Anna Nordqvist held her nerve brilliantly to claim a dramatic one-shot victory in the 2021 AIG Women’s Open and her third major title.
On a fittingly thrilling final day of a Championship that welcomed back fans this week, the 34-year-old Swede parred each of Carnoustie’s demanding final four holes for a 69 that gave her a 12-under aggregate of 276.
Nordqvist, whose husband Kevin hails from nearby Dundee, was level with fellow Scandinavian Nanna Koerstz Madsen as the final pair played the 18th, but the latter suffered a heart-breaking finish as she made a double-bogey to slip back into a share of fifth.
That meant 2018 Champion Georgia Hall (67), 2019 runner-up Lizette Salas (69) and Madelene Sagstrom (68) shared second on 11-under, the latter left to rue a bogey at the last after a stunning birdie at the 17th had briefly lifted her into a share of the lead.
Nordqvist, whose victory owed much to a best-of-the-week 65 in round three, was faultless on the front nine on Sunday, turning in 33 with birdies at the sixth, eighth and ninth to claim top spot on an increasingly sun-kissed afternoon.
Her sole scorecard blemish came when she made a mess of the par-5 12th to record a surprising bogey, but from that point on Nordqvist was outstanding, birdieing the 14th to get back to 12 under and staying calm thereafter.
A superb approach to the 18th put Nordqvist firmly in pole position to claim the most significant share of the biggest prize fund in women's major golf as Koerstz Madsen found a greenside bunker. Nordqvist's subsequent birdie attempt was inches away from dropping, but it mattered little as she succeeded Sophia Popov as the Champion.
Nordqvist, whose previous major triumphs came at the 2009 Women's PGA Championship and 2017 Evian Championship, now holds the rare distinction of having won the Girls' and Women's Amateur Championships, the Smyth Salver and the AIG Women's Open, matching the feat completed by Hall in 2018.
At 3:15pm on Sunday afternoon - half an hour after the final pair had teed off - six players shared the lead, with Nordqvist and Koerstz Madsen having been joined on nine-under by Hall, Salas, Minjee Lee and Steph Kyriacou.
The latter’s rise was extraordinary. Kryiacou had been four-over after nine holes of her second round before coming home in 30 to make the cut. An eagle at the 12th on Sunday lifted her to six-under for the day, but she ultimately finished six behind after going out of bounds en route to a double-bogey at the last.
Lee, who shot 64 in the final round to win the Evian Championship last month, twice claimed the outright lead as she surged to seven under for the day and 11-under for the week.
However, after she had been overtaken by Nordqvist, Lee also suffered on the 18th. The Australian made a closing bogey for a 66 and a 10-under aggregate despite an extraordinary stroke of fortune that saw her ball bounce out of the Barry Burn to safety.
Lee would lose the clubhouse lead to Hall, whose thrilling final-day charge delighted the Carnoustie crowd. Eagles at six and 12 represented the highlights of a 67 for the 2018 Champion, who parred the demanding final four holes but was left to rue back-to-back bogeys at the eighth and ninth.
The ever-reliable Salas was never far from the lead as she put together a typically solid round. By keeping a bogey off her card, the American maintained her record of not dropping a shot on the back nine this week, but she could not quite find the necessary birdie on the last.
Sagstrom, meanwhile, made it an all-Scandinavian tie at 12-under when she birdied the 17th following an outstanding second shot, but she then bogeyed 18 after finding sand off the tee.
Koerstz Madsen had briefly made it to 13-under with a tremendous start to the back nine, but she gave one back at the 15th before a painful finish that saw her find a bunker with her approach and then take four more from there.
She ultimately shared fifth with Lee (66), one shot ahead of Leonie Harm (67) and Patty Tavatanakit (67).
Louise Duncan, the Women’s Amateur Champion who began the final day trailing by two, received a tremendous ovation on the first tee and started with a birdie to raise hopes of a sensational triumph.
The 21-year-old University of Stirling student finished a magnificent week with a 72 and a tie for 10th at seven-under, enough to comfortably secure the Smyth Salver ahead of a Curtis Cup appearance at Conwy next week.