Swede Anna Nordqvist won the Evian Championship on the first hole of a dark and rainy playoff with American Brittany Altomare overnight after both posted the best rounds of the day.
Nordqvist and Altomare entered the final round tied for 11th, five shots behind, but their five-under par 66s wound up wresting a share of the lead from faltering second-round leader Moriya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko, both of whom bogeyed the 18th hole to fall into a tie for third with Australia’s Katherine Kirk, who was well in the mix until a pair of bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes.
It began to pour as Nordqvist and Altomare stepped on the 18th tee to begin the playoff. The green began to puddle with rain as maintenance workers squeegeed it while Nordqvist and Altomare hit their approach shots against huge gusts of wind. In the end, Nordqvist made a five-foot bogey putt to win.
“Winning didn’t really cross my mind until I was having a great couple birdies and eagles there down the stretch,” Nordqvist said. “I didn’t get off to the best start, even though I felt like I was hitting it pretty good.”
Nordqvist clawed her way into the playoff at Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France, with a round that included two eagles and four birdies. The 30-year old hasn’t played much golf this year after getting hit with a brutal bout of mononucleosis at the beginning of the season. She fought through extreme exhaustion to finish T-7 at the British Open and went 3-0-1 at the Solheim cup, but missed the cut last week at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
“The past couple of months have been tough,” Nordqvist said. “I love competing and I love practising, and staying in bed hasn’t been the most exciting. It’s been hard. It’s been frustrating. It’s been disappointing.”
This is Nordqvist’s second Major championship – she won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in 2009 – and the eighth win in her LPGA career.
Altomare posted six birdies to earn her spot in the playoff. The 26-year-old only has one other top-10 finish in her career, a T-3 at the Cambia Portland Classic last month.
There hadn’t been a playoff at the Evian Championship since the tournament became a Major in 2013. The playoff was an appropriate end to an unusual week that began with rain delays that forced LPGA officials to cancel Thursday’s first round, scrap all scores and restart on Friday, reducing the tournament to 54 holes.
At one point on the back nine of the final round, five players shared the lead. The 15th hole seemed to be the turning point for the field. Nordqvist eagled the par-5 15th to begin her path to victory.
Queenslander Kirk gave herself an opportunity to take the lead with a birdie on 15, but those back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 left her eight-under to earn a tie for third.
Ko got herself into the mix with an eagle on 15. She had the opportunity to retain a share of the lead with a par chip on 18, but missed. Ko, who has struggled this year, is seeing a late-season resurgence. She finished second last week at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
“I played my heart out and I tried my best and that’s all I can do,” Ko said. “I think playing and having a good finish last week gave me good momentum coming into this week.”
Jutanugarn, attempting to win her first tournament, started the final round leading by one. The 23-year-old climbed to 10-under before hitting her tee shot out-of-bounds on the 13th hole and making bogey, then suffering a lip-out birdie putt on 15. Jutanugarn took herself out of the playoff with a bogey on 18 after flying the green.
After the round, Jutanugarn was consoled by younger sister Ariya, who won her first Major championship last year. Ariya did not make the cut this week.