With a never-give-up attitude, Anna Nordqvist wins Evian in playoff

PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images

With a never-give-up attitude, Anna Nordqvist wins Evian in playoff

LPGA Tour

With a never-give-up attitude, Anna Nordqvist wins Evian in playoff

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – Anna Nordqvist is no quitter. She credits the fight in her spirit to her late grandfather, who made a habit of sending encouraging text messages. At the Evian Championship, the statuesque Swede overcame a hailstorm that had her shivering down the 18th hole in a playoff against Brittany Altomare to collect her second major title and her first since 2009.

Two and a half months ago, Nordqvist came down with mononucleosis and was forced into bedrest. She’s still not fully recovered, having recently pulled out of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open after being absolutely drained from the Solheim Cup. Nordqvist, of course, was part of that epic singles duel against Lexi Thompson in Des Moines that ended all square. She notched 3 1/2 points in Europe’s losing effort.

Nordqvist was also the victim of a high-definition camera that caught her 5-iron brushing against a few grains of sand out of a fairway bunker in a playoff at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open against Brittany Lang. The USGA has since instituted a “naked eye” standard. Nordqvist left CordeValle, Calif., with her head held high but no trophy.

Needless to say, she was due for a major break.

“It’s been very testing,” said Nordqvist, “but I couldn’t be more proud.”

Nordqvist got it done in the wackiest of weeks at Evian Golf Club that started with a scrapped first day of play after a burst of atrocious weather sent players crouching and tree limbs flying. The LPGA controversially erased the scores from Thursday morning and cut the tournament to 54 holes. On Sunday, it was a chilly but mostly sunny day until the sudden-death playoff broke out. Conditions got so dismal Nordqvist couldn’t feel her hands.

Nordqvist, 30, came into Sunday’s final round down five to leader Moriya Jutanguarn. A closing 66 that included a pair of eagles vaulted her into a five-way tie for the lead at 9 under with the last group on the 16th. Former World No. 1 Lydia Ko and Jutanguarn bogeyed the closing par 4 to finish at 8 under along with Katherine Kirk.

Altomare, a relative unknown on tour who only recently notched a career-best third-place finish in Portland, Ore., earlier this month, matched Nordqvist’s 66 on Sunday and suddenly found herself pitted against the No. 13 player in the world. (Altomare is No. 102 in the Rolex Rankings.)

“Crazy, there’s no other word to describe it,” said Altomare of what awaited her in that playoff.

Both players found the rough off the tee and were forced to lay up. It started to hail as they prepared for their third shots, and water immediately began to puddle on the green. The grounds crew went to work with their squeegees.

Earlier in the year, Nordqvist whittled down her team, going without an instructor for several months before seeing Cameron McCormick for the first time ahead of the U.S. Women’s Open. McCormick, of course, works with both Jordan Spieth and World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu.

Nordqvist said they’ve mostly concentrated on her short game and putting, helping her to learn what to focus on under pressure.

“He just simplifies things for me,” said Nordqvist, who chipped it to 3 feet during the playoff to win with bogey.

Nordqvist played her college golf at Arizona State and now owns eight career LPGA titles. She became the fifth player to claim multiple wins on tour this season, having clinched the 2017 Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix.

Nordqvist said a good example of the never-give-up attitude her grandfather instilled came at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open.

“I got a bad eye infection Thursday before the U.S. Open, and then my sore throat started Friday, the following morning,” she said. “It was really sharp pain for a good 14 days.”

She powered through at Trump National, and was then forced to rest leading into the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

What did she do pass the time?

“Climbed the walls,” she said, laughing. “I actually watched quite a bit of women’s golf, quite a lot of LPGA.”

This is one telecast she won’t mind watching again.

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