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Carnoustie 2021
Major pedigree
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The highest-ranked players at the 2021 AIGWO
Nelly Korda at the 2020 AIG Women

It is never an easy task to predict who will win the AIG Women’s Open, as evidenced in 2020 when Sophia Popov, who was ranked 304th in the world, secured a stunning triumph.

However, a host of big names will be confident of making their presence felt at Carnoustie.

We take a look at the eight highest-ranked players in the field, who have each shown they have what it takes to win a major.

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Nelly Korda

Age: 23

World ranking: 1

Major wins: 1 (2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 4

Best finish: T9 (2019, Woburn)

Quite simply the most in-form player in the world right now, Nelly Korda has moved to another level in recent months and achieved a host of notable milestones in the process.

The American claimed her first major title at the end of June in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, a victory that also took her to number one in the world for the first time.

As if that was not enough, Korda then secured a gold medal for her country in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, her third victory in four starts.

Korda, who was also third in the ANA Inspiration earlier this year, has finished tied-ninth and tied-14th on her last two visits to the AIG Women’s Open. She will surely fancy her chances of mounting an even stronger challenge at Carnoustie.

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Inbee Park

Age: 33

World ranking: 3

Major wins: 7 (2008 U.S. Women’s Open, 2013 Kraft Nabisco Championship, 2013 LPGA Championship, 2013 U.S. Women’s Open, 2014 LPGA Championship, 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, 2015 AIG Women’s Open)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 13

Best finish: Champion (2015, Turnberry)

One of the all-time greats, Park has repeatedly threatened in recent seasons to add to her haul of seven major titles.

Although her last success in one of the game’s premier events came in 2015 when she won the AIG Women’s Open at Turnberry, Park has since recorded 13 top-10 finishes in majors, illustrating her enduring class.

At Royal Troon last year, Park opened with a six-over 77 but recovered superbly and secured fourth position with a closing 66.

The South Korean was also inside the top 10 when the AIG Women’s Open was previously played at Carnoustie in 2011.

She returns to Scotland in good form, having not finished lower than 40th all season on the LPGA Tour. In addition, Park claimed her 21st victory on the circuit in March’s Kia Classic, and only Korda boasts a lower scoring average this season.

Inbee Park at the 2020 AIG Women's Open

Sei Young Kim

Age: 28

World ranking: 4

Major wins: 1 (2020 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 5

Best finish: T4 (2018, Royal Lytham & St Annes)

A 12-time LPGA Tour winner, Kim was the circuit’s Player of the Year in 2020 after a wonderful season highlighted by her victory at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Her first major title was secured at a canter, Kim finishing five shots clear of compatriot Park at Aronimink.

The success was no surprise, either, given Kim had amassed eight top-eight finishes in majors prior to her breakthrough. Among those was a tie for fourth in the 2018 AIG Women’s Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, albeit she was eight shots behind the victorious Georgia Hall on that occasion.

The 2019 CME Group Tour Championship winner, Kim also holds the record for the lowest score to par on the LPGA Tour, after winning the 2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic by nine with an incredible 31-under aggregate of 257.

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Danielle Kang

Age: 28

World ranking: 5

Major wins: 1 (2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 10

Best finish: T32 (2020, Royal Troon)

Another member of the world’s top five whose first major success came at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Kang won the event in 2017 and two of her other three top-five finishes in majors have come at the PGA.

Kang came into last year’s AIG Women’s Open as the form player after back-to-back LPGA Tour wins in August 2020, but she had to be content with a tie for 32nd at Royal Troon.

Surprisingly, that still represented her best finish in 10 outings at the AIG Women’s Open.

Kang’s debut in the Championship came at Carnoustie a decade ago, when she beat Sophia Popov to low amateur honours and finished joint-49th at the age of 18.

Expectations for Kang will be considerably higher this time around as she looks to build on a record of seven top-10 finishes in 14 LPGA Tour appearances this year.

Brooke Henderson

Age: 23

World ranking: 7

Major wins: 1 (2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 6

Best finish: T11 (2018, Royal Lytham & St Annes)

Five years have now passed since Henderson became the youngest winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at the age of 18, edging out Lydia Ko in a play-off.

Although the Canadian has yet to add to that maiden major victory, her consistently good form has seen her maintain a regular presence inside the world’s top 10.

April’s success at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open represented Henderson’s 10th on the LPGA Tour and came after a winless 2020 in which she came agonisingly close to further major glory.

Henderson again found herself in a play-off at that year’s ANA Inspiration, but she and Nelly Korda were beaten when Mirim Lee birdied the first extra hole.

Yuka Saso

Age: 20

World ranking: 8

Major wins: 1 (2021 U.S. Women’s Open)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 0

Best finish: N/A

Saso will make her AIG Women’s Open debut just a couple of months on from her historic victory at the U.S. Women’s Open, where she beat Nasa Hataoka in a play-off.

In addition to becoming the first Filipino major champion, Saso remarkably matched Inbee Park’s record as the youngest winner of the U.S. Women’s Open, triumphing at the age of 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.

The success led to a meeting with her idol, Rory McIlroy, at the men’s U.S. Open later in June. Saso has modelled her swing on the 2014 Open Champion and claimed she was more nervous talking to McIlroy than she was in her play-off against Hataoka.

Since winning the U.S. Women’s Open, Saso has maintained her good form, finishing tied-fifth in the recent Marathon LPGA Classic and joint-ninth in the Olympics.

She will certainly be one to watch on her first visit to the AIG Women’s Open.

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Lydia Ko

Age: 24

World ranking: 9

Major wins: 2 (2015 Evian Championship, 2016 Ana Inspiration)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 9

Best finish: T3 (2015, Turnberry)

A serial record-breaker as a teenager, Ko was the world number one before her 18th birthday and claimed two majors prior to turning 20.

Her first two LPGA Tour wins – both as an amateur – came in successive years at the Canadian Women’s Open. Ko was only 15 years and four months old when she won the event for the first time to set an LPGA record.

By July 2016, when she was still only 19, Ko had an astonishing 14 LPGA titles to her name and was the holder of two majors.

A fallow period followed, with only one win from 2017 to 2020, but Ko has gradually regained her form and in April she stormed to her first title in three years with a seven-stroke success at the Lotte Championship, two weeks on from coming second at the ANA Inspiration courtesy of a final-round 62.

Now back inside the world’s top 10 and a bronze medallist at the recent Olympics, the two-time winner of the Smyth Salver for the leading amateur at the AIG Women’s Open will hope to improve on last year’s showing at Royal Troon, where she was firmly in contention at the halfway stage before fading to finish in a tie for 14th.

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Minjee Lee

Age: 25

World ranking: 10

Major wins: 1 (2021 Evian Championship)

Previous AIG Women’s Open appearances: 7

Best finish: 3rd (2020, Royal Troon)

A regular contender at the AIG Women’s Open, Lee improved on two previous top-10 finishes by placing third at Royal Troon last year.

That represented the Australian’s best major result at the time, but she then broke new ground last month with a remarkable victory at the Evian Championship.

Lee was seven shots off the pace coming into the final round, but she shot a superb 64 on Sunday to force a play-off with overnight leader Jeongeun Lee6, and then birdied the first extra hole to secure victory.

Given she has finished no lower than 11th on each of her last three visits to the AIG Women’s Open, golf’s newest major winner will be expected to challenge again at Carnoustie.

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