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AIG Women’s Open: Adopted ‘local’ Anna Nordqvist overcomes her struggles to win her third major title

Sweden's Anna Nordqvist with the trophy.
Sweden's Anna Nordqvist with the trophy.

Anna Nordqvist had her terrors – two horseshoed putts and a visit to a ditch – but crucially none of them were on Carnoustie’s feared final holes and she outlasted the field to win the AIG Women’s Open.

As near to a local as any in the field – she married Alyth’s former Scottish Amateur champion Kevin McAlpine earlier this year – the 34-year-old Swede clinched her third major title.

It came four years after her last, the Evian Championship of 2017, also her last win of any sort. A final round 69 left her with a 12-under aggregate of 276, securing a record $870,000 (£582,000) first prize.

Koerstz Madsen enters Carnoustie’s chamber of horrors

Nanna Koerstz Madsen’s ill-fated bunker shot on 18.

Nordqvist won by a shot from 2018 champion Georgia Hall, previous runner-up Lizette Salas and fellow Swede Madelene Sagstrom. But it was the plight of Nanna Koerstz Madsen that will enter the Carnoustie’s overstocked chamber of horrors.

The 26-year-old came down the last level with Nordqvist at -12, but after a monster drive in perfect position, blocked her second shot into outer part of the 18th green bunker.

The Dane then shanked the tough bunker shot from a downhill lie almost to the retaining wall behind the green, and eventually recorded a double-bogey six to fall into a share of fifth.

Nordqvist overcomes her own struggles

Nordqvist didn’t waver even with her own struggles, seeing birdie putts come back to her around the hole at both the first and the 11th, and hitting into the ditch down the right of the 12th hole and taking a bogey six there.

That came after she had built a lead with birdies on the front nine at the 6th, 8th and 9th, but she steadied the ship impressively, birdied the long 14th, and then was mistake-free under the tightening pressure of Carnoustie’s brutal final four holes.

In the end she almost birdied the last as Koerstz Madsen floundered, but the one shot she had in hand was enough.

‘This is the most special one’

“I think this is the most special one,” she said of her third major title. “Just because it’s taken me a couple years. I’ve fought so hard and questioned whether I was doing the right things.”

She also paid tribute to the two Scottish men in her life, husband Kevin and caddie Paul Cormack, who hails from Banchory.

“Paul, he’s been working so hard for me and I really wanted to do it for him, too,” she said. “Kevin has been supporting me so much, too, and all the friends and family here.

“Having spectators back and feeling that adrenaline kicking again I think this is definitely my most special win.”

Kevin and Anna have had to postpone their big family wedding twice because of covid restrictions. But they tied the knot in a quiet ceremony in March “with about 20 accounts on Zoom from different places”.

There was a huge gathering of the McAlpine/Nordqvist clan behind the ropes, led by Kevin’s dad Hamish, the Dundee United legend.

‘I stayed solid coming in’

“I obviously played really solid in the beginning, hit a great hybrid in there on 6 to two-putt for birdie,” she said. “Then hit a really good 6-iron on 8, made that putt and then made the putt on 9, too, which was a bit of a bonus.

“After 11 and 12, I just got through that and stayed solid coming in.”

Tied with Koerstz Madsen coming down the final holes, Nordqvist admitted it was tough to see her playing partner finish with a double-bogey.

“But the only thing I could really control was myself, and it was going to be my time,” she said. “Just try to do the best could I and see where it ended up.

“It was such a great feeling to have just a tap-in to win. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

‘I was nervous all day’

The Dane said her biggest mistake was trying too hard not to make a mistake at the last.

“I was nervous all day,” she said. “I did really well in trying to still hit good shots, trying not to make mistakes. On 18, I tried to not make a mistake and that was the only thing I shouldn’t do.

“I’m really proud. I had a chance all the way till the end. I haven’t even had a chance on the back nine on a Sunday before. Now have a way to get there, and I just need to finish the last hole next time.”

Hall gave it a massive shot to win her second Open in four years with two huge eagles at the 6th and the 12th. But the defining moment was not those or her three birdies but the two bogeys at the 8th and 9th.

“I’m proud of how I played today, to be in with a chance in a major again,” said Georgia. “It’s been a great week and you always never know what can happen on the final holes here.”

Salas’ ‘Molinari’ tactics nearly work

Salas tried to “Molinari” Carnoustie on the final day and succeeded with a bogey-free three-under 69. But she had a clear deficit in length compared to the other contenders. Also the lack of a wind like the Italian had in 2018 meant she always looked just off the necessary pace.

“I think I did a good job,” said the American. “My attitude was good. I don’t want to dwell on what could have happened. I’m going to walk out of here smiling, and just knowing I did a good job.”

Sagstrom got close with a rare birdie at 17, but was left to rue a bogey at the last.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” she said. “Finishing tied second, if you would have told me that before the week, I’d probably have been laughing at you.

“And now, I mean, I’m extremely happy for Anna, but wish I would have played better.”

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