Mercifully, Anna Nordqvist ended the Evian Championship on Sunday, winning on the first playoff hole, fittingly with a bogey in a victory defined by all the adversity she has played through to get her second major championship title.
Nordqvist, however, didn’t quiet the controversy that promises to linger over how this championship was conducted from start to finish.
Nordqvist, 30, isn’t to blame for that.
The Swede, still enduring the effects of mononucleosis, was brilliant posting a 5-under-par 66 to get into a playoff with American Brittany Altomare, who was equally brilliant matching her 66. Nordqvist had to be more unflinching and undeterred than brilliant slogging through hard rain, wind and even hail in the playoff.
It wasn’t much more than a year ago that Nordqvist lost the U.S. Women’s Open in a playoff to Brittany Lang when she was penalized after a super slow-motion replay was zoomed in to catch her clubhead grazing a few grains of sand in a fairway bunker. She was celebrated back then for the grace with which she handled that loss, and she will be celebrated today for the pure toughness she showed bouncing back to win this major.
“The last couple months have been tough,” said Nordqvist, who was diagnosed nine weeks ago with mononucleosis. “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.”
That attitude was vital to her winning Sunday.
The Evian Championship started controversially with the LPGA deciding to wipe out scores from an abbreviated first round suspended by wind and rain, and with the tour deciding at the same time to shorten the event to 54 holes, instead of waiting to see how much play they could get in on Friday and on the weekend.
“We feel like this was the right decision to have the cleanest, fairest, competitive round that's still going to finish on a Sunday, with somebody jumping on an airplane with a flag behind them,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.
The weather turned foul again Sunday as the playoff was beginning, too foul for a parachutist carrying the flag of the winning player’s country to jump to the 18th green at day’s end, as is the custom at Evian. The high winds and hard rain, however, didn’t halt the playoff. Even the hail that began to fall, and the large puddles that formed on the 18th green, didn’t halt play as Nordqvist and Altomare tried to hit their third shots to the green.
LPGA officials never intervened to halt play.
“I couldn't feel my hands on the last few shots in the playoff,” Nordqvist said.
What did she think about playing on?
“When it starts hailing, we're over the third shot, and they tell us to go, I guess we go,” Nordqvist said. “I feel like I'm pretty used to bad conditions, but that was probably some of the worst I've seen.”
The greens were squeegeed before both players chipped on to them. Altomare, ranked No. 102 in the world, ended up missing a 45-foot putt for bogey. Nordqvist, No. 13 in the world, made her 5-footer for bogey.
“Crazy,” Altomare said of the conditions. “No other way to describe it. It was really crazy.”
Nordqvist started the day making two bogeys over her first five holes, but she mounted a memorable charge. She made four birdies and two eagles over the next 11 holes before making bogey at the last.
“It’s been very testing, but I couldn’t be prouder,” Nordqvist said.