The 34-year-old kept her composure to complete a one-shot victory and claim her third major title at the 2021 AIG Women's Open

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In a pulsating final round played over the famous Carnoustie links, Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist outlasted her opposition to seal her third major title by one shot at the 2021 AIG Women’s Open

On an unusually benign day on the fearsome Angus layout, the 34-year-old mixed four birdies and one bogey in a three-under 69 to post a winning total of 276 and taste victory for the first time since her 2017 Evian Championship triumph. 

“I’ve been waiting for this one for a while, I haven’t won in a couple of years. There have been a lot of hard times so I think this feels even sweeter,” the Swede said, before paying tribute to her support team. 

“I had my husband, Kevin, there for me every single year since Evian [in 2017] when I won last time. It’s been a tough year for the both of us. With our schedules I haven’t seen him in six-and-a-half weeks so it’s been nice to have him here. 

“Paul, my caddie, is Scottish too and has been my rock on the golf course and has always been good for me.

“AIG, the R&A and everyone else has done such a good job. I love fans being back and having an atmosphere so thank you so much.”

Tied at the top overnight with Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Nordqvist got off to a quiet start compared to those in front. However, two shots into the heart of the par-5 6th green ignited her challenge as the Swede made three birdies in four holes to take a one-stroke advantage into the back-nine.

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After failing to capitalise on the short par-4 11th, Nordqvist then had to take a penalty drop from the ditch that runs up the right-hand side of the 12th, before making a bogey that dropped her into a tie for second, a shot behind playing partner Koerstz Madsen. 

From that moment on however, she was flawless. A two-putt birdie on the par-5 14th gave her a share of the lead once again and that’s how it remained standing on the final tee.

Tied on 12-under alongside Koerstz Madsen, Nordqvist was able to defy the pressure and find the 18th green in regulation as her playing partner faltered. A shank from a greenside bunker led to a closing double-bogey for Koerstz Madsen, leaving the stage clear for Nordqvist to two-putt and pick up her third major, as well as a cheque for $870,000.

Arms aloft, Anna Nordqvist can finally celebrate being the Women’s Open champion

“I could only dream about winning the British Open,” Nordqvist added. “I was here in 2008 and little did I know a couple years later with a lot of dreams and hard work I’d be the champion. 

“I’m so happy to be here. My husband is 20 minutes away from here, we were supposed to get married 20 minutes away from here so this place is just truly special and I’ve never seen Carnoustie in such good shape.

“I was wearing out my hybrids at the end but it’s a great finish, the wind died down a little but it can play pretty brutal. A key has been how well I’ve played those last four and Carnoustie is such a great venue.”

Earlier on, Minjee Lee, who came from seven behind on the final day to win the Evian Championship last month, looked like she might make it back-to-back majors as she hit the ground running on Sunday in Scotland. 

Starting five back, five birdies in 11 holes brought the Australian level with the leaders on nine-under, before the 25-year-old broke a six-way tie at the top with another birdie at 13. A rare two on the treacherous par-3 16th got Lee to 11-under, but a mishit approach into the final hole – which bounced out of the Barry Burn – cost her a bogey that ended her chances.

And such was the drama at Carnoustie that at one stage there were 21 players within three of the lead.

Among them for the majority of the day was 21-year-old Louise Duncan. Playing in her first professional event, the Scottish amateur and huge fans’ favourite got off to the dream start, striping two shots to eight feet and converting for an opening birdie. 

Not only was the University of Stirling student vying to become the first female player from outside the paid ranks to win a major since France’s Catherine Lacoste at the 1967 US Women’s Open, but she was also looking to complete a rare double having won this year’s Women’s Amateur Championship.

It wasn’t to be the fairytale ending most in attendance desired, but the 21-year-old’s level-par 72 was enough to finish in a tie for 10th on seven-under and lift the Smyth Salver for low amateur ahead of next week’s Curtis Cup.

Louise Duncan (left) with the Smyth Salver for low amateur at the 2021 Women’s Open

Another contender aiming to create her own slice of history was Georgia Hall. No English player has ever won this tournament twice, and after five pars to start, the 2018 champion picked up three shots in two holes to grab a share of the lead. 

It looked like that would be the closest Hall would get when she ran up consecutive bogeys at the 8th and 9th, but the 25-year-old responded emphatically with a birdie at the 11th and a chip-in eagle on the par-5 12th to get to 10-under and within one.

A two-putt birdie at 14 was enough to hold station as the best players in the world took apart the usually stern challenge posed by Carnoustie, before four pars to finish gave Hall the clubhouse lead at 11-under. 

Tied in second alongside Hall finished Madelene Sagstrom and Lizette Salas. Sweden’s Sagstrom, eager to put an exclamation mark on her case for a place on Catriona Matthew’s European Solheim Cup side, had a par putt on 18 which, in hindsight, would have forced a play-off, while Salas missed a similar length effort for birdie as she compiled a bogey-free 69.

Behind them and level with Lee in fifth place, it was heartbreak for Koerstz Madsen, who held at least a share of top spot for the final six holes. That is, until a poor approach into Carnoustie’s demanding finisher and a shank from a greenside bunker led to a double-bogey that cost her a chance of victory and put her automatic qualification for the European Solheim Cup team in jeopardy.

Elsewhere, World No. 1 Nelly Korda finished in a tie for 13th on six-under, while fellow American Lexi Thompson could only muster a closing 74 and a T20.