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Gritty Nordqvist wins Evian Championship Katherine Kirk 3rd

Nordqvist overcomes illness and five shot deficit (Photo: Getty Images )
It might have been reduced to just 54 holes but the Evian Championship in Evian les Bains in France turned out to be no less dramatic than would have been the case over 72 holes.

Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist came from five shots behind 36 hole leader Moriya Jutaungarn to win in a playoff against American Brittany Altomare who had begun the final round tied with the eventual winner.

On a day where as many as five players either had or shared the lead with just a few holes to go, Nordqvist and Altomare were the chasers and as Lydia Ko, Katherine Kirk and Moriya Jutanugarn all dropped shots late in their rounds the playoff pair would be the last women standing in worsening weather.

Nordqvist holed a testing 4 footer for bogey in testing conditions at the first extra hole and was clearly exhausted and emotional with the victory which comes after two months of battling Glandular fever or Mononucleosis as it is often known.

For the 30 year old it was her 8th LPGA Tour title and now her second major, coming eight years after her first at the 2009 McDonalds LPGA Championship.

Today she overcame a rocky start to her final round with a blistering stretch of holes from the 6th. Over the next 11 holes she would produce four birdies and two eagles to take the lead before a bogey at her final hole would see her then forced to await those players behind her on the golf course.

Those in the final few groups faltered over the closing stages and so it would be Nordqvist and Altomare who headed back to the 18th tee to decide the outcome.

“These last couple weeks, it's been hard; it's been frustrating; it's been disappointing," said Nordqvist after her victory. “I was very excited to tee it up in Solheim Cup and was absolutely exhausted after. I came back last week, hit it flawless, but missed the cut.

“It's been 2 1/2 months since I was diagnosed with mono. It was during U.S. Open, and it wasn't -- I wasn't feeling very well that week, but still battled through; eventually found out that I had mono. The last couple months have been tough. I love competing and I prove practicing, and staying in bed hasn't been the most exciting.

“The Solheim Cup ended up being my goal. I wanted to play for Annika and I really wanted to make that team. It was really about forcing myself to rest so I could tee it up, but I was exhausted after.

“I ended up teeing it up last week and then coming back here, but I hate to give up. My grandpa was always my biggest role model. He always used to tell me to never give up, and that's what I never did today.

"So it's just been very testing, but couldn't be more proud."

Altomare was chasing her first LPGA Tour victory after playing the secondary Symetra Tour in recent years until regaining her card for the 2016 season. A recent 3rd place finish at the event in Portland suggested her game was improving but if she had gone on to win it would have been one of the biggest upsets for some time on the LPGA Tour.

The American would birdie the 17th to join Nordqvist, Lydia Ko, Moriya Jutanugarn and Katherine Kirk in the lead but one by one Kirk, Jutanugarn and Ko would drop shots over the closing holes to cost themselves a chance at victory.

Kirk reached the lead when she birdied the 14th and 15th but then bogeyed the 16th and 17th and although she found a way to birdie the 18th it was by then a case of too little too late.

For the Wichita based Queenslander however it was her second best finish in a major championship after her runner-up finish at the 2010 Women's British Open and on top of her win in Wisconsin a few weeks ago she is returning to the game which saw her win twice earlier in her career.  

The 35 year old expressed mixed emotions following her round. “Yeah, obviously nice to finish with a birdie. That kind of takes some of the sting out of bogeying 16 and 17. But yeah, I mean, I did my best. That's all I can ask for. I mean, I'll probably think a bit more about it tonight and next week, and be a little bit maybe bittersweet about it.

“I know I'm doing the right stuff, so it's nice to see it paying off on the golf course. Yeah, every week that you play well, you get in contention, you get that little bit more comfortable being up there. Yeah, just comfortable in that position.

“I’m looking forward to finishing off the year and maybe get another W. The girls are so good out here; it's just fun to be able to compete again and know I've got the right stuff. It's fun.”

Ko would bogey the last to miss out on an opportunity for her second Evian title but given her runner-up finish in Indianapolis last week and now this close call she is now heading in the right direction after being out of sorts for much of this year.

Given that she will be the marquee player and quasi host at the upcoming New Zealand Women’s Open in Auckland in ten days’ time the return to form could not have come at a better time.

“I'm going home,” said Ko. “It's been since before Australia that I went home. So it's going to be nice to go back and see my friends, and my next event obviously is going to be the New Zealand Open which is nice.

“And to have the girls out on Tour come to our backyard, it's going to be a cool week. Kind of like what happened for Brooke at the Canadian Open. I'm super excited and excited to have a few days off, see my friends. It's a long trip home but it's going to be something that's worthwhile.”

Jutanugarn was chasing her first LPGA Tour title and when she made the turn she was then two ahead of Kirk and Altomare but she would drop shots at the 13th and 18th holes to miss out on the playoff by one.

Su Oh completed a good tournament with a final round of 70 to finish in a share of 14th Minjee Lee was 32nd and Sarah Jane Smith 48th.




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