Moriya Jutanugarn held a three-stroke lead when she hit her tee shot at the par-5 13th. Once she walked off the green, she trailed by one. She was caught by Anna Nordqvist. The Swede mounted a Sunday charge with a 5-under 66 to come from five strokes back of Jutanugarn, the 36-hole leader, to force a playoff with Brittany Altomare. Tied at 9-under par, the pair returned to the par-4 18th, where Nordqvist defeated Altomare with a bogey in the pouring rain and hail to win the Evian Championship.
On the first playoff hole, Nordqvist stood over a must-make, 4-footer for bogey on the 18th green. She rolled it in for the win and doubled over with emotion, bent at the waist, her face in her hands.
The last three months have been a struggle for the world No. 13 who has battled glandular fever, more commonly known as mono. The condition sidelined her throughout the summer, resulting in her coming up one event short of the required number events needed to qualify for the European Solheim Cup team. Nordqvist instead had to rely on a pick from captain Annika Sorenstam, but she delivered for her Team, winning three and a half points for her team, including a halve in her epic Sunday singles match with Lexi Thompson.
“I love competing and I prove practicing, and staying in bed hasn’t been the most exciting,” Nordqvist said about being on bed rest. “My grandpa was always my biggest role model. He always used to tell me to never give up, and that’s what I never did today.”
What a three-week span it has been for Brittany Altomare. The 26-year-old from Shrewsbury, Mass., finished tied for third at the Cambia Portland Classic two weeks ago, but traveled to Evian fresh off a missed cut at last week’s Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim. This week at Evian, Altomare announced her name to the golf world. She bested that T3 finish with a runner-up showing here at Evian, reaching the playoff with Anna Nordqvist but double bogeying the first playoff hole. However, Altomare took nothing but positives from this experience in the French Alps.
“It’s really big,” said Altomare of her breakthrough performance this week. “I had a good week in Portland, and I felt good that tournament and I felt like I could now start getting some good finishes. It’s all just about finishing up your rounds or tournaments and I feel I’m starting to do that.” Altomare entered Sunday’s final round five strokes behind then-leader Moriya Jutanugarn. The University of Virginia graduate calmly reeled off a 5-under 66, tied for the second-lowest round of her career, to sneak into the playoff. She pointed to the end of her second round, where she birdied five of the last six holes, as the starting point of her success. “I just wanted to try and hit fairways and greens today and make some birdies,” said Altomare. “I finished my round off really well yesterday. I think I had like five birdies maybe coming in or something. So I just kind of tried to keep that momentum, and I started hitting the ball really well today, and I gave myself a bunch of chances and I just made some putts.”
Sunday turned into yet another close call for Moriya Jutanugarn, who entered the final round with the lead but ultimately stumbled to a tie for third. Jutanugarn went to the 72nd hole at -9, with Anna Nordqvist and Brittany Altomare already in the clubhouse at that score, but her approach flew over the green and she failed to chip in for par, dropping heartbreakingly out of the playoff.
As always, the 23-year-old from Thailand was unendingly positive after her round.
“What I learned this week, you know, is (to) play in the last group in a major event is great,” said Jutanugarn, who earned the eighth top-five finish of her career. “I think I learned to be a lot patient, just how I can relax on the golf course and just have fun with the game and just be myself and play my game.” Little sister Ariya, already a major champion, walked all 18 holes with big sister Moriya, serving as an ever-present source of support. Her advice? “Just go out and enjoy it, play your game and whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” said Moriya. Amy Rogers/LPGA