Big news. Or at least, big money news. Setting a new benchmark for women’s golf, the prizemoney payout at this week’s AIG Women’s Open will total $US5.8 million, that largest of any LPGA Major and an increase of $US1.3 million from what it was a year ago at Royal Troon. On Sunday evening, the new champion at Carnoustie will receive a cheque for $US870,000.
And there’s more. Continuing a trend that began in 2019, AIG’s first year as title sponsor of the event run by the R&A, next year at Muirfield that number will rise again, this time to “no less than” $US6.8 million. Remarkably, that figure is more than double the prize fund from 2018.
“When we became completely responsible for this event, it was a goal to move it up to do two things,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, a well-known and fervent advocate of women’s golf. “One is to have a world-class experience for our players, our sponsors and our fans. We are conscious that this is the only Major in women’s golf in the UK. So we want to make it a really important part of the calendar, a really ‘don’t-miss’ event.
“We believe that this action to make changes sends a strong signal that more needs to be done, and I believe can be done, by everyone involved in our sport,” Slumbers continued. “In addition to the prizemoney, our ambition is for the AIG Women’s Open to be recognised at one of the most prestigious women’s championships and further build on its reputation as the most international major played at iconic courses that are much loved around the world.”
That aspect of the announcement was picked up on by at least two players, Australians Su Oh and Hannah Green.
“We certainly can’t complain,” said Green, a former KPMG Women’s PGA champion. “For the R&A and AIG to do this in COVID-times is pretty amazing. But every one of our Majors is striving to be the best.”
“I feel like all of our Majors are increasingly trying to outdo each other with the prizemoney, which is great,” Oh said. “And the same has happened with the golf courses. When KPMG came on board at the [Women’s PGA] Championship, they brought with them really good courses. The USGA has done the same with the US Women’s Open. And now the R&A are joining in. But we deserve it. The competition is so good out here.”
The overall purse increase means the AIG Open jumps the US Women’s Open as the most lucrative Major overall in the women’s game. The USGA awarded $US5.5 million in prizemoney in June at Olympic Club. However, the winner, Yuka Saso, earned $1 million for her victory.
Here’s the prizemoney breakdown of the other LPGA Majors (all in US dollars):
US Women’s Open: $5.5 million (winner: $1 million)
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: $4,500,000 (winner: $675,000)
Evian Championship: $4,500,000 (winner: $675,000)
ANA Inspiration: $3,100,000 (winner: $465,000)
Only one women’s tournament offers a larger first-place prize, the CME Group Tour Championship. In 2019, winner Sei Young Kim received $US1.5 million from an overall purse of $5 million. The event changed its structure slightly in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Jin Young Ko earning $US1.1 million from an overall purse of $3 million.
Mind you, there is still a way to go for the prizemoney to match that of the men’s Majors; Collin Morikawa made $US2.07 million from a $11.5 million purse at the Open Championship at Royal St George’s last month. Slumbers acknowledged as much during his press conference, but offered one caveat with regard to women’s purses rising.
“There should never be a race [between Majors],” he said. “This is in no way a competition. This is about moving in a direction, and everyone’s got to move at their own pace. But I hope we create a ripple. We’ve been fortunate with the team we’ve got, with the championship we’ve got, to be able to move at the pace that we want to move at.”
“It’s almost bad that we are thinking how lucky we are,” Green said. “The money this week is still only similar to a regular PGA Tour event. But yes, this is a step in the right direction. I can see our regular tour purses going up now, too. So all in all this can only a good thing for us in the long term.”