THERE has been so much carnage and calamity on Carnoustie’s 18th hole down the years, this famed and formidable stretch of golfing terrain should come with a censorship from the British Board of Film Classification.
It claimed another victim last night as the AIG Women’s Open drew to a thrilling conclusion. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist took the ultimate honours but poor Nanna Koerstz Madsen’s hopes of a first ever major for Denmark ended amid a ghoulish, hands-over-the-eyes fankle.
Sharing the lead with her fellow Scandinavian Nordqvist on 12-under playing the last, Madsen hoiked her approach into the greenside bunker and, from a tricky downhill lie in the sand, proceeded to shank her third into the tangly rough behind the green. You were almost hoping that the stewards started putting up a cordon as the grisly spectacle unravelled. Nordqvist, sitting safely on the green, had two putts to win and gleefully took them.
The 34-year-old’s three-under 69 for a 12-under total left her one clear of Georgia Hall, Madelene Sagstrom and Lizette Salas while the hapless Madsen’s wretched double-bogey saw her slither into a tie for fifth.
West Kilbride’s wonderful amateur Louise Duncan, meanwhile, finished in a share of 10th on seven-under and guaranteed a return invitation to next year’s championship. “Mind blowing,” was the 21-year-old’s simple summing up of an exciting, enthralling and emotional week in which she went toe-to-toe with the best in the business and thrived.
Duncan, playing in the third from last group having been just two shots off the lead, bogeyed two of her last three holes in a 72 but that didn’t dampen the rapturous roars that greeted her as she marched up the 18th.
“I feel over the moon and I think it will take a couple of weeks for all this to sink in,” said Duncan, who has another big occasion coming up this weekend when she plays from GB&I in the Curtis Cup. Had she been a pro, Duncan would’ve collected around £92,000. You can’t put a price on the memories, though, and Duncan banked plenty of them.
As for the champion? Well, a third major win of Nordqvist’s career was richly deserved and the Solheim Cup stalwart clutched the trophy so hard she just about put dents in it. Having married into a Scottish family – her husband Kevin is the former Scottish Amateur champion and son of Dundee United royalty Hamish – this was a particularly special moment.
Four years ago, Nordqvist contracted glandular fever but soldiered on and even won the Evian Championship. She hadn’t won since until last night. “The problem is, it left me so tired afterwards, I basically didn’t get over it for three years,” explained Nordqvist, whose bogey on the 12th yesterday was her only dropped shot in the last 36-holes. “The hardest part was losing my mental and physical endurance. Last year during Covid, I finally had some time to be at home and slow down. My life has always gone at 110 miles an hour. Covid was almost kind to me. It gave me the chance to finally recover.”
On a day of full of twists and turns, it was impossible to predict the outcome. At one point, the leaderboard was so jam-packed, with six players tied at the top, the R&A officials must have been concerned about social distancing measures.
Duncan birdied the opening hole with great aplomb to get to within a shot of the lead while her playing partner, Sagstrom, saw her ball on the first just about carried off in the beak of an inquisitive gull. Even the wildlife, it seemed, wanted Duncan to win.
Australian’s Minjee Lee, who came from seven shots behind on the final day to win this season’s Evian Championship, hurtled into contention again with a surging 66 which set the early target of 10-under.
That was then bettered by Hall, the 2018 Women’s Open champion, whose 67 for 11-under highlighted the fluctuating fortunes of the afternoon. An eagle, birdie burst was tempered by a brace of bogeys but Hall re-ignited her assault with another eagle, birdie thrust on the back-nine.
Sagstrom, meanwhile, was right in the thick of it and when she picked up a big birdie on the 17th, the Swede was sharing the lead. A drive into the bunker on the last, though, spawned a damaging bogey which proved costly. Madsen would also come a cropper on the last but the damage was even more severe.