Anna Nordqvist of Sweden claimed her fourth LPGA Tour victory after carding a 5-under 67 in the final round of the Kia Classic. Nordqvist started two shots off the lead on Sunday and finished with six birdies and a bogey on the par 5 17th hole to top American Lizette Salas by one shot.
Nordqvist shot a first-round 73 on Thursday and was in a tie for 53rd after 18 holes. But the 27-year old shot back-to-back 67’s on the weekend to close.
“I’m very excited,” said Nordqvist. “Just still can’t believe it. I was a couple shots back going into today and just told myself to give it a shot. I ended up making quite a bit of birdies out there. So obviously very happy and excited I’ve had two wins this season.”
It was Nordqvist’s second win in her four starts this season and joins Karrie Webb as the only two-time winners in 2014. After her win in Thailand last month, the Arizona State product said she was close to stepping away from the game in the offseason.
“I was pretty disappointed after last year, not going to lie,” said Nordqvist. “Felt like I played pretty good, but I knew I had to do a couple changes to play even better. It’s just great sitting here now. I’m proud of myself for taking some hard decisions. You know, I worked extremely hard this off-season. They had to drag me off the range.”
Nordqvist changed swing coaches, clubs and apparel company leading into the 2014 season and the tough decisions have seemed to be paying off.
“You know, I think the decision was just it was either I was going to keep working on the it or just, you know, keep practicing or playing like I had been,” said Nordqvist. “But I think I really set my mind up because I wanted to be in contention and win tournaments.”
Nordqvist got started with a five-foot birdie on her first hole and picked up two more before making the turn on Nos. 8 and 9. She extended her lead to two shots with another birdie on the par 4 13th hole and to three shots on No. 14 – both with short putts.
Lexi Thompson made a run finishing the final round with birdies on four of her last six holes to get to 11-under par. She finished in solo third at 11-under par.
“I actually didn’t think about a number going in,” said Thompson. “I obviously knew I had to get to double-digits. I had to take one shot at a time and play the way I did the last three days. Pretty solid.”
Nordqvist was in the second to last group of the day and closed with a two-foot par putt to stay at 13-under.
“Yeah, my hands were definitely shaking,” said Nordqvist of the final putt. “I knew if I could get that one in I was going to be in a good position. You never know. The greens are a little bit bumpy. And with the sun setting a little bit you seem to see every footprint and spike mark. I tried not this focus on that and just see the hole.”
Third-round leader Lizette Salas played in the final group with fellow American Cristie Kerr and approached the 18th hole two shots behind Nordqvist. The Azusa, Calif. native sank a seven-foot birdie putt on the final hole, but it was too little too late.
“It feels good to have that finish after nine straight pars,” said Lizette. “I mean, all pars in the front. Just not getting it close and not striking the ball as well as the first three days…I hit the ball great off the tee today. The putts just wouldn’t roll in.”
Last spots for Kraft secured
Several players secured spots in golf’s first major with their play this week at the Kia Classic. Dori Carter (T10), Tiffany Joh (T43) and Laura Diaz (T32) played their way in by Category 12: top-10 spots on the 2014 LPGA Official Money List, within the top 80 otherwise not qualified at the conclusion of the Kia Classic. The following players secured spots for the Kraft Nabisco Championship:
|Mi Hyang Lee
MODERATOR: It is my absolute pleasure to welcome in the 2014 Kia Classic champion, Anna Nordqvist. Great day today. You had sink in. You got champagne sprayed all over you. You said you were shaking afterward with excitement and happiness.
Talk about your feelings right now.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I'm very excited. Just still can't believe it. I was a couple shots back going into today and just told myself to give it a shot. I ended up making quite a bit of birdies out there.
So obviously very happy and excited I've had two wins this season.
MODERATOR: Yeah, your fourth career win, second in the last four starts. Only five starts so far this year. We had talked about it in Thailand, and I know Karen said it out there about your doubts of your game and doubts of your career, thinking about stepping back.
To have two wins in your last four starts, pretty remarkable. Did you see any of this coming even after your win in Thailand?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Well, I was pretty disappointed after last year, not going to lie. Felt like I played pretty good, but I knew I had to do a couple changes to play even better.
You know, it's just great sitting here now. I'm proud of myself for taking some hard decisions. You know, I worked extremely hard this off-season. You know, they had to drag me off the range.
But obviously I didn't putt very well last year -- or last week in Phoenix, but I felt my game was coming along pretty good. So very, very excited to come from behind this time.
MODERATOR: Yeah, you finished 56th last year at this course. Coming into this week, did you have no high expectations, or what was it about this week that clicked for you?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I struggled a little bit with the poa greens in the past. I just think I had a little bit different mindset going into this week. I tried to be a little bit more patient. I knew I would miss a lot of putts. It's a little bumpy, especially in the afternoons.
