PHOENIX – Almost 9,000 miles from the Swedish city where she grew up, Anna Nordqvist couldn’t have felt more at home.
The former Arizona State Sun Devil won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in the shadow of the campus where she built so many college memories.
“It feels very, very special,” Nordqvist said. “I could only have dreamed of winning on what feels like home soil.”
In Sunday’s 96-degree heat, Nordqvist thrived. She was the hottest player in the Phoenix desert all week.
Closing with a 4-under-par 68, Nordqvist won comfortably, even with a bogey at the last. At 25 under overall, she finished two shots ahead of Stacy Lewis (68), Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and In Gee Chun (66).
Nordqvist, 29, wasn’t just a favorite of all the locals who remembered her here. She keeps discovering how many fans around the world she won last summer with the gracious way she handled losing the U.S. Women’s Open. In fact, she might have won as many fans in that loss at CordeValle as she did in any of her previous six LPGA victories before Sunday’s.
“The amount of support, the fans who reached out to me after that, I’m very touched,” Nordqvist said. “People almost supported me more. The only thing I didn’t get that week was a trophy.”
Nordqvist lost the U.S. Women’s Open to Brittany Lang after a high-definition close up of a television replay determined she grazed a few grains of sand taking back her 5-iron in a fairway bunker on the second playoff hole.
The jarring nature of that two-shot penalty, assessed a hole later, affected a lot of fans.
“I seemed to have a lot bigger following and social media, coming out to tournaments,” Nordqvist said. “I did my best that day. I touched the sun and life goes on. Here I am with my next trophy. I'm just trying to do my best. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
Nordqvist set up Sunday’s victory with a tournament record 11-under-par 61 on Saturday. Her 25 under total was just two shots off the LPGA’s 72-hole record.
Lewis, Chun and So Yeon Ryu all made charges, with world No. 2 Jutanugarn charging late on the back nine.
“I'm proud of the way I played and proud obviously for sticking to my game plan,” Nordqvist said.
Nordqvist didn’t have to look far for comfort. She was followed all week by a half dozen Scandinavians, one wearing a Viking helmet.
Terje Erga, a Norwegian, wore a helmet with a pair of horns protruding from it. He was hosting a group of fellow Norwegians and a Swedish pro, Marcus Ferrell, whom Nordqvist grew up with.
“Marcus was, actually, one of my best friends from growing up playing golf,” Nordqvist said. “We grew up at the same golf course. It just means a lot, even though I'm far away, to have that hometown support.”
Nordqvist spent the week staying with a family she got to know while playing at Arizona State. She stayed with David and Alison Highmark.
“David’s like my American dad,” Nordqvist said. “He really took me under my wing when I moved here from Sweden. I don’t know what I would have done without him. From getting my tour card to helping me buy a condo, he’s been there for me.”
A lot of fans were there Sunday for the Swedish star.
“This truly feels like home,” she said.