AIG Women's Open: The field, course, tee times and more

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We preview the AIG Women's Open as the world's best golfers head for Carnoustie to vie for their final Major title of the year with $4.5m on the line.

JUMP TO: Course guide | The field | Tee times | Prize fund | How to watch | History

Carnoustie stages the 45th Women’s Open from August 19-22 as Germany's Sophia Popov attempts to defend the maiden Major title she won at Royal Troon in 2020.

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It's just the second time the world-famous links has hosted the event and comes a decade after Yani Tseng – then the dominant force in women’s golf – successfully defended her title on the Championship Course, beating Brittany Lang by four strokes.

Sophia Popov, celebrates with the AIG Women's Open trophy at Royal Troon and defends her title at Carnoustie.

Coincidentally, Popov made her debut at that event, but was beaten to the Smyth Salver (the leading amateur prize) by current World No.5 Danielle Kang.

“I love Carnoustie," Popov said. "It's an incredible course. Carnoustie was the site of my first Women's Open, so I have great memories there playing as an amateur and I love that place. So it really doesn't get any better than that.”

“I'm excited to go back and defend my title, but I really don't want to give this trophy away, so I'm going to do everything in my power to keep it.”

The field is made up of 120 players but Nelly Korda arrives in Scotland as the clear favourite to win her second Major and her fifth title of the year. The 22-year-old, who took the gold medal for USA at Tokyo 2020, is the World No.1 and won her maiden Major title at the the KPMG PGA Championship in July.

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World No.1 Nelly Korda is the favourite heading to Carnoustie.

Unlike 2020, whoever lifts the trophy in 2021 will do so in front of a crowd, with 8,000 fans allowed to attend each day following support from the Scottish Government as part of its Events Gateway Process.

“We and our partners at AIG were incredibly proud of what we achieved for women’s golf at the AIG Women’s Open last year, and we will always remember Sophia Popov’s outstanding victory, but in 2021 fans are what will elevate the AIG Women’s Open from memorable to truly special," said Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A.

“Fans are so important to major sporting championships; they create atmosphere, they celebrate greatness and commiserate heartbreak, they bring passion and excitement. We are truly delighted to welcome spectators back to the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie.”

Fans will return for the 2021 AIG Women's Open.

Women's Open preview: What to expect from Carnoustie

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods call it the toughest golf course on The Open rota; others simply refer to it as golf’s greatest test. Even in ideal scoring conditions, Carnoustie is still one of the most unforgiving Major championship venues, a reputation bolstered by its length and its many notable scalps.

Sergio Garcia was famously reduced to tears in 1999 when he hacked it round in 89-83 to miss the cut – and we all know what happened to Jean van de Velde on his 72nd hole in the Barry Burn.

Since that week when 101 scores were returned in the 80s, the club has been fighting to shed its ‘Carnasty’ nickname. They went the wrong way at the 2011 Women’s Open after the shorter Championship Course set-up was blamed for taking all the jeopardy – including the bunkers and the Burn – out of play on the 18th.

The club later admitted to presenting players with a “watered-down version” of Carnoustie – a mistake which Craig Boath, Course Superintendent, says won’t be repeated this year. “There was a bit of nervousness about making it too tough, primarily because it was the first time the women had played the course,” he tells TG.

Carnoustie has hosted The Open eight times and will host the Women's Open for a second time.

“This year we’ve added more length and reduced the par from 72 to 71. We’re using a lot more back tees as well so it will certainly present a lot more of a challenge.”

A dry summer has meant the fairways are already running fast and firm at Carnoustie, which may be just as well since the course will play 360 yards longer than in 2011. Nearly 50 yards has been added to the 18th, while the 17th has lost just three yards despite being converted from a par 5 to a par 4. 

Boath is still expecting the winning score to par to be in single digits, though don’t be surprised to see players getting swallowed up by the many bunkers (112 in total) and burns if the fairways continue to dry out.

There’s even a chance we could see some players hitting driver off the par-3 16th if the wind gets up. You really can’t rule anything out at Carnoustie.

What we can rule out is the chancew of Karrie Webb and Karen Stupples seeing their Women's Open scoring record broken. The pair both recorded 19-under par totals (269 strokes) in 1997 and 2004 respectively.

RELATED: Carnoustie Championship Course review

What makes Carnoustie's 18th so hard?

“Out of bounds left off the tee, water left, water right, water short, bunkers straight in front of you. All the complications off the tee that you can possibly think of," said Padraig Harrington, 2007 Open winner at Carnoustie.

"The second shot, you can hit the green and go out of bounds. It’s the most difficult closing hole in Major championship golf and probably in world golf.”

The 18th at Carnoustie is one of the hardest holes in golf.

What do the history books say?

