Step forward Anna Nordqvist, who landed a dramatic victory in the AIG Women’s Open as a thrilling last-day title battle effectively came down to a Scandinavian shoot-out on the Angus coast.
With husband Kevin McAlpine, a former Scottish Amateur champion, and his dad Hamish, a Tannadice legend, among those cheering her on, Nordqvist signed off with a three-under 69 to win by a single shot after finishing with a 12-under-par 276 total.
Helped by four birdies but, equally important, covering the fearsome Carnoustie closing stretch with four straight pars, the 34-year-old pipped compatriot Madalene Sagstrom, England’s Georgia Hall and American Lizette Salas by a shot in the $5.8 million event.
Playing with Nordqvist in the final group, Dane Nanna Koerstz Madsen shanked her third shot from a bunker at the last en route to a double-bogey 6 as she ended up a stroke further back along with Australian Minjee Lee.
It was Nordqvist’s third major victory, having landed the WPGA Championship in 2009 then adding the Evian Championship in 2017 but not winning anything at all on the LPGA Tour until this sweet success.
“Yeah, it's been a long time,” said Nordqvist, smiling, as she savoured a victory that was secured with Banchory man Paul Cormack caddying for her. “I had a good opportunity last year to win and didn't pull through. You question whether it's going to happen again but, knowing it's the British Open, it's been worth the wait.
“I think this is the most special one (of her three majors). Just because it's taken me a couple years and I've fought so hard and questioned whether I was doing the right things.
“Also, knowing how my caddie, Paul, he's been working so hard and I really wanted to do it for him, too. My husband has been supporting me so much, too, and all friends and family, and having spectators back and feeling that adrenaline kicking again, I think this is definitely my most special win.”
Nordqvist, who picked up a cheque for $870,000 from the biggest prize pot in the history of the women’s game, was fighting glandular fever when she played in this event across the other side of the Tay Estuary at Kingsbarns in 2017.
“Yeah, I got mono in July 2017,” she said of that tough time in her career. “I found that out during the US Open. I was sitting up sleeping at that time because I was coughing so bad but I played through it as I really wanted to make the Solheim Cup team and ended up winning Evian in the same stretch.
“I don't think a lot of people realised how tough that was, and it took me a good three years just having no energy and don't feel like you have the mental strength or you don't have that extra gear that I've always been used to having.”
Nordqvist’s day didn’t get off to the best of starts when a birdie putt horse-shoed out at the first before the same thing happened on the 11th, where most players had picked up a shot after the tee had been moved forward on the final day.
She then found a ditch with a badly pushed tee shot at the par-5 12th but, after dropping her only shot of the day there, it was a calm and composed effort from the Swede over the closing stretch.
On in two, she birdied the par-5 14th, produced a great putt from short right of the green to save par at the 16th then left herself with a tap-in for victory as she closed with a rock-solid par-4 after some of her rivals had faltered at Carnoustie’s fantastic finishing hole.
“There's just something about golf that keeps driving me,” said the new champion. “I hate losing probably more than I like winning. I think all the controversy and all the downs, and having my caddie and husband there pushing me every day being a rock; I hate to give up.
“I feel like things have been coming together, and I saw a lot of good things coming last year and a lot of good things happening this year. To be able to get things clicking; I felt like last week at the Scottish Open (at Dumbarnie Links), I played really well. I hit the ball really well in that wind. So I think that was a confidence boost for me.”
Sagstrom had been tied for the lead after making a superb from five feet at the 17th before finding sand from the tee at the last and not being able to reach the green in two.
“I knew that 16, 17 and 18 were going to be extremely difficult,” she said after signing for a closing 68. “I hit a beautiful shot on 16. Had a birdie putt there and then I made birdie on 17. I'm like, ‘what's going on here’. I'm like, please hit the fairway on 18 and I didn't do it.”
Bidding to become the first Dane, man or woman, to win a major, Koerstz Madsen led on her own after getting to 13-under with a fifth birdie of the round at the 14th only to bogey the next then suffer a painful final hole.
“I was nervous all day,” she admitted afterwards. “Did really well in trying to still hit good shots, trying not to make mistakes. I had a chance all the way until 18, also on 18 fairway, so I'm really proud.”
Scottish amateur Louise Duncan finished as leading amateur in a tie for 10th on seven-under, one ahead of world No 1 Nelly Korda, while Kelsey MacDonald, the other home player to make it to the weekend, tied for 55th on four-over.