The AIG Women’s Open which finished at Carnoustie yesterday evening was won by Anna Nordqvist, who thereby claimed her third major championship and became the first Swede to claim the title since Annika Sorenstam in 2003. “I really couldn’t dream of anything more,” she said. “It was definitely worth the wait and worth a lot of those struggles, being able to push through to get here.”
The winner’s cheque was worth $870,000 (I know, but while the championship is obviously held in the UK, it is still an LPGA Tour event). That’s an astonishing $195,000 more than Sophia Popov pocketed after her victory at Royal Troon last year. Granted, Collin Morikawa collected $2 million for winning the men’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s in July. Clearly there is a very long way to go before parity even begins to enter the equation, although last week Phil Anderson, chief development officer of the R&A, told Ewan Murray of The Guardian: “I absolutely see that [parity] as an ambition.”
It might help in part if the BBC went even a little way towards treating its Women’s Open terrestrial television highlights package with a similar amount of care that it devoted to the men’s equivalent last month. The latter had a two-hour programme at 8 pm after every day’s play. The women got the red-button treatment at that time each evening but the golf was shown only after 11 o’clock on the normal broadcasting schedules.
Certainly there is nothing timid about the plans the R&A – as well as its sponsors, AIG – have for their championship. Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, has committed that the overall prize fund of $5.8 million this time around will be at least $6.8 million at Muirfield next summer. Already, however, this is the most lucrative tournament in women’s golf. The US Women’s Open in June had a purse of $5.5 million. But Slumbers was keen to talk down any element of this being “a race”. He said: “This is not a competition. This is about moving in a direction and everyone has got to move at their own pace. We have been fortunate with the team we’ve got, with the championship we’ve got, to be able to move at the pace we want to move at.”
At the end of a week in which there had been much talk of money, it would have been somewhat ironic if the champion had turned out to be an amateur, which was not out of the question on Sunday morning. Louise Duncan, a 21-year-old student at Stirling University. was two shots off the pace going into the final round. A closing level-par 72 earned her a tie for 10th, five shots behind Nordqvist. Reminded on Saturday of the riches she might be forfeiting by not being a professional, she laughed and said: “Thanks for that.”
It was not to be. On Thursday, she’ll be playing for Great Britain & Ireland in the Curtis Cup at Conwy.
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