Anna Nordqvist shot a final-round 64 to tie the tournament scoring record set by Annika Sorenstam (-17, 1998 & 2005) and held off Haru Nomura by one shot to defend her title at the 2016 ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer.
Nordqvist captured her sixth career victory and became the first player to successfully defend a title on the LPGA since Inbee Park (three-time KPMG Women’s PGA champion, 2013-15). She is also the first player ever to defend the ShopRite LPGA Classic in its 28-year history.
“I’m very proud of myself for sitting here again,” said Nordqvist. “Just any time you can win on Tour, it’s a special moment. It’s just getting tougher. The competition is getting really tough out there.”
The No. 19 player in the Rolex Rankings is the fifth person with at least two wins at this tournament, joining a list full of major champions in Stacy Lewis (2012, 2014), Annika Sorenstam (1998, 2002, 2005), Betsy King (1987, 1995, 2001) and Juli Inkster (1986, 1988).
“It seems like this course or this place has a lot of winners that’s been great players,” Nordqvist said. “So it definitely feels very special to join that group of ladies.”
Nordqvist was bogey-free and had only one missed green on Sunday, which came on the final hole of the tournament. She pumped her fist emphatically after draining the 12-foot putt she faced for par that would ultimately be the deciding stroke in the tournament.
“We’ve been reading the greens pretty well this week, and it was a pretty distinct left-to-right putt and just put a good stroke on it, and I was pretty excited to see it go in, not going to lie,” she described.
At 28 years old, Nordqvist became the oldest player to win on Tour in 2016, over five years older than the previous oldest winner, Ha Na Jang at the HSBC Women’s Champions (23 years, 10 months, 4 days).
“There’s just so many good players these days, and at their age of 18 and 19, I wasn’t even close to being as good as they were,” said the Swedish champion. “I came out on Tour in 2009. I was 21, and I can’t believe it’s already my eighth year on Tour. I guess I do have a little bit of experience on those girls and hopefully I can use it to my advantage.”
Finishing in second place alone was Haru Nomura, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour in 2016. The highest ranked Japanese player in the world had a chance for eagle from the fairway on 18 to tie Nordqvist, but would go on to birdie and finish at -16 for the tournament after a final round 66.
“Today I played good,” Nomura said. “Still 5-under. Today, Anna, 7-under. Yeah, my play today is good.”
France’s Karine Icher (-14), who tied a single round tournament record with a 62 on Saturday, finished in solo third place and earned her second top-10 of the season. Rounding out the top five were American Christina Kim (-13) in solo fourth, who earned her second consecutive top-5 finish, and China’s Jing Yan (-11), who established a new career-best at fifth place.
A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
Anna Nordqvist went home to Sweden last week during her time off and planned to spend some time with a group of 90 female golfers ages 12 to 18 at a camp hosted by the Swedish Golf Federation. Her intention was to act as a source of inspiration and in a mentor role but it turned out to be the other way around.
“Like I came back to surprise them, and hoping to help them in any way I could or hoping to inspire them,” said Nordqvist. “But they ended up inspiring me a lot more than they know. I left the course at 9:30 on Saturday night, and there was still 20 girls out there practising.”
Nordqvist takes her position as a role model seriously and knows that giving back can truly make a difference. Her trip back home made her put some things in her career in perspective.
“So it was really neat to see, and I’m really glad they are doing it, because I know how much it meant to me back in the day being part of those camps,” said Nordqvist. “It kind of reminded me of what a journey it’s been ever since I was in their shoes, when I was 16 or 17, and now here a couple years later; I guess anything is possible if you believe in yourself and if you work hard.”
THE ANNIKA EFFECT
With her three-day total of 17-under par 196, Nordqvist tied Annika Sorenstam’s scoring record she set in 1998 and matched in 2005. She said it will be special to see her name in the record books next to one of her idols and fellow Swede.
“I started playing golf back in 2000, and that was pretty much her primetime,” said Nordqvist. “Definitely grew up idolizing Annika and the way she practiced and the way she carried herself on the course. I definitely think it made me believe that someone from Sweden, you know, there’s a lot of opportunities out there for us, even though we don’t have the weather in our favour.”