Golf’s most recent major champion is understandably full of confidence as she prepares for the AIG Women’s Open.
Brooke Henderson earned her second major title at the Evian Championship on July 24, six years on from her victory as a teenager at the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“It did take six years, but it was definitely worth the wait,” said the Canadian in a news conference at Muirfield on Tuesday. “To win my first major championship, it really changed my life, just the attention that I received from the media and from fans and everything.
“But then to get the second one, yeah, it's a box that you can check off, and it just makes you feel a little bit more confident about where your game is and that you can compete on the biggest stages.
“It's super exciting to come into this week with as much momentum as I have and have my game in such a good place the last couple months. Links golf is very different, and definitely a big challenge for me coming from courses that were nothing like this growing up. So it is a big change.
“But every year, I feel like I get a little bit more comfortable with the different shots and the different style of play that you need to use.”
Henderson’s excitement is heightened by her admiration for Muirfield, which she described as “maybe my favourite links that I’ve ever played".
“It’s definitely going to be a great test and very challenging, especially if it it's as windy as it is right now,” she added. “I'm really excited to tee it up on Thursday.
“I played nine holes on Sunday night and then 18 holes on Monday, and I just love the way it feels and the way it looks. I mentioned some of the spectacular views of the water, which is really cool. You can see it from a lot of different holes, actually, which is pretty neat.
“And it's a very challenging golf course. But there's a lot of different options off tees and it's just a great feel here. So I look forward to playing four days of competition.
“It's a great time to be a part of women's golf and to be here, a major championship on this incredible golf course that we've never been able to play before; only the men. That really means a lot, and I'm just excited for the opportunity.”
Defending AIG Women’s Open Champion Anna Nordqvist was also in buoyant mood as she spoke to reporters on Tuesday.
“I've been looking forward to this week for a long time. It's one of my favourite weeks out of the year,” said the Swede.
“I've had a lot of special memories playing the AIG Women’s Open over the years, starting in 2007 when I Monday qualified as an amateur into St Andrews.
“I just have a lot of good memories, so I think coming in through the gate, I saw my picture, it's the first picture you see. Obviously it still feels pretty surreal to have my name on the trophy. It's just a very proud accomplishment.
“If someone would have said when I was a young girl that I would one day win the AIG Women's Open, I probably would have told them they were crazy. It's probably the biggest childhood dream I've ever had, especially being from Europe.
“So it is very special. I'm going to embrace the opportunity teeing up on the first hole being announced as the defending champion. It's been a huge honour having the trophy and getting to share it with my friends and family for the last year.”
World number two Minjee Lee is part of a superstar grouping for the first two rounds, which will see the Australian tee it up with the players directly above and below her in the Rolex Rankings, Jinyoung Ko and Nelly Korda.
Lee’s brother, Min Woo, won the Scottish Open at the nearby Renaissance Club in 2021 and two-time major champion Minjee will now look to complete a family double on Scotland’s east coast.
“It would be pretty cool,” she added. “Min Woo won at Renaissance, and I'm really looking forward to this week. I think it's going to be a great Championship. It's at a great venue, so I'm pretty excited.
“I really love playing at links golf courses. I just really love like the hard conditions that we get and just how much creativity we have to think about around these types of courses.
“It would be a great honour to be able to win the AIG Women’s Open.”
Korda, who has finished inside the top 15 in her last three appearances at this Championship, reflected on the challenge Muirfield will pose.
“If you want to win a tournament in general, everything kind of has to come together but the par-3s are definitely tough,” said Korda.
“If it gets windy, the greens are going to be really tricky. The par-3s are long. There's definitely a lot of fall-offs on the front of the greens.
“Overall, I think the entire golf course, you have to strike it well. The fairways are not really too wide either. Sometimes you just have to be aggressive and just take the shot in the fescue to be closer to the green. But yeah, I think the golf course is going to be a great test.
“You just never know what kind of weather you're going to get out here. We were extremely lucky to see the sun and it to kind of be calm yesterday (Monday). It was honestly a very beautiful day. It's good to kind of get all of it before you start on Thursday to see how the golf course can play so many different ways.”