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AIG Women’s Open: Equal prizefunds still the aspiration, says R&A chief Martin Slumbers

Chief Executive of the R&A Martin Slumbers.
Chief Executive of the R&A Martin Slumbers.

The direction of travel is towards equitable prizemoney for men and women golfers, no matter how long that may take, vowed the R&A and sponsors AIG on the eve of the Women’s Open at Carnoustie.

The championship this year will have the biggest-ever prize fund in women’s golf rising $1.5m to $5.8m (£4.2m) – more than quarter up on 2020 – with the winner carrying off $860,000 (£624,000).

That will surpass the US Women’s Open (currently $5.5m) as the highest-paying major in the women’s game.

A further $1m will be added to reach $6.8m (£4.9m) at the 2022 Women’s Open at Muirfield. The men’s Open Championship in July paid out a total of $11.5m (£8.35m). Collin Morikawa took home $2.07m (£1.5m) as the champion.

Prizemoney doubles in five years, but still just half of the men’s

Since AIG and the R&A came together under the partnership at the Women’s Open in 2016, prizemoney for the championship has more than doubled. But this massive rise has only just reached over half the money paid to the men.

It’s however undeniable that the R&A, particularly during the tenure of current chief executive Martin Slumbers, has put women’s golf at the forefront of their developmental plans.

“I’m a glass-half-full guy,” he said. “I think we’ve closed a huge gap over these few years, so I look at that as a positive.

“I think the direction of travel is there. But I remain consistent of the view that we need to build the financial wherewithal of women’s professional golf.

“We need to keep building the value of the sponsorship, the number of people who come to watch, the value of the media rights. If we are successful on that, then we’ll continue down this journey.

“But we and AIG are totally in agreement that whatever we did, whatever we do together in the coming years, will be financially sustainable.”

‘We’re on our way’

Peter Zaffino, president and CEO of AIG, described the latest advances as “a great milestone.”

“The journey is still going to be travelled,” he said. “We and the R&A have huge aspirations to deal with the pay equity gap.

“We know there’s more work to be done to fully achieve pay equity, but this is a great milestone and we’re on our way.”

Slumbers described the move as “a new benchmark for women’s golf” and send a powerful message about the value of the women’s game.

“We believe this sends a strong signal that more needs to be done. I believe it can be done, by everyone involved in our sport,” he continued. “Peter and I share the ambition for the AIG Women’s Open to be recognised at one of the most prestigious women’s championships.

“We want to further build on its reputation as the most international major. We play at iconic courses that are much loved around the world, delivering a high-quality experience for the fans, and for the millions watching globally.”

Carnoustie will ‘identify the best player around at the moment’

Lexi Thompson plays her second shot to the 18thin Wednesday practice.

Slumbers said they were delighted with the condition of the Carnoustie Championship course for the week.

“This is a fantastic golf course, it is a very difficult golf course,” he said. “We’ve really tried to set it up to allow the players to show us how good they are. We want to identify not just the best player on the week but the best player around at the moment.

“It’s going to play just over 6,800 yards. We’ll move (the tees) around depending on the weather. The greens are running perfectly at 10. They are at a nice firmness, but not too firm.

“When you talk about Carnoustie, you think about those last four holes. 14 is usually the last chance on Sunday to make a move, then you have got to hang on.”

The famous “Island” 17th played as a par five in the Women’s Open of 2011, but it should always be a par four, he added.

“It’s one of the greatest holes in links golf,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter whether it’s downwind or into the wind. You’re going to have the same yardage for your second shot regardless. Carrying the burn on the other side is not really an option.

“But it’s a proper par 4. Actually it’s a par 4-point-something. And I think it will be the hardest hole on the golf course come Sunday night.”

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