Anna Nordqvist joins Europe’s greats with victory at Women’s Open

Anna Nordqvist celebrates her impressive victory at one of golf's toughest challenges, the infamous Carnoustie - GETTY IMAGES
Anna Nordqvist celebrates her impressive victory at one of golf’s toughest challenges, the infamous Carnoustie – GETTY IMAGES

Anna Nordqvist established her place among Europe’s greats and Carnoustie confirmed itself as the major venue with the unrivalled penchant for unexpected drama.

This was a Women’s Open Sunday that had it all – including seagulls stealing balls and protagonists shanking wildy on the 18th – and at the end of it Britain could take solace in not only hosting such a gripping spectacular but also in coming so close to glory.

England’s Georgia Hall had to watch in something approaching competitive agony as Nordqvist, the ever-stylish Swede, two-putted the last green to win by one and so join Annika Sorenstam and Dame Laura Davies as the only female players from her continent to win three or more majors.

That is rich company to keep for the 34-year-old, but in weeks like this – when her putter consents to approximate the blessed consistency of her ball-striking – it is easy envisage Nordqvist making further inroads into the legacies of the two grand Madames of European golf.

Through all the usual Carnoustie madness, Nordqvist maintained composure and even if it was tough for Hall, the 2018 champion, to see her own attempt fall short by a single stroke after a brilliant 67, there can be no doubt that Nordqvist was deserving of adding the Women’s Open title to that of the Women’s USPGA from 2009 and the Evian Championship in 2017.

Georgia Hall shot a final-round 67 but had to be content with a tied-second finish - GETTY IMAGES
Georgia Hall shot a final-round 67 but had to be content with a tied-second finish – GETTY IMAGES

The latter was, remarkably for such a high-quality performer, her last piece of silverware of any kind. More than 1,500 days without that feeling she craves.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time – I haven’t won one in a couple of years,” Nordqvist said. “There have been a lot of downs since then, which makes it even sweeter. My husband was brought up 20 minutes away from here and that makes this even more special.”

Her husband is Kevin McAlpine, the current caddie to PGA Tour pro Martin Laird who Nordqvist met when he was working for American Lexi Thompson (who finished in a tie for 20th following a disappointing 74).

McAlpine’s father is Hamish, the legendary former goalkeeper for Dundee United. It is fair to say there are two Angus legends in the family now.

Nordqvist’s 69 for a 12-under total saw her collect £642,000 and so guarantee her a sixth appearance for Europe in next month’s Solheim Cup.

Captain Catriona Matthew will be delighted have to Nordqvist in Toledo – as she will be to have Hall. There were two eagles on the 25-year-old’s scorecard as she came so near to replicating her triumph at Lytham three years ago. “Even to have had a chance to win is very special at Carnoustie,” Hall said. “I’m very happy with the way I played. That’s all I could ask.”

Hall knows it could have been far worse – she could have been Nanna Koerstz Madsen. The Dane arrived at the last in a tie with Nordqvist – and then the ghosts of Jean van de Velde came visiting.

The 26-year-old pushed her approach into a greenside bunker and then, from an admittedly awkward lie, played a catastrophic shank. The resulting double bogey meant that she did not even finish second alongside Hall and America’s Lizette Salas and another Swede in Madalene Sagstrom but instead dropped into a tie for fifth with Australian Minjee Lee.

Sagstrom was another plagued by those Angus demons. She bogeyed the 18th to miss out a play-off and was later informed that on the first, her ball had been moved back at least 15 yards by a overly inquisitive seagull. “That’s a first for me,” she said.

Sagstrom played with Louise Duncan, the amateur 21-year-old from West Kilbride who, to huge cheers, birdied the first and for stages on the front nine looked sure to contend. Alas, Duncan fell away on the back nine and had to settle for a tie for 10th and top amateur honours.

“This experience has been pretty surreal and yeah, just dead exciting,” the Stirling University student said. “I thought I handled it very well. I guessed I would crumble a wee bit but I seemed to hold my nerve and that was my ultimate goal. I’m excited where this could lead in the future.”

First up for Duncan is playing for Great Britain and Ireland against the US in the Curtis Cup this weekend and she would be well advised to concentrate on that showdown in Conwy and not look at what she would have won here if she was a professional. Duncan would be more than £80,000 richer. Carnoustie: cruel until the end.