Will there be another dominant player in women’s golf? — Players thoughts on Walton Health’s difficulty — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Aug. 10, 2023
Happy Golf Thursday and Women’s Open week! The fifth and final major of the season is upon us and we’re in for yet another historic week for women’s golf. Walton Health is the fourth major venue this season to host a women’s major for the first time. In April, the Club at Carlton Woods became the new home of The Chevron Championship. In June, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship made its debut at Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course and in July, Pebble Beach Golf Links hosted the U.S. Women’s Open for the first time. It’s all very exciting to watch in real time, to see the tour play these iconic courses with each passing year, which will crescendo at next year’s AIG Open held at St. Andrews.
Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan was very clear that her goal as commissioner is to elevate the women’s game in every possible way. From purse increases to new sponsors, we have seen the effort being put forth and it’s quite literally raising the level of play from the world’s best.
We’re at this place in women’s golf where we have no idea who will win any given week. You can look at all the stats and rankings you want, but at the end of the day, it’s really anyone’s to take. This recent run by Celine Boutier, who became a major champion at Evian and then followed that elite performance with a win last week at the Scottish Open, is a rarity in the game these days. We’ve seen players get hot and have a string of top-10s — but to win on this tour is a dogfight. Shooting a couple under isn’t getting the job done, players really have to put up rounds of four or five under to really set themselves apart from the field and even then it’s not often we see wire-to-wire wins.
From 1999 to 2003, 17 of the 20 majors were won by four women – Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster, and Se Ri Pak. In the last five years, 16 of the 23 majors played have been won by first-timers. Let that sink in.
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I don’t think the game will ever see a run like Kathy Whitworth and her 88 wins, or even the level of dominance displayed by Annika Sorenstam, who has 72 wins to her name — and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I’d argue that seeing the depth of the LPGA Tour is more watchable and marketable. There’s a level of nostalgia that plays into the fans’ obsession with finding the “next Annika” or the “next Tiger” and that’s not a bad thing either, but we’re just not in that space anymore. It’s because of Annika, Tiger, Se Ri Pak, and the other legends that an entire generation was inspired by them to become elite-level players looking to break the records they set. Because of the greats, we have Jin Young Ko, Nelly Korda, Rose Zhang, Celine Boutier, Lilia Vu, and so many other incredible, young players who will continue to raise the bar.
I genuinely have no clue who will be crowned the 2023 AIG Women’s Open. Players are in for true links golf this week, the track is sitting at over 6,600 yards, with par 4s averaging over 404 yards. However, if I had to put my money into picking a winner — I like the odds of a first-timer lifting that trophy on Sunday. We’ve seen four other first-time major winners this season, so it only seems fitting that we see five out of five.
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This week in women’s golf
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Five at The IX: Walton Health quotes, players on the championship, and iconic venue
“It plays pretty long, and it’s going to be a good challenge depending on what the weather is going to be like, if the course is going to firm up by the end of the week it could play completely different to the practice rounds. I would say depending on the weather and style of golf course, you have to have a lot of creativity out here. You have to hit shots you normally wouldn’t on other golf courses.”
“This week’s course at Walton Heath is very different. Before I came here people said, ‘oh, this is a heathland-style course’, and I said, ‘I have no idea what that means’, and everybody was like, ‘stay out of the heather, stay out of the bunker’.
“But you know, the golf course is super nice. It’s in really good condition, and it actually feels more linksy than you think, and the heather definitely comes into play. I’m excited. This feels like one of the longer in distance tournaments that we’ve played all year and I think it’s going to play tough. We’re forecasted to have nice weather these next few days, and I heard when this course gets drier, it actually gets more challenging. So I’m excited to see how the course changes over the next few days, too.”
When I first heard about [Walton Heath], [I heard] it wasn’t really a links-style golf course. When I was out here, it definitely was different from the previous AIG Women’s Opens that I’ve played – Muirfield and Carnoustie – those are very traditional links-style golf courses.
“So when I came out here, I was well aware of the heather. The heather is beautiful but it’s terrible to be in. Not somewhere you want to be this week. And I will say that I believe the course is beautiful. It’s playing a little bit softer. Just because there’s so much rain.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely not really what I expected to see or play, but in a good way. I think it’s a great course. It’s definitely very long and very soft, which I expected it to be a little bit firmer. I think it’s been raining quite a bit here. I think it’s been a great test. I feel like you have to be very accurate off the tee but also on the approach shots because you have such long clubs.”
“So I think it’s going to be a good test and I feel like you have to definitely play well here to be able to score low.“
“You can kind of just see it right ahead of you, and you can kind of see like the fairways, the shapes and that where links sometimes it just feels like you’re hitting into a field. It’s nice, it’s got the heather and the trees on it, as well, even though there’s not a lot of trees. I just like the feel of it.”
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