Anna Nordqvist wins Founders Cup in college homecoming
PHOENIX (AP) — Anna Nordqvist caught up with some college friends — and left everyone else behind Sunday on another hot afternoon at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
The 29-year-old former Arizona State player shot a 4-under 68 to hold off fellow major champions Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis and In Gee Chun by two strokes in record 96-degree heat at Desert Ridge.
“I have so many friends and family here. They feel like family, my U.S. family,” the 6-foot Swede said. “Couldn’t think of a better place to be. I’m just so happy to be back. I wasn’t even going to play a couple weeks ago and just ended up adding it last minute. Maybe it was meant to be.”
Nordqvist won her seventh LPGA Tour title and first since successfully defending at the ShopRite LPGA Classic last June. In the U.S. Women’s Open in July, she lost a three-hole playoff to Brittany Lang after being penalized two strokes for touching the sand with her club in a fairway bunker on the second extra hole.
She ended up back in the Valley of Sun after dropping the Women’s Australian Open from her schedule because it didn’t count in the European Solheim Cup standings.
“Of all the wins probably this is the one that’s going to be more special,” Nordqvist said. “If it wasn’t for me getting an opportunity to come to Arizona State University about 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be here today. This truly still feels like home, even though I’m based in Florida.”
Nordqvist had a tournament-record 61 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round. She finished at 25-under 263, two shots off the LPGA Tour record that Sei Young Kim matched last year in the event that honors the 13 women who started the tour in 1950.
“My phone was blowing up yesterday and I was just trying to play it chill,” Nordqvist said. “I knew it was one more round to play, so kept my head down.”
Lewis finished with a 68.
“I just couldn’t quite get the putts to fall,” Lewis said. “Hit a lot of good shots and didn’t quite get rewarded for them. But I played well and it is hard to get too upset.”
Lewis is winless in 67 events since June 2014. The 32-year-old Texan finished second for the 25th time in her career and the 12th since her last victory. She won at Desert Ridge in 2013 to reach No. 1 in the world, was second in 2014 and 2015 and tied for fourth last year.
Jutanugarn matched Nordqvist with a 68 in the final pairing, playing the back nine in 5 under. The second-ranked Thai star had a bogey-free week. She won five LPGA Tour titles last year and topped the player of the year points race and money list.
Nordqvist made a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th to take a one-stroke lead, and doubled the margin with an 18-footer on the par-4 13th. She made a 25-footer on the par-3 17th and bogeyed the par-4 18th after hitting into the left greenside bunker.
“Saw the leaderboard on 15, but I just tried to keep my head down and do my thing,” Nordqvist said. “Felt like I played pretty solid on the front and made two good putts on 13 and 17. A little interesting at the end, but I’m so happy and proud of myself this week.”
She earned $225,000 and is projected to jump from 13th to 11th in the world ranking.
Chun had a 66, and Ha Na Jang (63), Inbee Park (67) and So Yeon Ryu (69) tied for fifth at 21 under.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko also had a bogey-free week, closing with a 68 to tie for eighth at 20 under. She joined Chun and Sandra Gal in showering friend Nordqvist with water on the 18th green.
Moria Jutanugarn, Ariya’s older sister, also was 20 under after a career-best 63.
U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster, at 56 years old, had a 64 that drew a hug and “playing captain” joke from LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan. It was the Hall of Famer’s lowest round on tour since also shooting 64 in the 2003 Evian Masters. She tied for 24th at 16 under.
“I like the challenge of getting better and playing,” Inkster said. “I don’t know if that makes sense, but I really enjoy playing golf. I really enjoy practicing and I really enjoy working on my game, especially when you have days like this where things come together and it works out. Just got to learn how to put the four rounds together again.”