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Why these AIG Women’s Open contenders could prevail at Muirfield

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The final major championship of the year is here as Muirfield — host of the 2022 AIG Women’s Open — welcomes the top women pros in the world. The Scottish links has produced plenty of epic championships in the past, but this year will be the first time the ladies will etch their place in Muirfield’s rich history.

With Muirfield as the venue, the stakes are already elevated, but the purse on the line will ramp things up even more. A record $7.3 million is up for grabs this week (a 26 percent increase from a year ago), with $1,095,000 going to the winner.

So, who’s got the best chance to take home that sweet payday? Here are 10 contenders to keep an eye on.

Minjee Lee

Darren Riehl

Best Women’s Open finish: 3rd (2020)

Why she’s a threat: It’s been a banner season for Lee. The Aussie won the U.S. Women’s Open in runaway fashion earlier this summer, and added a T2 finish at the Women’s PGA a few weeks later. She also claimed the LPGA Founders Cup back in May. That hot streak — plus her Evian win last summer — has elevated Lee to No. 2 in the world as she has become one of the best players in the game.

Brooke Henderson

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Best Women’s Open finish: T11 (2018)

Why she’s a threat: Henderson is the LPGA’s most recent major champ after her Evian victory two weeks ago; she’s now looking for major title No. 3. The Canadian has always been a world-beating talent, and if she gets hot, she has the ability to make it two in a row.

Jin Young Ko

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Best Women’s Open finish: 2nd (2015)

Why she’s a threat: Any contender list would be incomplete without Ko. The world No. 1 is the most consistent ball-striker in the women’s game, and has the talent to win every week she tees it up. Although it’s been three years since she won a major, a win this week should surprise no one.

Lydia Ko

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Best Women’s Open finish: T3 (2015)

Why she’s a threat: There’s being due, and then there’s whatever Ko is. The two-time major winner has taken up residence at the top of leaderboard lately, finishing in the top 12 in seven of her last eight starts, and a victory feels imminent. Muirfield may well be the place she finally breaks through.

Nelly Korda

Darren Riehl

Best Women’s Open finish: T9 (2019)

Why she’s a threat: Korda hasn’t quite been the force in 2022 that she was last summer, but she’s still played solidily since returning from injury two months ago. She has three top 10s in four starts, and it feels more like when rather than if she will win another major.

Anna Nordqvist

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Best Women’s Open finish: Win (2021)

Why she’s a threat: Defending champ and a three-time major winner. ‘Nuff said!

Atthaya Thitikul

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Best Women’s Open finish: T29 (2019)

Why she’s a threat: If you don’t know Thitikul’s name, it’s time to familiarize yourself. The favorite for LPGA Rookie of the Year is the model of consistency — she’s missed just one cut in three years — and has quickly become a top-10 talent. There’s little doubt that she’ll win a major before long.

Lexi Thompson

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Best Women’s Open finish: T8 (2016)

Why she’s a threat: Thompson, while a tragic character, will always have the raw talent to compete in majors. The question is, can she make putts come crunch time? If she can, she’ll pen one of the all-time great redemption stories in golf.

Jennifer Kupcho

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Best Women’s Open finish: 64th (2021)

Why she’s a threat: It’s been a breakout year for Kupcho. She won her first major title in Palm Springs in the spring, won again later in the summer, and followed it up with a team victory alongside Lizette Salas last month. Could another major win be in the works?

Hyo-Joo Kim

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Best Women’s Open finish: T7 (2017)

Why she’s a threat: Kim has been knocking on the door in majors this season. She’s finished in the top 10 in three of her four starts in majors — including a T3 at the Evian — and she owns a victory from earlier this spring. Even if she doesn’t win this week, look for her name near the top of the leaderboard.

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