Lilia Vu was simply magnificent as she strode to a six-shot victory in the 2023 edition of the AIG Women’s Open.
After opening with a two-over-par 72, the American moved through the gears over the weekend and eventually saw off home favourite Charley Hull by a comfortable margin.
It handed Vu a second major title following her breakthrough at the Chevron Championship in April.
We look back on four memorable days at Walton Heath:
Ally Ewing produced a late flurry to edge clear of the pack and make herself the player to catch after day one.
In among a bunched group on three-under-par, the 30-year-old then bogeyed 13 and 14 to drop down the leaderboard.
But Ewing rallied brilliantly with a birdie on the very next hole, followed by an eagle on the par-5 16th. This moved her to four-under, one ahead of Amy Yang, Jeongeun Lee6, Perrine Delacour, Jaravee Boonchant and 2014 Women’s Amateur Champion Emily Kristine Pedersen.
The home charge was led by Hull but, much like Ewing, she let things slip at 13 and 14 with a double bogey and a bogey respectively. Hull steadied the ship with an eagle on 16 – one of 13 threes at the par-5 on day one – to sit just inside the red on one-under.
Atthaya Thitikul had the most eventful Thursday of the 144-strong field, beginning her round with a quadruple bogey 8, followed by a bogey at the 5th.
But the two-time Smyth Salver winner regrouped with three birdies and an eagle on 16 to limit the damage.
ROUND ONE LEADERBOARD
-4 Ally Ewing
-3 Jaravee Boonchant, Perrine Delacour, Jeongeun Lee6, Emily Kristine Pedersen, Amy Yang
-2 In Gee Chun, Allisen Corpuz, Nasa Hataoka, Minami Katsu, Megan Khang, Hyo Joo Kim, Gaby Lopez, Yu Liu, Morgane Metraux, Kokona Sakurai
If day one was tight, day two was anything but as Ewing roared into a commanding lead.
The self-proclaimed Mississippi State Bulldog produced a stunning six-under 66 – the lowest round of the week – which included four birdies in a row from the 6th, the only blemish coming at the 18th.
It meant Ewing would take a five-shot advantage into the weekend – the joint-biggest lead after 36 holes at an AIG Women’s Open since 1995.
Three players sat in second place on five-under; Andrea Lee, Minami Katsu and Hull – who posted a bogey-free 68 – while Alison Lee, Hyo Joo-Kim and the eventual champion Vu were just a shot further back.
ROUND TWO LEADERBOARD
-10 Ally Ewing
-5 Charley Hull, Minami Katsu, Andrea Lee
-4 Alison Lee, Hyo Joo Kim, Lilia Vu
Everything can change in golf in the space of just 18 holes.
With many expecting Ewing to produce a weekend procession – much in the same way her compatriot Brian Harman did at The Open last month – it was two other leading lights who grabbed the headlines on a scintillating Saturday.
Vu and Hull were on the offensive throughout, despite the increasing winds, with Vu finding seven birdies to Hull’s six.
Remarkably, Vu came within just a few feet of a hole-in-one at the par-4 10th, courtesy of a stunning shot with a hybrid at a tee that had been moved forward 58 yards to make it more inviting.
Ewing struggled to maintain her early form and was only able to post a three-over 75 on a difficult afternoon.
Angel Yin emerged from the chasing pack thanks to a solid five-under round, while Kim followed in her slipstream after finding four birdies in the final six holes.
An absorbing Saturday was brought to a close by Ellie Goulding’s electrifying set at Walton Heath – the first time live music has been a part of the AIG Women’s Open.
ROUND THREE LEADERBOARD
-9 Charley Hull, Lilia Vu
-8 Angel Yin, Hyo Joo Kim
-7 Ally Ewing
-6 Linn Grant
-5 Jiyai Shin, Alison Lee
With the majority of the Walton Heath crowd willing Hull to close out a first British triumph at this Championship since Georgia Hall in 2018, Vu simply ignored the hype and recorded one of the greatest rounds of golf of her life.
Level at the top on nine-under-par before they began their final rounds, the leading pair were suddenly separated by two shots by the time they reached the 4th tee. And it was a margin Vu never looked like relinquishing. Indeed, the Californian had increased her lead to four shots at the turn.
Hull produced one of the moments of the Championship when she holed out from a bunker for an eagle at the 11th. But Vu was unmoved and found a birdie at the very next hole after a sensational approach shot. At this stage it was a matter of when, not if.
Vu eventually won by an enormous six shots – and both her and her playing partner finished in style with birdies on 18, much to the delight of the packed grandstands.
Meanwhile Charlotte Heath collected the Smyth Salver – awarded to the amateur with the lowest score – by finishing in a tie for 61st place on seven-over-par.
-14 Lilia Vu
-8 Charley Hull
-7 Jiyai Shin
-6 Hyo Joo Kim, Amy Yang
-4 Angel Yin, Ally Ewing, Allisen Corpuz
-3 Andrea Lee, Olivia Cowan