Golfing greats Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris and James Braid have all left their fingerprints on the Championship course, but it was James Wright, an accountant by trade and chairman of the Links Committee, who had the biggest impact.

He took it upon himself to redesign the last three holes in 1937, and so created what is widely regarded as the toughest stretch in championship golf. The 16th was dubbed the hardest par 3 in the world by Tom Watson, while the 18th is best remembered for Jean van de Velde blowing a three-stroke lead on his final hole in 1999 and then losing in a play-off.

What does it take to win at Carnoustie?

“The person that’ll win the Women’s Open will be a good ball-striker, who can keep their ball on the fairway and plays the percentages," said Craig Boath, Course Superintendent. "The wind can easily catch you out, so you’ve got to keep thinking about your positioning for the next shot because the fairways run and run and can bring the rough and hazards into play.

"The bunkering is probably the biggest defence, and you’ve got to make your scoring on the first six holes because the final stretch is all about holding on.”

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The spectacles bunkers at Carnoustie.

Women's Open preview: Carnoustie's key holes

Championship Course | Par 71 |  6,850 yards

Hole 6: Hogan’s Alley – Par 5, 520 yards

Often played into the wind, with OB running all the way down the left. Players can either go down ‘Hogan’s Alley’, a narrow strip of fairway to the left of the cross bunkers, or bail out to the right. The latter brings more bunkers into play, which makes the lay-up as intimidating as going for the green in two.

Hole 14: Spectacles – Par 5, 437 yards

The last par 5 on the course – and a big birdie chance. A drive over gorse down the right half, away from the OB, leaves a good angle to a long double green shared with the 4th. It’s reachable in two, but the approach plays blind because of two giant cross bunkers, which are built into a ridge.

The 16th at Carnoustie is a brutal par 3.

Hole 16: Barry Burn – Par 3, 220 yards

“The hardest par 3 in the world.” That’s how Tom Watson describes it. The prevailing wind is into, which brings a pair of bunkers short left and short right into play. The long, thin green sits on a plateau but most players will aim for an area just short which kicks the ball forward.

Hole 17: Island – Par 4, 421 yards

So named because of the burn which snakes from left to right and divides a large chunk of the fairway in two. Most players will aim to lay-up short on ‘the island’, between the two stretches of water, and hit a mid to long iron to a green protected by three bunkers at the front.

Hole 18: Home – Par 4, 430 yards

Famed for being one of the most brutal finishing holes in golf. The tee shot needs to skirt the burn on the left and three bunkers on the right. Out of bounds runs tight down the left side and up to the green which is surrounded by more hazards, including the Barry Burn at the front.

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The 6th hole, Hogan's Alley, at Carnoustie, is one of the key holes.

