And so the final golf major of the year rolls around and it is a fitting venue and title to end what has been a remarkable run of 2022 Grand Slam events.
The AIG Women’s Open makes history when it is played at historic Muirfield for the first time, home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and a club that only voted to allow women members in 2017.
This week’s tournament will not only be historic but symbolic, the club enduring enormous backlash in 2016 when a vote on allowing women members was defeated.
Outrage was global and within days the R&A announced no men’s Open Championship would be played at the venue while the decision stood.
The reversal of the decision a year later has led to this week’s tournament where one of the best golf courses in the world will finally test the best women players in the game.
RIGHT: Anna Nordqvist will defend the title she won at Carnoustie in 2021. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
It promises to be an intriguing battle and a worthy addition to the club’s annals alongside the 16 Open Championships that have been staged here.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Anna Nordqvist conquered Carnoustie in brilliant fashion in 2021 on a thrilling final day.
Tied with Nanna Koerstz Madsen at the start of the day, Nordqvist ground out a hard fought three-under-par 69 to take the title by a shot from Madelene Sagstrom, Georgia Hall and Lizette Salas though there were numerous contenders throughout the day.
Minjee Lee started five back but reeled off five birdies in the first 11 holes to draw level with the leaders and momentarily held the lead after a sixth birdie of the day at the 13th.
A dropped shot at the last left her at 10-under, ultimately two back of Nordqvist’s winning total.
Of all the final day drama, however, perhaps best remembered will be the unfortunate shank from a greenside bunker by Nanna Koerstz Madsen.
It was a sad way to end what had been a terrific battle, the double bogey ultimately seeing her finish two shots behind playing partner Nordqvist.
COURSE: Regarded by many as the most complete test among the Open rota courses, Muirfield has crowned some of the best champions in the men’s game.
Harry Vardon, James Braid and Ted Ray all won Opens here and since World War 2 the champions list includes Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo (twice), Els and Mickelson.
While not as visually spectacular as some of the seaside links, Muirfield provides an excellent examination of all facets of the game.
The rough tends to be penal, the bunkers especially so and missing greens in the wrong spot can leave diabolical options.
The unusual routing of the course also contributes to its difficulty, particularly when the wind gets up.
The front nine plays in a clockwise loop around the outside of the property while the back nine goes the opposite direction around the inside of the grounds making the breeze a constantly moving target.
It can have the affect of keeping players off balance and will favour the better ball strikers and more patient players.
Muirfield is not generally a course to be overpowered though it is never a disadvantage to be a long hitter.
Distance will need to be used wisely, though, as offline shots can be heavily penalised.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: As noted, Muirfield tends to identify the best of the best but with the nature of the modern LPGA that is not a short list of players.
Good ball strikers and those with patience will be among the contenders Sunday and there are some standouts on that list.
Lydia Ko, who led through 54 holes at last week’s Scottish Open, is one of the most obvious and expect the New Zealander to be in the thick of it again this week.
Last week’s Sunday slide was a mere blip on a course that was ripe for scoring. Ko’s putter was stone cold in the final round on a day when birdies were plentiful, the complete opposite of what we will see at Muirfield.
Ko’s namesake, Jin Young, hasn’t hit the extraordinary heights of 2021 this year but this course should be right in her wheelhouse.
A demanding and relentless test where patience is as important as execution is her stock in trade and grinding for 72 holes will suit her style.
Has a mixed history at this event with a second, a third and a missed cut in three tries and finished well down the list last week at Dundonald Links but, like Lydia Ko, this week’s test will be more to her liking.
Nelly Korda must be part of any conversation when the biggest events come around and that is true this week.
A different style of player to the aforementioned pair but has all the shots and is capable of spectacular scoring.
She showed in winning the Australian Open in Adelaide three years ago that she is more than just a power player (though she is that as well) and some of the imagination on show that week will be required this week.
Has been in good form despite the long break for surgery at the start of the year and will be itching to get back in the winner’s circle.
The defending champion, Anna Nordqvist, is another who likes nothing more than a difficult test though her obvious chipping issues may prove too much to overcome this week.
That she scores as well as she does despite such an aversion to using the lofted clubs around the greens is testament to her elite ball striking and if she can miss in the right spots this week it may not be beyond her.
While this list could go much longer, we will finish with our own Minjee Lee who must be in the conversation also.
T5 and third in the last two Opens, Lee clearly gets links golf and has all the attributes mentioned above.
Add to that the newfound confidence of being a two-time major champion and it would surprise nobody if she were to be in the mix this week.
72-HOLE RECORD: 269 (-19, Karrie Webb (1997), Karen Stupples (2004)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Karrie Webb (2007, 1997, 1992), Karen Lunn (1993), Corinne Dibnah (1988)
*Became an LPGA major in 2001
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Hannah Green, Su Oh, Steph Kyriacou, Minjee Lee and Whitney Hillier
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 8pm –3am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 8pm –3am)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 11.10pm – 5am)
Round 4: Sunday Sunday (Fox Sports 503 10pm –5am)
*AEST, check local guides