Anna Nordqvist on links golf, Kingsbarns and surviving without a coach
Some players have to spend careers answering questions about when they are going to win their first tournament or, if they are particularly good, their first major.
Anna Nordqvist had to wait five starts before ticking off both at the LPGA Championship.
Come the end of the season she had played in the Solheim Cup and also won the LPGA’s Tour Championship, going from 332nd in the word to seventh.
A year ago Nordqvist looked like doubling that tally when a grain of sand and the USGA intervened and her play-off with Brittany Lang descended into part farce. But there will be more majors, hopefully starting at Kingsbarns in August…
You made British Open debut at St Andrews as a 20-year-old amateur in 2007 – what are your memories of that week?
I played in the Monday qualifier at the New Course, we had just played the Vagliano Trophy at the Fairmont so we were all there. I got into a play-off, parred the first three holes and made it through at 9.30pm.
Obviously I was very excited to play in a major and particularly one at St Andrews. My mum caddied and some friends came, it was such a cool experience to play with the pros at the Home of Golf.
It was my first taste of pro golf and things like the pyramids of balls on the practice ground made you feel great.
Did you play much links as an amateur?
I played in a lot of girls’ events and the British Amateur where I reached the final in 2006, at Royal County Down, and 2007 before winning it in 2008 at North Berwick so I had quite a lot of links experience.
I actually played at Kingsbarns in 2004 for the Duke of York. It went straight into one of my favourite courses, the girls and guys played together in one competition and Rory McIlroy was second to Zac Gould of Wales. I think I was the leading girl and finished seventh overall.
Should the Women’s British Open always be played at a links in your opinion?
I think so, definitely yes. Last year at Woburn I don’t think it was set up properly and it didn’t feel like a British Open. I’ve played in eight and been to some amazing courses.
What is your favourite?
I love Carnoustie; it’s a great, challenging track but it wasn’t too windy when we were there. Birkdale is good and Kingsbarns is already one of my favourites. It is so beautiful by the water and has a nice combination of tricky and hard holes.
I’m not a big fan of hidden tee shots so St Andrews wouldn’t be up there, I like to see what is in front of me. Lytham is a bit the same with the hidden bunkers.
I love so many aspects of links golf; putting from distance, the different ways to play all the shots and the pot bunkers. I love it when you aim in the middle of some bushes and wait for the wind to hit it, though I wouldn’t want it to be every week.
How much of a shock to the system is it to play a British Open on a links?
In the States you take a 58˚ wedge and throw it to the hole. I used to be really good at keeping the ball down but then the more I’ve been in the States you need a higher flight in your irons so that’s what I work on.
I rarely play a punch shot on the LPGA Tour. I have the experience though, and love playing links, but it just takes a bit longer to get the idea of it again.
I will practice at the Scottish Open to get comfortable with the shots and think about the different winds, in the States it is generally from the same direction.
What do you make of your WBO record?
My best finish is seventh, which I’ve managed twice, but there is room for improvement. I don’t know why I’ve not been higher, maybe this is the year?
I feel comfortable playing in it and you need a bit of luck with the draw. At St Andrews I played in the storms and was one under after 16 when they suspended play and that was one of my best rounds. A lot of the field went out in the calm conditions the day after and I was still 10th.
What will your preparations consist of in the week of the Open?
I will see it as a new course as my game is so different now to 2004. My caddy will walk it on the Monday, I will play 18 in the Tuesday pro-am and then 9 or 18 on the Wednesday. I will do a lot of putting and get some lines off the tees and look at where to avoid.
You’re not working with a coach at the moment, how liberating is that?
I stopped with my last coach in April. It has been a great experience as I like the independence of it. It is nice to have someone but I feel like I have pretty good control and I have some good drills.
I have changed a couple of things that I wasn’t happy with and I have friends who help with my bunker play, set-up in putting and another for chipping.
I will find someone at some point but it has taught me a lot and I finished second a few weeks ago where I hit the ball as well as ever. It is easier to trust others when you have all the knowledge yourself.
Are you a technical player?
I love working on technique but I know my swing very well, I know my TrackMan numbers and lofts and lies but I rarely get one out at tournaments as then it is more about feel and trying to create that.
How long did it take to get over last year’s US Open play-off defeat?
I was happy leaving the course and happy afterwards but the media made a big deal of it. Everyone was expecting me to be in this funk but it really didn’t take me long.
I was disappointed but there was nothing I could do about the timing of the officials’ intervention. I grounded the club and I take full responsibility for that.
But it has given me some motivation and I would love to win a US Open one day. On a positive note, I was proud of the way I played – I shot 67 on the Sunday when only one other player broke 70. It’s not that big a deal, life didn’t end and everyone made it something that it wasn’t.