We have arrived at the end of the LPGA's major sprint, as the AIG Women's British Open at Walton Heath this week marks four majors over seven weeks. Phew.
Players, too, must catch their breath over the major-laden stretch as notable deadlines loom. The clock is ticking for those trying to make their way onto the U.S. or European Solheim Cup teams. In addition, the AIG Women's Open is the last chance to make up ground in the Race to the CME Globe standings with the increased points on the line in England and only seven full-field tournaments remaining on the LPGA schedule.
Lapping the rest of the tour is Celine Boutier, who has swept the first two European LPGA events with wins at the Amundi Evian Championship and the Women's Scottish Open. Spoiler alert, she's a heavy favorite this week.
With four majors in the books, what can we divine to identify a pick who could upset Boutier? Three of this year’s four champions had victories this season before their major titles. Lilia Vu won at the Honda LPGA Thailand prior to the Chevron Championship. Ruoning Yin claimed the DIO Implant LA Open ahead of winning the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Boutier won the Drive On Championship before becoming the first Frenchwoman ever to win the Evian. (U.S. Women’s Open champ Allisen Corpuz was the lone exception, but she was in the final group at the Chevron before her victory at Pebble Beach.)
With the 144-player field finalized Tuesday morning after amateur Savannah De Bock survived a seven-hole playoff that started on Monday, we sorted out the top 25 most likely to win and take home a $1.095 million first-place prize.
25: Lilia Vu
Rolex Ranking: 6 AIG Women’s Open starts: 1 Best finish: T-41, 2022
The Chevron champ has shown some signs of life after missing four consecutive cuts at stroke-play events following her big win. Two made cuts in France and Scotland hint that maybe her game is back on track.
24: Carlota Ciganda
Rolex Ranking: 31 AIG Women’s Open starts: 14 Best finish: 7th, 2019
The Spaniard grabbed headlines for unusual reasons at Evian when she was DQ’d after being hit with a slow-play penalty. But she was playing well prior to that, rattling off six straight top-21 LPGA finishes after a win at the the Aramco Team Series in Florida in May. She’s this week’s comeback-with-vengeance pick.
23: Georgia Hall
Rolex Ranking: 15 AIG Women’s Open starts: 8 Best finish: Win, 2018
Hall made her first cut in four starts at the Evian, ending up T-36. That turnaround might be enough to jumpstart the Brit at one of her favorite tournaments, as she has three top-three finishes in the championship since 2017, including a T-3 that year and a T-2 in 2021.
22: Atthaya Thitikul
Rolex Ranking: 11 AIG Women’s Open starts: 5 Best finish: T-7, 2022
A WD following a 79 at the Scottish last week won't dissuade taking a chance on the talented Thai. The top-10 machine posted her eighth of 2023, the most on tour, at the Evian with a T-9.
21: Ayaka Furue
Rolex Ranking: 18 AIG Women’s Open starts: 2 Best finish: T-20, 2021
Furue has slowed down a bit of late, her win at last year’s Women's Scottish Open hints that she has the ability to thrive in links golf.
20: Ashleigh Buhai
Rolex Ranking: 17 AIG Women’s Open starts: 15 Best finish: Win, 2023
The defending champion hasn't been in contention since the Meijer LPGA Classic in mid-June. But a T-20 at the Evian and missing the cut at the Scottish is quite close to her winning formula in '22, when the South African finished T-15 at Evian, then missed the cut at the Scottish before winning her first major title.
19: Leona Maguire
Rolex Ranking: 13 AIG Women’s Open starts: 6 Best finish: T-4, 2022
Maguire has slowed down slightly after an electric run from the end of May to June, with a victory at the Meijer LPGA Classic capping off four straight top-11s. Her strong finishes over the last two AIGs (T-13 in 2021, T-4 in 2022) keep her in the mix.
18: Madelene Sagstrom
Rolex Ranking: 38 AIG Women’s Open starts: 8 Best Finish: T-2, 2021
Sagstrom posted back-to-back top-fives at the AIG Women's Open. The 2020 Gainbridge LPGA winner rolls into Walton Heath off a T-9 at the Women's Scottish last week.
17: Megan Khang
Rolex Ranking: 28 AIG Women’s Open starts: 7 Best finish: T-11, 2016
Khang is having the best year of major performances over so far in her eighth year on tour. She's posted three top-10s, including a T-3 at the KPMG Women's PGA, the most the American ever had in a season at the majors.
16: A Lim Kim
Rolex Ranking: 35 AIG Women’s Open starts: 7 Best finish: T-11, 2017
Kim is the second-best player so far on the LPGA's European swing. The 2020 U.S. Women's Open champion finished T-3 at the Evian and T-4 at the Women's Scottish.
15: Angel Yin
Rolex Ranking: 34 AIG Women’s Open starts: 7 Best finish: T-11, 2017
Yin has been a stalwart at majors this year, with the fifth-best score to par of players who've made all four cuts. Since her second-place finish at the Chevron, the American has only one finish outside the top 30.