My caddie lives in California, so I think that definitely helps. He's been keeping me in a good mood. We had a great time. Seemed like we had a pretty good strategy this week.
MODERATOR: Take us through the round. Highlights and momentum boosters. Take us through how it came about and how you grinded it out towards the end.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I think I started off well making a birdie from five feet make.
Missed a couple fairways and got it almost on the green so I could putt from the fringes. Just missed the green short on 6 and chipped it up to, I don't know, eight, nine, feet and made that putt for par.
I think that was definitely a momentum changer. Then a good wedge in on 8 and 9 nine and made the putts.
Then 13 and 14 I hit it pretty close. So I think those were definitely great moments.
My lag putting was great today 15, 16, 17, and 18 to give me good looks for the second putt.
MODERATOR: I saw you re-mark your ball on the final putt a couple times. Was it two feet? A long two feet? Did you stand over it thinking, Okay let's get this one in?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, my hands were definitely shaking. I knew if I could get that one in I was going to be in a good position.
You never know. The greens are a little bit bumpy. And with the sun setting a little bit you seem to see every footprint and spike mark. I tried not this focus on that and just see the hole.
MODERATOR: Questions for Anna?
Q. You said you had to make some hard decisions in the off-season. What were those hard decisions?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Well, I decided to change coach. Started working with him in swing in January. Jorge Parada, a Spanish guy. Changed my equipment and clothes. You know, I think the decision was just it was either I was going to keep working on the it or just, you know, keep practicing or playing like I had been.
But I think I really set my mind up because I wanted to be in contention and win tournaments.
Q. It's interesting, because if people on the outside looked at your year last year, you had 15 top 15 finishes, which some people out here would absolutely love that. Why was it so hard for to you look at that and accept that I guess?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Well, I mean, last year I had like you said, 15 top 15s. I think in 2012, so two years ago, I had 12 Top 10s. My game has been very consistent the last two years, but I haven't been winning since end of 2009.
Doesn't matter if you're very consist and always up there. The question is always going to be, When are you going to win again? So you're going to think about it and question yourself if you have what it takes to win again.
So I think that was the spot I was in. I definitely wanted to win again, and that's why I'm out here. I hate to lose. I'm a true competitor.
I felt like 15 top 15 was great, it was consistent and definitely where you want to be in order to win tournaments. Keep putting yourself up there. But I felt I wanted to take it to the next level and win tournaments again.
Q. What's the one thing off the course that you most hate to lose at?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Oh, that's a good question. Card games, video games with my brother probably. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Moving into next week, obviously I don't want to take away the celebration of this week, but going into a major, your last one was in your rookie year 2009.
You have to be very, very excited about the way you're playing going into Kraft. Jason lives there. You'll be confident. Going to be a good week. What's the thought going into the year's first major?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I really love the majors. It's a tougher setup on the courses and always a little bit more pressure and more kind of spotlight on the tournament. I like that.
You know, I like the test. Seems like it's going to be pretty windy next week. Just going to make it even tougher. My caddie, Jason lives there. I'm very happy with the way I'm playing. Can't wait to tee it up on Thursday again.
Q. You started with a 73 on Thursday and then seemed like you caught fire the rest of the week. Did anything change from Thursday to Friday?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I played in the afternoon on Thursday. The greens were pretty bumpy. Ended up making a birdie on my last hole to shoot 1-over.
But, you know, definitely started hitting a little bit better from Friday on and gave myself a lot more birdie chances, which I think was the difference.
Q. Put up a great stat on TV and I looked it up and confirmed it. 16 yards longer averaging off the tee this year. Big smile. Fist pump.
MODERATOR: She hit the gym.
Q. What's that result?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Well, I think it's a combination of a couple things. I stayed in Florida this winter and I told my trainer that he was going to have to train me hard this winter and kick my butt, which is exactly what I did.
I was in the gym quite a bit. I wanted to get stronger and faster. That's part of it. Part of it is my swing change or swing coach change. Having a lot more speed in the swing and I can go after it. Before I was kind of hitting it left a little bit. Now I can go after it.
I switched to TaylorMade this year and my driver has been working great for me. It was part of the reason why I was able to win in Thailand because I was able to carry five or six more bunkers every round that was in play for me in past.
So I think it's a combination of all three of those. You know, the more confidence you get the harder you hit it.
MODERATOR: Was that your first winter in Orlando?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah. I used to go always go back to Sweden and spend two, three weeks over Christmas and New Year's. But I stayed and had my family come over here instead and take it easy and work out.
Q. Trainer's name again?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Kai Fusse.
Q. SLD R driver?
ANNA NORDQVIST: No, I play the Jetspeed 10.5 degree.