Women's Open preview: Who's in the field

Marina Alex USA

Brittany Altomare USA

Pajaree Anannarukarn THA

Serena Aoki JPN

Pia Babnik SVN

Ana Belac SVN

Celine Boutier FRA

Ashleigh Buhai RSA

Matilda Castren FIN

Chella Choi KOR

In Gee Chun KOR

Carlota Ciganda ESP

Cydney Clanton USA

Jenny Coleman USA

Olivia Cowan GER

Gabriella Cowley ENG

Laura Davies ENG

Manon de Roey BEL

Perrine Delacour FRA

Annabel Dimmock ENG

Louise Duncan (a) SCO

Austin Ernst USA

Ally Ewing USA

Laura Fuenfstueck GER

Ayaka Furue JPN

Hannah Green AUS

Jaye Marie Green USA

Maha Haddioui MAR

Georgia Hall ENG

Erika Hara JPN

Mina Harigae USA

Leonie Harm GER

Nasa Hataoka JPN

Brooke Henderson CAN

Kylie Henry SCO

Esther Henseleit GER

Celine Herbin FRA

Alice Hewson ENG

Charley Hull ENG

Mijung Hur KOR

Nuria Iturrioz ESP

Eun Hee Ji KOR

Felicity Johnson ENG

Ariya Jutanugarn THA

Moriya Jutanugarn THA

Tsubasa Kajitani (a) JPN

Danielle Kang USA

Sarah Kemp AUS

Megan Khang USA

Alim Kim KOR

Sei Young Kim KOR

Cheyenne Knight USA

Jinyoung Ko KOR

Lydia Ko NZL

Jessica Korda USA

Nelly Korda USA

Aline Krauter (a) GER

Jennifer Kupcho USA

Steph Kyriacou AUS

Bronte Law ENG

Alison Lee USA

Andrea Lee USA

Minjee Lee AUS

Jeongeun Lee6 KOR

Stacy Lewis USA

Pernilla Lindberg SWE

Ingrid Lindblad (a) SWE

Yu Liu CHN

Gaby Lopez MEX

Nanna Koerstz Madsen DEN

Leona Maguire IRE

Lucie Malchirand FRA

Mo Martin USA

Caroline Masson GER

Catriona Matthew SCO

Wichanee Meechai THA

Gerina Piller USA

Giulia Molinaro ITA

Azahara Munoz ESP

Yealimi Noh USA

Anna Nordqvist SWE

Sanna Nuutinen FIN

Ryann O’Toole USA

Su Oh AUS

Amy Olson USA

Lee-Anne Pace RSA

Annie Park USA

Inbee Park KOR

Sung Hyun Park KOR

Emily K Pedersen DEN

Sophia Popov GER

Mel Reid ENG

So Yeon Ryu KOR

Madelene Sagstrom SWE

Lizette Salas USA

Yuka Saso PHI

Sarah Schmelzel USA

Paula Schulz-Hansen (a) GER

Hinako Shibuno JPN

Jenny Shin USA

Marianne Skarpnord NOR

Luna Sobron Galmes ESP

Jennifer Song USA

Angela Stanford USA

Lauren Stephenson USA

Jasmine Suwannapura THA

Elizabeth Szokol USA

Emma Talley USA

Patty Tavatanakit THA

Atthaya Thitikul THA

Lexi Thompson USA

Albane Valenzuela SWI

Anne van Dam NED

Lauren Walsh (a) IRE

Ursula Wikstrom FIN

Chloe Williams WAL

Christine Wolf AUT

Amy Yang KOR

Angel Yin USA

Rose Zhang (a) USA

Can Georgia Hall win the Women's Open for a second time?

Women's Open preview: Tee times and groupings

Notable first-round tee times (all BST):

06:52 Celine Boutier (Fra), Anne van Dam (Ned), Emily K Pedersen (Den)

07:14 Amy Yang (Kor), In Chee Gun (Kor), Mel Reid (Eng)

07:47 Danielle Kang (USA), Patty Tavatanakit (Tha), A Lim Kim (Kor)

08:09 Nelly Korda (USA), Nasa Hataoka (Jpn), Charley Hull (Eng)

12:05 Sophia Popov (Ger), Sei Young Kim (Kor), Jessica Korda (USA)

12:27 Inbee Park (Kor), Yealimi Noh (USA), Leona Maguire (Irl)

12:49 Brooke Henderson (Can), Yuka Saso (Phi), Lexi Thompson (USA)

Women's Open preview: Prize fund

There's $4.5m dollars up for grabs at Carnoustie, the Women's Open boasting the second largest purse of the five women's Majors behind the US Open ($5.5m). The prize fund increased by 40 per cent in 2019 with the winner's share increasing to $675,000.  

The prize fund for the men's Open Championship, by way of comparison, is $11.5m.

Women's Open preview: How to watch the year's final women's Major

You could still be at the Women's Open with championship day tickets and weekend passes still on sale. Prices start from just £25 for adults with children aged 16 years or under before the Championship admitted free of charge.

Spectators aged 24 years or under will be entitled to purchase youth (16-24 years) tickets starting from £12.50. A £5 Mastercard discount is available per transaction. Book now at aigwomensopen.com/tickets2021

If the journey to Angus is a little too far then live TV coverage of all four rounds will be shown on Sky Sports Golf with highlights after each day’s play airing on the BBC and BBC iPlayer. BBC Radio 5Live will also keep you up to date with all of the key moments across the four days.

Non-Sky subscribers can keep up with The Open with a NOW TV pass, which is contract free and costs £20 for the month or £9.98 per day, including a month of mobile membership. Get your pass here

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Which golf courses have hosted the Women's Open?

Woburn's Duke's Course leads the way having hosted the event 11 times – 9 times on the Duke's Course and twice on the Marquess.

Nine times: Woburn Golf Club (Duke's Course)

Six times: Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Five times: Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club

Four times: Sunningdale Golf Club

Twice: St Andrews Links, Woburn Golf Club (Marquess Course), Turnberry Golf Club, Lindrick Golf Club

Once: Carnoustie Golf Links (hosts for a second time in 2021), Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Royal Troon Golf Club, Kingsbarns, Fulford Golf Club, Wentworth Golf Club, Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club, Ferndown Golf Club, St Mellion, Moor Park Golf Club, Northumberland Golf Club, Foxhills Golf Club

Woburn's Duke's course has hosted the Women's Open nine times.

Which courses will hold the Women's Open in the future?

The final women's Major of the year heads to East Lothian to be played at Muirfield 2022 before heading south to Surrey and Walton Heath Golf Club in 2023. The Old Course at St Andrews plays host in 2024 before the women head for Walesfor the first time when Royal Porthcawl hosts the 49th playing in 2025. The venue for the 50th Women's Open is yet to be announced. 

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