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Anna Nordqvist wins The Evian Championship

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Nordqvist at her best

Looking at the provisional rankings of The Evian Championship on Saturday evening when the cut was made, you would have needed a crystal ball to predict Anna Nordqvist’s win on Sunday in the fifth and final Major of the season.

She posted a superb first-round 66 and then levelled off in the second round, carding 72. At 4-under on the list was the name of tall blond, an essential member of the European Solheim Cup team, seven-times winner on the US tour, a Major winner since her victory at the PGA Championship 2009, who was lying in 12th place and five shots off the lead, held by Moriya Jutanugarn.

In front of Nordqvist, high-calibre players such as Shanshan Feng, In Kyung Kim, Sung Hyun Park and Lydia Ko posed a threat.

Shortly after midday on Sunday, it even looked as though Nordqvist was definitively out of the running when she made two bogeys on the first five holes. 

Her tee shot at hole number 6 was the start of a crazy charge: a first birdie on this hole was followed by eagle on the par-5 hole 7. Our northern Star was back in the red... And the fun was just beginning. From holes 12 to 16, Nordqvist moved up five strokes, with a run of birdies at the 12th, 14th and 16th, and produced a rare feat of a second eagle of the day on the par-5 15th.

The Swede went into the final hole the lone leader on 10-under. Around the same time, Lydia Ko, who had fallen back, returned into the race when she also made an eagle at the 14th with a lovely little lob shot from the edge of the rough bordering the right side of the green.

Attacking the green is tricky

The 18th hole at the Evian Resort Golf Club was once again going to play its role of magistrate. 

This 441-yard hole, which was a par 5 prior to being redesigned in 2013 as a par-4 during the makeover of the course to prepare for becoming a major, is what is known as a competition “finishing hole.” It is not unusual to see the champions attack the green with a fairway wood in their hand. The champions are unable to reach the green if their tee shot gets lost in the thick rough along the left side of the fairway.

This is precisely the error made by Anna Nordqvist, who it’s true to say, was under a lot of pressure. However, the Swede had no difficulty in placing her third shot 13-feet from the pin and still had a good chance to save par. This putt would have given her the title but at that moment, no one watching could have guessed it with so much to-ing and fro-ing going on at the top of the leaderboard.

A play-off, an electric atmosphere, threatening clouds developing over the mountains, the first drops of rain...

Nordqvist attacked aggressively to save her par. A little too aggressively. She missed the hole by just over a 3 feet. But she was steady on her next shot and rolled the ball in. The Swede’s first bogey since the 5th hole. She posted 66, the same score as her first round to finish on 9-under.

At that precise moment, five players were in the same position. But only one of them would still be there on leaving the 18th where Ko played a bogey and missed the play-off. The American Brittany Altomare saved par with a superb 16-foot right to left putt.

Once the final pairing had finished (with Jutanugarn having like Ko experienced trouble in the final straight), the Swede and the American returned to the 18th hole. An arduous journey in the pouring rain. Neither of the two players was able to reach the green in 3. Nordqvist played her 4th shot a 3 feet from the hole. Altomare putted first and produced a double bogey, and for the second time on this green, Nordqvist stayed steady. 

A second Major win for the Swede, eight years after the first. And the first Grand Slam win by a European since Norway's Suzann Pettersen here on the fairways in Evian in 2013. In fact, Suzann Pettersen was the first to congratulate Anna Nordqvist before she received the trophy presented to her by South African golfing legend Gary Player.