There aren’t many LPGA Tour players who can claim to have won three different Majors in three different decades. Upon clinching the 2021 AIG Women's British Open at Carnoustie, Swede Anna Nordqvist did just that, reaching a level of competitive longevity that’s impressive even in an era where players keep going for longer than ever before.
The will to win and belief it was possible, along with the enforced break of COVID lockdowns, were key to her 2021 comeback, as she reveals to RSNG…
Coming Back From Challenges
Thirty five-year-old Anna Nordqvist’s return to the top of the podium is made all the more notable when you consider the time she spent trying to regain her form after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Although not typically a life-threatening illness, the contagious infection did lead to prolonged and profound fatigue.
Nordqvist’s route back has been as much about mastering the mental elements as conquering the after-effects of her physical depletion. This helped her confidence soar again in the way it did back in 2009, when she clinched her debut Major in just a fifth competitive start.
Unless you have the will to win there’s no point you being out on the golf course
In the aftermath of her latest win, Nordqvist spoke at length about the will to win and her belief that she would one day be able to come back to claim a title.
“Well I think, firstly, unless you have the will to win there’s no point you being out on the golf course,” she tells RSNG.com. “The will to win is the thing that makes you play outside of your own ability, and whether your opponent is someone else or yourself, you always need to have that passion and appetite, or there is really no point.
“I think the difference really is whether you have the belief to win, and the fact is since my first Major win, in 2009, the nature of the sport has changed so much.
“I am happy to admit that in my youth, successes came easy for me, but I always had to work harder and longer days than my opponents. When I turned pro I didn’t think it would be eight long years before I would win a Major again.”
Nordqvist admits the challenges that followed have shaped her into the competitor she is today, and none more so than her mono diagnosis. “It happened in July 2017 – I was playing in the US Open and was suffering with a cough and respiratory symptoms. I just couldn’t get myself to a point of feeling even remotely normal, but the life of a golfer is such that you have to play through the pain.
“The tour is often unrelenting and there are so many other people around you who rely on you playing, and that adds to the pressure. I have always thought of myself as a team – it’s me, of course, but it’s my caddy, my trainer, my coach, my family, my sponsors. That means there really needs to be a good reason for me not to be at an event – I feel I owe it to a lot of people.”
I knew if I could make it back it would be one of my biggest accomplishments
The golfer’s family were the ones she turned to most during a long three years of recovery from the effects of mono. “I admit I thought about quitting during those dark days, but on each occasion I would hear my grandfather's words in my head, telling me to never give up… telling me to find a way to get through the current challenges and to work out a way to get back to who I was and where I was.
“I also knew if I could make it back it would be one of my biggest accomplishments.”
A Complete Break
Ironically, it was another illness – this time on a global scale – that ultimately enabled Nordqvist to reset fully. The three-time Swedish Golfer of the Year was three years into her mono nightmare when Covid struck, with the pandemic seeing golf suspended for the first time since World War II.
“Finally, I had a complete break from the sport, and the reality was that this was all my body needed,” she says. “Rather than keeping going and always trying to find the right formula to get myself back to where I was, the answer was in fact to stop completely, so that’s what happened.”
Nordqvist admits she had always been an advocate of stepping back and assessing where she was in life and in her career, but transforming that mental exercise into physical action, or lack of it, was something she had never managed, until the summer of 2020.
“I never guessed the answer was to do less rather than do more. It goes against everything you imagine should be the case.”
Having solved a three-year-long puzzle as to what was going on in my body, I feel ready to prove I have a second chance
For Nordqvist though, it worked, and in clinching the 2021 AIG Women’s Open title at Carnoustie, she put to bed four years of frustration, dating back to her 2017 Evian Championship win.
“My life has always gone at 110mph. It was great to finally have a little bit more time at home, and not having to travel I think was probably the break I needed a couple years ago and just never gave myself.”
Nordqvist has also invested in a change of scenery, having moved back to Arizona a couple of years ago, and even in her mid-30s is confident she can build a new game-plan into her game. “There were times I doubted if I ever would win again, but as soon as you do, the mindset changes to one of expectancy, not doubt.
“I have many more things going on outside of golf now than I did back in 2009, or in 2017, but my passion and determination on the course has never been greater. Having solved a three-year-long puzzle as to what was going on in my body, I feel ready to prove I have a second chance at really pushing myself forward to achieving great things.”
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