The final opportunity for an Australian to claim the mantle as a major champion for 2023 comes this week at the AIG Women’s Open in England.
To be played at Walton Heath Golf Club’s Old Course in the heart of the golfing riches found in the Surrey region south of London, six Aussies will be out to break a championship drought that stretches back more than 20 years to Karrie Webb’s third victory in 2002.
That was just the second year that the AIG Women’s Open was recognised as one of the LPGA Tour’s major championships, this week’s staging marking the end of the major calendar across the men, women and senior tours.
Two-time major champion Minjee Lee and fellow West Australian Hannah Green already hold a place among the 16 Australians to have triumphed in one of golf’s showpiece events, Grace Kim, Stephanie Kyriacou and Sarah Kemp all with designs on being No.17.
Kyriacou, 22, qualified for this year’s AIG Women’s Open by virtue of her tie for seventh at Muirfield last year while Kim, also 22, secured her place with a breakthrough LPGA Tour title in her rookie season earlier this year.
Adding to the Aussie contingent is Kelsey Bennett, the Mollymook native to make her major championship debut after coming through Final Qualifying at Hankley Common, Bennett earning her spot in a 13-way playoff for the final five spots.
Defending champion, South African Ashleigh Buhai, is also the reigning Women’s Australian Open champion and has victories this year on both the Ladies European Tour (Investec SA Women’s Open) and LPGA Tour (ShopRite LPGA Classic).
The hottest player in the field this week, however, is Frenchwoman Celine Boutier.
The former Vic Open winner earned her first major title at the Amundi Evian Championship two weeks ago and then backed that up with a two-stroke win at the FREED Group Women’s Scottish Open.
AIG Women’s Open
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A regular venue for US Open qualifying and the former host venue of the British Masters, Walton Heath is one of a host of courses within the county of Surrey ranked inside the Top 100 in England. The Herbert Fowler-designed Old Course can stretch out to some 7,406 yards with picturesque yet gnarly heather framing its fairways and bunkers. More open than can be customary on English heathland layouts, the stretch from the 10th hole to 14th is highly regarded before players are faced with a tough finishing quartet designed to separate the good from the great.
Players to watch
Celine Boutier. Winner of the Amundi Evian Championship and FREED Group Women’s Scottish Open in successive weeks. The Frenchwoman won the 2019 Vic Open and reached a career high of No.4 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking after her win at Evian.
Ashleigh Buhai. The veteran South African has been on a tear since her dramatic playoff win over In Gee Chun 12 months ago. Four of her five career wins have come in the past year, allowing the talent she has always possessed to come to the fore.
Brooke Henderson. Put up a valiant defence of her Evian Championship victory a fortnight ago and also has a win to her name this season at the Tournament of Champions. In 14 major championship starts the past three years her worst finish is a tie for 25th at the 2021 Evian Championship.
Ruoning Yin. The Chinese world No.5 has made an extraordinary impression this season. Ranked just inside the top 150 in the world at the start of 2023, Yin won the LA Open in March and then added a major at the KPMG Women’s PGA. Still a month shy of her 21st birthday, Yin shot 66 in the final round to finish third at the Women’s Scottish Open.
Lydia Ko (NZ)
Live Thursday 8pm-3am on Fox Sports 503 and Kayo
Live Friday 8pm-3am on Fox Sports 503 and Kayo
Live Saturday 9pm-11pm on Fox Sports 505 and Kayo; Live 11pm-4am Saturday on Fox Sports 503 and Kayo
Live Sunday 9pm-4am on Fox Sports 503 and Kayo
Photo: Tom Dulat/R&A/R&A via Getty Images