Q: One year after winning here at the Evian Championship, can you explain how you felt on the last putt on the 18th green?
AN: I didn’t really know how things would feel when I came back here this year, but last year, it was late, it was cold, everything was wet, and I was even shaking for another 45 minutes after we’d finished playing – partly because I had won, but also because it was so cold.
There was so much going on after I won last year and it was so late, it felt like there was never really a time to soak up the atmosphere. It probably wasn’t until I got back to my hotel room when I saw the replica trophy and a big bottle of champagne, a Rolex, and a few other gifts that I had received that it really began to sink in that I had won, although I was still exhausted from the weather.
My rain gear that day wasn’t really waterproof so I was basically wet before I even teed off on 18. At the time it was just about trying to stay dry, which was quite hard – I couldn’t really even feel my hands while I was chipping so I had to keep them in my towel just to stay warm. I didn’t ask for help with the read on the green, I just knew I had a four-footer to hit which had quite a bit of a break on it. At that point I knew I couldn’t really think ahead or get caught up in the moment, I was just focusing on what I was doing at the time.
Once the putt fell in the middle of the hole, I think my reaction described a lot of my emotions at the time, because I’d had a challenging year and not being able to play as much as I wanted to but still working hard to come back, so it was a very emotional moment and one that I will never forget – but just being able to feel my hands again was the best feeling.
Q: Was it the most emotional moment of your career?
AN: Definitely. I feel like I’m a winner and coming back here I have nothing to lose. I had to give the trophy back yesterday at the trophy ceremony and it was bittersweet because it’s been great to have it but I didn’t want to give it back. Giving it back has definitely helped motivate me to win here again, but no matter what, I’m a winner here. My name will always be on the trophy, and it’s something I’ll always be very proud of. I’m going to do my best to win it again one day, but no matter what I’m a winner every time I come here. Coming here this year as a winner does feel quite surreal though.
Q: What has changed for you since you won here last year?
AN: I worked really hard for so long to win my second Major after winning in my first year in 2009 and it was always a goal of mine to win a second. Accomplishing that made me very proud. Also, walking up to the first tee and being announced as a two-time Major champion is pretty cool. I don’t think my everyday life has changed very much, and I don’t think I’ve changed much as a player either.
Evian will always be very special to me and when I came back here this year, I really got the sense of being very proud of the hard work I’ve put in and the challenges that I have overcome.
Q: As the defending champion this year, do you think the strength of the field is stronger this year?
AN: Every year there is new talent coming through on the tour and everyone keeps getting better and better so it’s always getting more competitive. It’s always tough to win a tournament, especially a Major, and there are so many things that are out of your control – you need a little bit of luck and you need to play well. There are 72 holes to play, and you can’t really afford to make too many mistakes.
Q: Have you done anything special this year in order to defend your title?
AN: Not really – I’ve been preparing for the last three days, but I keep walking around the course with a big smile on my face because it feels so great to be back. I’ve been trying to think back on a few of the good memories from last year and some of the good shots that I hit, but tomorrow I start from zero just like everybody else. Just because I won here last year doesn’t mean I have any advantage over the field. I’m just going to try to do my best this week. I’d love to be contending on Sunday but it’s going to require a lot of good play before then.
Q: What do you think of The Evian Championship moving to July next year?
AN: I think it’s great, and we’ve been lucky this week and it’s been great weather with a good European summer, but you just never know. I grew up in Europe, so I know it can be great in September – we had the Solheim Cup in September last year and the weather was awesome, but at Evian last year it felt almost like a hurricane, so you really never know.
I feel like we’ve been very lucky the last few years, but I think the July start is going to make this tournament what it really deserves to be. The superintendents and course management teams here have to work so hard to get the course in the fantastic condition that it is in, and it’s disappointing to see that hard work spoiled due to poor weather, so I think everyone will be happy with the July start date.
Q: Why do players like coming to play at Evian?
AN: I think it’s the atmosphere here, the golf course is great, the hospitality is as good as anywhere we see on the tour and everything about it from the way things are run to the views gives the place a special feeling. I haven’t been to many French places other than Evian, but I love the town here. I’ve always thought the way things are run here are so professional, and it’s always been a tournament I have looked forward to coming to.
Q: What is your opinion of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award and what does it mean for you?
AN: I think it’s a cool award. Annika did so much for the game of golf, and to have something to acknowledge who played the best in the Majors that year is great. Obviously you have to win a Major to be in contention and I came pretty close last year without even knowing about it… I was busy winning The Evian Championship. I think it’s great the way Annika’s influence is still present after she gave so much to the game, and how Rolex supports that.
