finishes in each of her first three majors as a professional.
This will be Zhang’s third appearance in the AIG Women’s Open, having narrowly missed the cut at Carnoustie in 2021. At Muirfield last year, the young American tied for 28th and won the Smyth Salver for finishing as the Championship’s leading amateur.
Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, who also won the Smyth Salver during her amateur career in 2018 and 2019, will also be one to watch this year. The 20-year-old Thai star’s best performance in the Championship came last year where she finished tied seventh at Muirfield.
Sweden’s Linn Grant, who became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour and a subsequent role model for young girls, returns to the AIG Women’s Open as an LPGA winner and is focused on more victories in her future.
Australian Steph Kyriacou, returns to the AIG Women’s Open this year thanks to her top-ten finish at Muirfield last year. This is her fourth appearance in the Championship.
It is sure to be competitive at Walton Heath, where the 72 holes will be contested over a composite layout of the club’s Old and New Courses.
The AIG Women’s Open will showcase women in sport, business and entertainment with fans attending this year’s Championship set to enjoy world-class golf, live music entertainment and a new festival fan village designed to generate a fun, vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.
For the very first time, live music will feature as part of a new, enhanced fan experience with global superstar Ellie Goulding performing a headline set and supported by singer songwriter Freya Ridings on Saturday 12 August.
The AIG Women’s Open will take place from 9 -13 August 2023 at Walton Heath, with tickets on sale via aigwomensopen.com.