Q. You said out there that you weren't feeling that well this morning. Physically? Mentally?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Physically. No, I think I caught a cold like two days ago. Yesterday got a little worse. Today I felt my throat and my nose. I tried to keep my energy up. I think a couple shots didn't go as far as I usually hit 'em, but I think my caddie did a great job kind of adjusting to that.
You know, sometimes I think you lower your expectations a little bit if you're not feeling 100%.
MODERATOR: The Michael Jordan flu. Any other questions? All right, biggest congratulations. Great job this week and best of luck next week.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Thank you.
Q. Fantastic tournament again this week. I know it's been well documented that you were a bit fed up with your game at the end of last year. Two wins this year. What turned it around for you?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I think just having positive people around me. That's been really helping me keep me in a good mood and pushing me when I wanted to give up.
But I been working extremely hard this off-season, so I can't believe it. I'm still almost shaking right now standing here with another win.
Q. You've had a change of coach. What kind of things have you been working on? Has he been a positive influence?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I've been working with Jorge Parada since the end of January. We started a little bit on short game. He's a really positive person and really motivated me in practice.
Been working a little bit on lagging a little bit different in the swing, and I feel like I can go after it a little bit more without hitting them left.
Q. Going into the Kraft next week, what does this win do for your confidence for that?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I mean, makes me believe a lot more in myself. I love Palm Springs. My caddie is from there, so I know he loves it there, too. I couldn't come to the first major of the year in a better position.
Q. What's it feel like, the importance of getting this thing?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Well, I was two shots behind and really had nothing to lose today. Didn't feel very good this morning.
But I wanted to at least give myself a chance. Made a good par putt on 7 to -- or on 6 to keep me in it. Made a couple really good birdies then the turn.
I'm still shaking and still can't believe this happened. Obviously very happy.
Q. To win going into a major week though, the importance of that, unbelievable amount of confidence, right?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Absolutely. I'm so excited to see what I've been working on is starting to pay off. Can't waiting to go to Palm Springs. It's one of my favorite stops on tour.
Q.What about doing it here?
LIZETTE SALAS: It feels good to have that finish after nine straight pars. I mean, all pars in the front. Just not getting it close and not striking the ball as well as the first three days.
But my caddie did a great job of helping me stay patient and stay in the moment. All we kept saying was, Fairways and greens.
I hit the ball great off the tee today. The putts just wouldn't roll in. So just focus on hitting my spots on the green. I told him on 14, I said, This putt's going in. That's when I drained that big slider.
So that's a big confidence booster for me. To finish the way I did today is definitely a big confidence booster.
Q. Can you forget about not winning the tournament as well as you played?
LIZETTE SALAS: Oh, yeah. Obviously I can't control what Anna does. She's been playing awesome this year and already had a win, so congrats to her.
All I got to work on is my mentality and my, I don't know, just the way I play the game. I took 3-wood on 16 and look what happened? I went over.
That's just golf. Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. Luckily I finished with a birdie on a good note, and off to the Kraft.
Q. Did you have aggressive lines on the front nine as far as your approach shots? Did you feel like you were being aggressive? Like you said, you didn't get a lot of shots close to the hole on the front but played incredibly well off the tee and put yourself in good spots. So did you feel like you didn't play aggressively enough?
LIZETTE SALAS: No, I had an aggressive line; just didn't end up where I wanted to. Get a funky bounce here or there and miss by a yard or two and then...
But I hit an awesome shot on 9 and look what happened? It went ten yards over. That's just golf. All you can do is put the a good swing, out a good thought in your head, and that's what I've been trying to do the past two weeks.
Coming down the stretch I was getting a little bit frustrated, but with the birdie putt on 14 that was a big one for me.
Q. Great shot, too. What do you hit?
LIZETTE SALAS: Thank you. 7-iron. We've always hit driver, 7-iron, driver, 3-wood. That's been my club on 18.
Q. How much more confidence can you have right now going into the Kraft?
LIZETTE SALAS: I fell really confident compared to three weeks ago where I was mental-wise. These next three days just go back to work and kind of put this in the back of your head, but know that you can pull off putts going down the stretch.
Q. You work with a mental coach?
LIZETTE SALAS: No. My dad pretty much. My dad is very optimistic.
Q. Like dinners and car rides?
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah, and my mom, if I make bogey she's like, The hole is over here kind of thing.
I have a great support system from my family. I'm I hope they're happy about the finish I had even though I didn't win. Definitely a big win for Team Salas for sure.
Q. What would this next week mean to you if you could pull it off?
LIZETTE SALAS: I mean, it would mean a lot. But I'm trying not to focus too far ahead. Just focus on the things that I need to work on during practice and just try to stay in the moment, stay present.
I know that sounds so boring and simple, but it goes a long way with me. Something my college coach taught me since I was a freshman. It's definitely been working.