Q: What are your memories of Annika playing?
AN: I started playing golf when I was 13 which was about the year 2000, and I would say that was probably Annika’s prime, so she was really a role model for me growing up. She was a real inspiration for me growing up; I remember watching her, and I think she won 13 tournaments in a year which to me is very impressive and almost unheard of – it’s something I don’t think we’re ever going to see again.
I think she had a very similar path to mine, growing up in Sweden, having to deal with rough winters and playing other sports, coming over to the States to play college golf before turning pro, then playing on the Ladies European Tour and then the LPGA Tour. On a personal level, it’s been cool to see how her hard work has paid off and how determined she was throughout her career.
I got to become very close to Annika when she was the captain of the Solheim Cup in 2017, as well as when she has been assistant captain several years prior to that, and it has been very special to see first-hand how professional she is and how she puts her mind to whatever she is doing. But also her personal side too, she was in tears after the 2017 match, just because the process had been so long and I saw her grow a lot as a person through that. Being around someone like her is very special for other Rolex Testimonees and the players on Tour because it gives us her drive to always want to get better.
Q: Can you tell us about your relationship with Rolex?
AN: Rolex is a wonderful brand to be associated with, they’ve been there with me through the ups and downs and always been very gracious and kind to me over the years. I’m very proud to be wearing a Rolex and have my picture up on the walls here along with other incredible athletes like Roger Federer, Lindsay Vonn and Annika Sörenstam. Rolex don’t do anything by halves, everything they do is very special, so I feel very lucky to be a part of the brand.
Q: How important do you think Rolex is to the game of golf?
AN: Rolex has been extremely supportive for women’s golf, and we see a lot of tournaments that they are a part of and they make them very special. The first time you win on tour, you get a Rolex, which is very special, a first-time winner’s watch, and really represents a milestone for everyone on the tour. Their support of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award and having them be a part of so many tournaments shows the great support they have for the tour, and makes me very proud because they not only support us as athletes, but they support the organisers as well. It’s pretty cool that the LPGA was the first organisation in golf that Rolex partnered with [in 1980]. I know that they are a big part of Wimbledon and the US Open tennis tournaments, and I’ve always had a dream of going to them, so one day maybe I can make that happen.
Q: What is your plan for the rest of the season?
AN: Yeah, so I play at Evian this week, I play on the Ladies European Tour in Spain next week, then I have a week off, and then I play four events in Asia including the International Crown, the Buick LPGA Shanghai before going to the Tour Championship at the end of the season.
Q: Are you thinking about the Solheim Cup next year yet?
AN: Absolutely, as playing at the Solheim Cup next year is a big goal of mine which is why I’m going to Spain next week, as I need to fulfil the requirements of playing eight events on the Ladies European Tour, so it’s definitely on my mind, especially as it’s being played in Europe – I think it’s time we took the Cup back!
The Solheim Cup has always been very special to me, and I’ve played in five now, which is more than I could’ve dreamt of when I was growing up. There is something about playing in the Solheim Cup that brings out the best in me, so it’s definitely a big goal of mine to play on the team again.
Q: What are your thoughts about The Ryder Cup 2018
AN: I will always cheer for Europe. I live in the US and always have a European flag on my golf cart. I think it’s going to be a tight match, there’s been a lot of American guys playing well of late, so it might be a little tougher, but I hope to see Europe win.
Q: And Henrik and Noren are in…
AN: It’s pretty cool. I think they both love playing team events, but Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup, it just brings out the best in you. It’s too tough to call.
Q: [Pointing to a life size poster of Anna] What do you think when you see posters of yourself playing shots?
AN: It’s pretty to see yourself. I never really dreamt about having a life size picture of myself displayed like that. I think I’m pretty humble in that sense and never really see myself as a recognisable person, but it just makes me proud. I’ve obviously done something to influence others to make a name for myself, so it’s pretty cool. It makes me smile. It’s surreal.
Q: Do you think when fans see a picture of you this way, that they get an idea of who you are?
AN: I hope so. I’ve always been very keen on trying to be very transparent about who I am and what I stand for, the way I like the game and the way I try to influence others. I’m pretty active on Instagram something I do just to show people who I am off the course. I hope to be able to show who I am to people, and if I can influence or inspire just one or two people with what I do, to pick up the game, then I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Anna Nordqvist was speaking as a Rolex Testimonee at The Evian Championship 2018, which Rolex has been a Partner of since 2001.