14: Maja Stark
Rolex Ranking: 36 AIG Women’s Open starts: 1 Best finish: T-41, 2022
Stark posted her third top-five finish of 2023 last week at the Women's Scottish, putting the 2022 ISPS Handa World Invitational winner in position for her second career LPGA victory in Europe.
13: Xiyu Lin
Rolex Ranking: 12 AIG Women’s Open starts: 8 Best finish: T-17, 2023
Lin continues knocking on the door of her first LPGA victory with top-16 finishes in five of her last six starts. Keep an eye if she is near contention Sunday, as Lin averages 69.2 in final rounds this year, tied with Hall for the best on tour for those who have played at least 10 final rounds.
12: Jin Young Ko
Rolex Ranking: 2 AIG Women’s Open starts: 4 Best finish: 2nd, 2015
Ko only played the AIG Women's Open twice in its last four editions, a solo 3rd in 2019 amidst her 114-consecutive-hole bogey-free streak and a missed cut last year. She has yet to contend on tour since her Founders Cup victory in early June but has finished in the top 26 in four of her last five starts.
11: Allisen Corpuz
Rolex Ranking: 8 AIG Women’s Open starts: 1 Best finish: MC, 2012
Corpuz leads the Rolex Annika Major award, the honor given to the best player at the LPGA's majors in a given season, and has been in the final group twice at majors this year with a T-4 at the Chevron and a breakthrough victory at Pebble Beach. Europe, so far, hasn't been as kind to Corpuz—she missed the cut in Scotland and ended up T-54 at the Evian.
10: Nasa Hataoka
Rolex Ranking: 14 AIG Women’s Open starts: 2 Best finish: T-7, 2022
Still winless in majors, Hataoka found herself in the last group in the previous two. Will the Japanese star, after posting top-fives in five of her previous 16 major starts, finally get her breakthrough this week?
9: Linn Grant
Rolex Ranking: 19 AIG Women’s Open starts: 2 Best finish: T-19, 2022
Grant's a consistency machine on the LPGA. In 14 starts as a tour member, she has a grand total of three finishes outside the top 20. There's no reason to expect anything different from this year's Dana Open winner.
8: Rose Zhang
Darren Carroll/PGA of America
Rolex Ranking: 32 AIG Women's Open starts: 2 Best finish: T-28, 2022
Zhang's impressive rookie season continues through her major performances. She has three top-10s in three major starts as a pro, most recently a T-9 at the Evian.
7: Hyo Joo Kim
Rolex Ranking: 7 AIG Women's Open starts: 2 Best finish: T-7, 2017
Kim continues to lead the LPGA in scoring average and nearly came away with her first win of the year at the Women's Scottish last week. Her lower leg injury, which caused her to hobble her way around her final round, however, knocks her down the list.
6: Brooke Henderson
Rolex Ranking: 9 AIG Women's Open starts: 8 Best finish: T-7, 2022
Henderson's second-place finish at the Evian is her second top-five finish of the year, along with her victory in the LPGA season opener in January. The Canadian's immense talent meshed well at the last two AIG Women's Open, as Henderson finished T-13 in 2021 before a career-best T-7 in 2022.
5: Nelly Korda
Rolex Ranking: 1 AIG Women's Open starts: 8 Best finish: T-9, 2019
It's back to the top of the World Rankings for Korda, due to her LET victory at the Aramco Team Series at the Centurion Club last month and her consistent place near the top of LPGA leaderboards. Korda's T-9 at the Evian was her seventh top-10 of her season.
4: Ruoning Yin
Rolex Ranking: 4 AIG Women’s Open starts: First
The KPMG Women's PGA winner rebounded from a missed cut in her Evian debut with a third-place finish at Dundonald Links, her fourth top-five in 12 starts this season. She's continuing her ascension as one of the LPGA's up-and-coming stars.
3: Yuka Saso
Rolex Ranking: 22 AIG Women's Open starts: 2 Best finish: T-39, 2021
Saso might have got some of Boutier's magic dust as her teammate at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at the end of July. The 2021 U.S. Women's Open winner continues her exceptional play, featuring top-threes in three of her last four starts, including a second at the KPMG Women's PGA and a T-3 at the Evian.
2: Minjee Lee
Rolex Ranking: 10 AIG Women's Open starts: 9 Best finish: 3rd, 2020
Over the last five years, Lee has been the most consistent AIG Women's Open player. She's finished no worse than T-11 since 2018, including top-fives in each of the last three. The two-time major champion combines excellent results at the AIG and solid form; Lee maintained her eight straight top-20s heading into Walton Heath with an impressive turnaround in Scotland last week following an opening round 80 to finish T-13.
1: Celine Boutier
Rolex Ranking: 3 AIG Women's Open starts: 7 Best finish: 6th, 2019
The best player in the world right now continues steamrolling through the European continent with back-to-back wins. Simply put, you can't bet against her. It's hard to imagine her consistency not continuing through Walton Heath and earning her fourth victory of 2023.