Anna Nordqvist will be looking for a third Major title as she defends at The Evian Championship in France this week.
Coming into the tournament, the 6’ tall Swede doesn’t feel quite on point with her game, as she lost her consistency after making swing changes with coach Cameron McCormack. She missed the cut in three of the four Majors played so far this year, but she has now dispensed with a coach and gone back to basics, preferring to trust her own judgement. The result: four of her six top 10s this season have come in her last eight tournaments.
The world No.18 said: “The 2018 season has been a little bit disappointing. I had a rough spring, was working on some changes in my swing but didn’t really work well at all, so I made some changes back after the U.S. Open, and I felt like I’ve been hitting it much better since and been kind of finding my game again and finding a lot more consistency like I’m used to. It’s continuing to improve and getting better, but overall the season hasn’t been as consistent as I’ve been in the past, but I feel like it’s coming along better and better.”
Last year, Nordqvist fired a five-under-par 66 in the final round to end at nine-under. She was joined on that number by Brittany Altomare from the United States, who also shot a 66, but it was Nordqvist who prevailed in the play-off, played in driving rain and hail, ultimately winning with a bogey on the closing par-4 18th hole.
The eight-time LPGA tournament winner, who had missed several tournaments earlier in the year due to glandular fever, described what it was to play in such challenging weather conditions and how she kept her eye on the prize, worth $547,400.
“I mean, the 18th hole, when they did the changes to the Evian course, it used to be a par-5 and now they made it a really hard par-4, and with the weather being a little bit cold and the tee all the way back for Sunday, I don’t think there was many girls that could actually reach it in two, and if you did, you had either a hybrid or a 3-wood. It’s playing really tough, and then especially when the wind picked up even in regulation, I missed the fairway. I mean, you have to hit the fairway there to be able to even reach it in two on a par-4, which sounds pretty silly, but that’s just the challenge of the hole. The fairway slopes quite a bit left to right, so you want to kind of hit down the left, but hitting the fairway, it’s a tough tee shot.
“Coming out in the playoff, we’d been sitting around for a good 30, 45 minutes, and the range is so far away, so going to the range to kind of keep warm was never an option. I was inside trying to stay warm. I didn’t have my waterproof rain gear, so I was soaked before I even teed it up.
“We both hit pretty good drives. The wind was coming hard, and the wind, I’m sure it only went 200 yards, 220 max, and the rough was pretty thick, especially with all that water. So we both tried to lay up to a decent number, but I hit a 7-iron that just came out dead and went nowhere and left me with 137 yards in, I think, and then Brittany, she had a wood in, which she hit just short left of the green. So it was playing hard. I mean, it was hailing when I was waiting to hit my third shot, and my caddie was just kind of standing around with the umbrella going, I don’t think we’re going to play. I had to kind of push him to get my yardage because we were obviously playing.
“I think I added maybe another three clubs. It usually would have been a 9-iron, but I hit a little 6-iron to make sure I cleared the water and everything with those conditions. It was blowing really hard off the left, and it was raining — nothing was — everything was soaked. I just tried to put myself in good position.
“The pin was on the back tier there, and there was a bunker left and a bunker right. I thought I hit a decent shot, but there was no way to control it, so my ball ended up just right of the green. I think I was lucky to end up where I did. It was in the grass in between the bunkers. The bunkers would have been fine, too, because I was hitting my shot into the wind. But I mean, the green was under water, and they were going with the sponges as we were walking up to the green.
“She actually hit a decent chip shot, but it’s just so wet, so her shot couldn’t get uphill, and mine was kind of thin a little bit and it was like on mud, but I hit a fantastic chip shot up to four or five feet, and it was just — at that point I was just trying to stay warm. There wasn’t many emotions going through my head. I was just so cold, and everything was wet. She made a good come-backer for double and I made my bogey.
“To win a major championship with a bogey is maybe not what you think, but under those conditions, that probably was one of the better bogeys I’ve had in my life. I don’t know how either one of us would have handled another playoff hole in those conditions and with everything being wet. But it was definitely a challenge but one that I look back to and am hoping for a little bit better weather this year for sure.”
Nordqvist is pleased that the championship is moving back to a July date in 2019, where it was previously played as the Evian Masters, usually with wall to wall sunshine.
The five-time European Solheim Cup player continued: “It’s a great venue, and it’s a very well-run event and major championship. It’s too bad when they have to battle the elements of the weather.
“I’m excited it’s moving to the summer next year, and before it became a major, we always played it in July, and we always had a blast and we always had great conditions. I only think it’s going to be great, and I think the golf course is going to be much better given the better weather conditions in July than September.”
Speaking of the course, Nordqvist said that the key to playing well was managing the course strategy and playing from side hill lies.
“I think the challenge you face at Evian is the golf course is on the side of a mountain pretty much, and it’s hard to define a golf course with that much undulation when kind of like the landscape of the place or the location is already a lot of ups and downs. I know going into last year, there was a few greens that are really done, such as 12 and the 2nd green, and I think they’ll come up with a few of those changes just to make it a little bit more playable.
“I mean, it’s definitely crazy. Either you love it or you don’t. It’s just the challenge we face that week, and if you can embrace it, I feel like it will be good. I’m not sure if a lot of us would design a golf course that way on the side of a slope, but I feel like there’s a lot of good holes out there, and you need to hit quality shots, and there’s a lot of shots you can’t get away with if you just miss it a little bit, which I think is great for a major championship.”
The Evian Championship gets under way on the Evian Resort Golf Course from Thursday, 13th September and Nordqvist will be amongst the favourites, looking to draw on fond memories of the 2017 event.