Punter’s pointers: The AIG Women’s Open – the final major championship of the year

Eight majors down in 2021 and just the one to go, at Carnoustie later this week.

Ten years on from AIG Women's Open's first visit to Carnoustie, the championship returns.

That first edition witnessed a superb victory for Yani Tseng, but she won't even defend this year so badly had her form disintegrated.

The field is reasonably wide open. Nelly Korda is undoubtedly a worthy favourite but her links form is vulnerable. Of the chasers who have strong links land experience, many lack form.

Home hopes include the 2019 championship winner Georgia Hall, the in-form Charley Hull, Mel Reid and Bronte Law.

A side issue this week is the impending Solheim Cup. Both the American and European teams are yet to be finalised and lots of players are desperate to secure a spot in the squads or prompt a captain's pick with a bold showing.

Last week's Punter's Pointer highlighted Kevin Kisner as an outright pick at 50/1. He rewarded the faith with victory in the six-man playoff. Here's hoping for more joy this week.

Hot form

Can Nelly Korda transfer her 2021 excellence to the seaside?

She claimed her first win of the year back in February and has added another three victories in her last four individual starts.

Moreover, she's confirmed her class in that trio because she first thrashed the field in the Meijer Classic, then she claimed a first Major Championship, and most recently added Olympic gold.

Her championship CV does include tied ninth in this event at Woburn in 2019, but by the coast she has struggled: a missed cut at Kingsbarns, T42nd at Royal Lytham, then an improved T14th at Royal Troon.

The good news, then, is that the World No. 1's links record is trending in the right direction.

Back in 2017 Atthaya Thitikul first became a winner on the LET at the staggering age of just 14 years and nine months - and this season, her first full one in Europe, has seen her dominate the rankings.

She sits at No. 1 having landed eight top six finishes from just nine starts.

In addition to that, she kicked off the year with second in the Honda LPGA event on home soil in Thailand (her four LPGA co-sanctioned starts this season have all reaped top fives).

She's a sensational talent with an enormous smile.

Links specialist

Stacy Lewis failed to defend her Women's Scottish Open title last week, but that maybe no bad thing. Instead she made the cut and can fly into Carnoustie a little under the radar.

She won the Women's Open on the Old Course back in 2013, had finished seventh at Kingsbarns, eighth at Royal Liverpool, T12th at Royal Birkdale, T17th at Turnberry and she was also T11th at Carnoustie in 2011.

She's resolute and she understands how to play golf by the sea.

Course form

Carnoustie hosted this championship for the first time ten years ago when Yani Tseng was in her career sweet spot and trounced the field by four strokes.

Germany's Caroline Masson led by two after 54 holes and does boast a strong record in the event (she was third at Kingsbarns and seventh at Troon last year).

The sticking point is her relative lack of form - she's landed just one top five finish since September last year.

In contrast, Amy Yang ticked off four consecutive top 10 finishes ahead of landing T22nd in last week's Trust Golf Women's Scottish Open, when she warmed to her task throughout the week and carded 69-68 at the weekend.

The Korean was fourth at Carnoustie 10 years ago, fifth at Royal Birkdale the year before, and has also gone close at Royal St David's in Harlech, missing out on the win there in a regular LET event only in extra holes.

Riding the wave

In recent years it has been really clear that playing links golf at the Scottish Open has benefited players heading to the Open and that was reiterated last month when Collin Morikawa took that exact route.

Could something similar happen this week? There are distinct differences between Dunbarnie Links and this week's test (last week was wide open from the tee, Carnoustie is, of course, well-known for being anything but), yet it will have primed the short game and the mindset.

Ally Ewing flew home on a wet sail with a course record equalling 63 to finish sixth and then said: "I'm excited after putting in a good round before going into the British Open. My game is in a really good place and can't wait to see Carnoustie tomorrow."

She got into contention on her championship debut at Kingsbarns and has never finished outside the top 30 in three subsequent starts.

Charley Hull is another who left Fife happy after landing her first-ever top five finish on linksland.

"Good momentum heading into next week," she said. "This was a great golf course leading up to next week, a true links and we know what Carnoustie is like. I'm super excited."

She's not entirely without championship form either - she was T12th at Royal Birkdale.

The top 10 machine

It always bears repeating because it is frankly ridiculous: Inbee Park has landed 35 top 10 finishes in 64 majors.

In the event on linksland her record is six in 11 starts (and another two times she was one blow outside the top 10).

And this season she has seven top 10s in 14 starts.

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