By Ben Parsons at Carnoustie
‘Carnasty’ may not have reared its ugly head but it produced a final round for the ages.
Sunday brought a Carnoustie cavalry charge and it was Anna Nordqvist, last out of the blocks, who struck the decisive blow.
Swede Nordqvist, left with a one-foot putt to claim her maiden AIG Women’s Open title, couldn’t hide her emotion as she was met by overjoyed husband and local Kevin McAlpine on a packed 18th green.
McAlpine, a PGA tour caddy in his own right, hails from nearby Dundee and Nordqvist wasn’t without support from family and friends down the fairways of the famous links course she can now call the home of her zenith.
Now a three-time major winner, the regular Solheim Cup fixture fought off an army of challengers on the Angus coast.
Nordqivst’s satisfaction on the back of the 18th green was multiplied due to what had gone before. She was forced to overcome a long battle with glandular fever, contracted in 2017, and there were moments when the new champion wondered if she could return to the top of the elite game.
“I don't think a lot of people realised how tough that was, and it took me a good three years just having no energy and not feeling like I have the mental strength extra gear that I've always been used to having,” she said.
“This is the most special one,” she added. “Just because it's taken me a couple years and I've fought so hard and questioned whether I was doing the right things.”
— AIG Women’s Open (@AIGWomensOpen) August 22, 2021
Her challengers came, and then they went. Australian Minjee Lee was seven-under-par for her round but could not capitalise on the last despite somehow escaping the clutches of the devilish Barry Burn.
Home hero Georgia Hall, the champion three years ago, carded two eagles to take the clubhouse lead but will rue an underwhelming Saturday.
Resilient American Lizette Salas was arrow straight and came up one short for the second time in three years.
But it was a Scandinavian shootout as Nordqvist battled Nanna Koerstz Madsen for the ultimate prize, neck-and-neck at 12-under down the last.
The nerveless 34-year-old plotted her way to the simplest of fours, while her Danish playing partner buckled with a gut-wrenching shank to card a sorry six.
Meanwhile, a Scottish star was born in the small town of Angus.
Amateur Louise Duncan, the wee lassie from West Kilbride, did herself proud on Sunday. The Stirling University student’s closing 72 in her first professional event made for a top 10 finish, the Smith Salver award for leading amateur, and memories to last a lifetime.
However, the day belonged to Nordqvist, who will now head Europe’s Solheim Cup challenge in Ohio on an all-time high.
“There were times I doubted if I ever would win again,” she admitted.
But she can now revel in claiming golf’s most prestigious prize.