Q. Every day your crowds have been growing, and today is an army here. How did you feel about that?
LIZETTE SALAS: I feel blessed to have the support from my friends and family and my community, especially the Latin community. For them to come out here and cheer me on in English and Spanish, to get the best of both worlds, it's definitely been a heck of a week.
Q. As many times as you've played the Dinah course, how does it suit your eye?
LIZETTE SALAS: Well, I guess we'll see the next couple days of practice. Last year, first three rounds I played awesome. So I feel pretty good about it. Just got to work on the mental a little bit more in the final round.
Still, I just have to go back to work and work on the basics and work on what works for me. So I'm sure my coach and I will sit down and have a little chat about what needs to be a little better for next week.
But I think I'm ready.
Q. Is there a hole, a putt, is there one you're going to think about?
LIZETTE SALAS: Probably 16. No, 15, sorry. I really wanted that putt to go in. I missed it on the high side so I gave it a chance, a good roll. That's all I really wanted to do is give it a chance.
Front nine I was not getting the balls anywhere near the hole, so just give it a good stroke, a good run. If it finds the hole, fist pump it in. If not, move on.
Q. What was the distance on 15?
LIZETTE SALAS: About 10 to 12 feet. So that was in my range. Just didn't go in.
Q. You said there was some bit of an attitude change.
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah.
Q. Was there a pep talk from dad or something that clicked that you thought...
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah, yeah, after Asia, do I laugh this off or do I cry about it? It was kind of embarrassing.
Q. A combination?
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah, combo of both embarrassing for me to do that in Asia away from my family, but my dad even came by and said, I never wanted you to go through this, but I think you had to.
So just kind of gave me a reality check on you really need to work on the basics. I went back to drills that I worked on last year, that even though they seem silly to me, they really do work.
My dad made a gadget for my putting to make sure I was it aligned correctly. Just worked on the simple things.
Yeah, just really tried to not focus on the result and more on the process.
Q. Thank you. Great finish, girlfriend.
THE MODERATOR: We're here with Lexi Thompson after a great finish there at Kia. You gave a nice fist pump after that big birdie on 18. What was going through your head?
LEXI THOMPSON: No. 18 is a hard hole to begin with so you just try to get into the fairway and have a good shot to that pin.
Once I saw the 20-footer going up the hill, I told my caddie I was going to make it. I just got up tight, I felt good over it. I usually don't fist pump, but I was feeling the moment.
Q. It was a good smile, too. So you have a good fist pump, good finish here. What does that mean going into Kraft for you?
LEXI THOMPSON: It means a lot for me. I went into this week with a positive attitude, went out there and smiled and laughed with my caddie, just relaxed. I think that's when my game shows the best. I'm going to take a big confidence booster going into next week into a major. I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. Did you have a number in mind that you thought you had to hit and did that number change as you went through the day?
LEXI THOMPSON: I actually didn't think about a number going in. I obviously knew I had to get to double-digits. I had to take one shot at a time and play the way I did the last three days. Pretty solid. The course is in great shape for us. I tried to take one shot at a time, and when the birdies dropped, I just went for them.
Q. Do you wait around now to see what Anna does?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, well, I do have to kind of wait around. She went to 14-under, I guess. You never know, but Anna is a great player.
I'm overall just very happy with the way I played no matter what happens. Just really happy with it.
Q. International Crown teams will be set after this. What does it feel like to represent your country playing in a team competition?
LEXI THOMPSON: It means so much to me. Anytime I can put on red, white and blue, go out there, play for my country, it's the highest honor you can have.
I love team events. Just representing my country, there's nothing like it. Golf is such an individual sport, playing as a team for your country, it's always so amazing and the fans love it, so...
I. K. Kim
MODERATOR: We're here with I.K. Kim after your final round at the Kia Classic. I.K., you're now mathematically qualified for the International Crown team. How does it feel?
I.K. KIM: Feels great. Is wasn't really thinking about the whole thing because of playing Kia tournament. I wasn't really focusing on Crown very much.
But it feels nice. Feel very lucky to have such great teammates, you know, and representing Korea as well.
Q. You talked about representing Korea. Playing as a team with other players representing your country, is that a new thing for you? What's the excitement level heading into that tournament?
I.K. KIM: I don't see it as competition so much. I think it's more like celebrating because it's different format, and I think will create different atmosphere for the fans who actually not follow golf so much in Korea. They actually will cheer for not only Korea, but a lot of countries will be interest in this game.
I think that's what I'm supporting and I'm looking forward to.
Q. It's a match play format. Have you had a chance to look at the other teammates involved? What would be your strategy going into the tournament?
I.K. KIM: It's long way actually. It's in July, I believe. But I love match play, you know.
But I feel like everybody is family out here anyway. I think it will be more celebration of who is going to play better. So I think they'll be fun.
Q. Congratulation, I.K. Should be a great tournament.
I.K. KIM: Thank you.