Anna Nordqvist defeats Brittany Altomare on first playoff hole in Evian Championship
Anna Nordqvist of Sweden won the Evian Championship on the first hole of a dark and rainy playoff with American Brittany Altomare on Sunday after each posted the best rounds of the day.
They each entered the final round tied for 11th, five shots back, 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 to a tie for third.
It began to pour as Nordqvist and Altomare stepped on the 18th tee to begin the playoff. The green quickly puddled with rain as maintenance workers squeegeed it while Nordqvist and Altomare hit their approach shots against huge gusts of wind. 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 Ricoh Women's 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 last couple months have been tough,” she said. “I love competing and I love practicing, 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. She also had the near miss at last year's U.S. Women's Open, losing in a controversial playoff with Brittany Lang.
Altomare, who played college golf at Virginia, posted six birdies to earn her spot in extra holes. The 26-year-old only has one other top-10 finish in her career, a T-3 last month at the Cambia Portland Classic.
There hadn’t been a playoff at this tournament since it became a major in 2013. Playing sudden death was an appropriate end to an unusual week that began with rain delays that forced LPGA officials to cancel the Thursday first round, scrap all scores shot before play was halted and restart 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.
LPGA veteran Katherine Kirk gave herself an opportunity to take the lead with a birdie on 15, but 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 LPGA 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.