AIG Women's Open at Royal Troon is 'tangible evidence game is moving forward'

AIG Women's Open at Royal Troon is 'tangible evidence game is moving forward'

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When Royal Troon last staged an Open it took one of the greatest major performances to decide the Claret Jug - Henrik Stenson's record-breaking 2016 win over Phil Mickelson after an epic duel.

And whatever happens on the famous Ayrshire links in the coming days, the AIG Women's Open is likely to also provide another highly memorable championship.

This is the most significant golf tournament to be staged in Britain during this Covid-blighted year, as well as being the country's biggest women's sporting event of 2020.

No fewer than 32 countries are represented in a 144-strong field. Arriving in Troon, there is a discernible feeling big-time sport has arrived, even though there is no need for grandstands.

Global television audiences will watch the first women's major with appetites whetted by the thrilling men's US PGA Championship, won by Collin Morikawa earlier this month.

Given golf's predisposition to social distancing, the sport has been enjoying a renaissance as a by-product of coronavirus, reflected by inflated participation and viewing figures.

Now the world's best women can take advantage as Royal Troon stages this major for the first time. It is a much-needed boost, because the female game was hit hard when the pandemic struck. 

This had been intended to be the biggest year for women's professional golf. The LPGA boasted record prize funds and the Ladies' European Tour set out an expanded schedule after years of contraction.

But key tournaments in Asia were the first to fall in February, and it took until the end of July before the LPGA was able to return.

The women's game lacks the riches of the men's game - its players face a more hand-to-mouth existence, and a far fiercer scrap for attention and sponsorship.

But, at long last, there is some good news.

The rebranded Women's Open (no longer the British Open) has been accompanied by extended sponsorship which provides a firmer footing. 

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