Nordqvist wins for the second time in four starts

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Anna Nordqvist was shaking when it was over. Last year she wanted to quit the game, maybe look into her passion for graphic design. And now here she is three months into the 2014 season and already a two-time winner.

“You know, it's just great sitting here now,” Nordqvist said in the press room. “I’m proud of myself for taking some hard decisions. You know, I worked extremely hard this off‑season ... they had to drag me off the range.”

With a host of top players in the hunt on Sunday at the Kia Classic, Nordqvist posted a 5-under 67 to vault to the top at 13-under 275 for her fourth LPGA victory. The 26-year-old is projected to move from 16th to ninth in the Rolex Rankings and she’s now second on the money list behind Karrie Webb.

The Swede also established herself as a heavy favorite going into next week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she has three top-10 finishes in four appearances. Her veteran caddie, Jason Gilroyed, lives in the area.

“I really love the majors,” Nordqvist said. “It’s a tougher setup on the courses and always a little bit more pressure and more kind of spotlight on the tournament. I like that.”

Local favorite Lizette Salas came up one shot short after birdieing the last hole from 12 feet. The USC standout called this week a victory for Team Salas, despite the loss. Salas returned from the Asian swing feeling down after posting seven of eight rounds over par, including a 79 in Thailand and a closing 77 in Singapore.

“It was kind of embarrassing,” said Salas, who didn’t know whether to laugh it off or cry. “My dad even came by and said, ‘I never wanted you to go through this, but I think you had to.’ ”

The dips in Asia forced her to get back to the basics, revisiting old drills and working on her alignment with a homemade putting gadget her father made. She birdied three of the last five holes in the final round at Kia.

Salas enters the Kraft, where she played in the final group on Sunday last year, with renewed confidence. The purple “Team Salas” T-shirts will be back out, as she’ll be playing roughly 100 miles from where she grew up.

“These next three days just go back to work and kind of put this in the back of your head,” Salas said, “but know that you can pull off putts going down the stretch.”

Nordqvist’s new look in 2014 includes a new caddie, new instructor, new clubs, new clothing sponsor and a new golf ball. She’s basically a new woman, and the results speak for themselves.

“My game has been very consistent the last two years, but I haven't been winning since end of 2009,” Nordqvist said of the decision to make big changes. “Doesn't matter if you're very consistent and always up there. The question is always going to be, ‘When are you going to win again?’ ”

Considered it answered – twice.

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COMING UP ACES: Ten players qualified for the Kraft Nabisco off the official money list at the conclusion of the Kia Classic. None made a more dramatic entrance than Laura Diaz, who aced a par 3 for the second day in a row. She’s only the second player in tour history to make two holes in one the same week. Jenny Lidback was the first in 1997 at the Chrysler Plymouth Tournament of Champions.

But it gets better. Diaz followed today’s ace on No. 6 with an eagle on the seventh. She’s the first person in tour history to follow a hole in one with an eagle.

The other nine players who will be making the two-hour trek to the desert include: Mirim Lee, Amelia Lewis, P.K. Kongraphan, Dori Carter, Mi Hyang Lee, Jenny Suh, Haru Nomura, Tiffany Joh and Line Vedel.

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ROUNDING IT OUT: Cristie Kerr secured the fourth spot on Team USA for International Crown. Salas needed to win the Kia to have a chance of bumping out Kerr. Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson round out the American team.

And in another tight race, Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim filled the final two spots on South Korea’s team, joining Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu.

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