CME Group Tour Championship
Anna Nordqvist 'not doing very well,' yet opens with a 65 in last stop in a challenging year
Douglas P. DeFelice
NAPLES, Fla. — Anna Nordqvist in contention at the CME Group Tour Championship isn't surprising. The Swede, who is seven-under par through the first round, is tracking for her fourth top-10 finish of her career at Tiburon Golf Club.
What is surprising, however, is the resilience she displayed Thursday on the back end of one of the most challenging seasons of her life.
"Without trying to cry, but I've been honest with everyone," Nordqvist, 36, said. "I'm not doing very well. It's been a lot of the ups and downs just trying to fight."
This year has been unrelenting for Nordqvist. In March, she stepped away from the LPGA due to personal reasons, including missing the Chevron Championship, the first time in Nordqvist's career she didn't play in a major for which she was eligible. In August, she announced her divorce from husband Kevin McAlpine, leading her to withdrawing from the Freed Group Scottish Women's Open. Two months later, he suddenly passed away when Nordqvist was in South Korea at the BMW Ladies Championship. The 15-year LPGA veteran also withdrew there and was uncertain if she'd play again in 2023.
Despite the tragic year, Nordqvist wanted not to wait to play again until February and decided the Sunday ahead of last week's Annika, driven by Gainbridge, that she would play the season's final two events. Impressively, Nordqvist scrounged her way to the weekend at Pelican Golf Club and finished T-67, which felt like a victory to the nine-time LPGA winner despite little opportunity to prepare.
"I could hit three golf balls without being totally out of breath," Nordqvist said, "So it's been a fight, but I wanted to come here, do it for myself, show that I'm a fighter."
Her practice ahead of the Annika was limited. In early November, Nordqvist's head spun so much after hitting just a few balls that she had to cut her time at the range short. Working with her coach in Arizona two weeks ago proved no reprieve, as mental and physical exhaustion overshadowed their time together. Managing her grief, on top of long-term physical complications from mono in 2017, continued proving a trying task. During one round at the Annika, Nordqvist hit a nine -oot putt six feet past because her mind was elsewhere.
While golf has never been a top priority for Nordqvist when compared to her family, she's leaning into her relationships on tour for support before returning home to Sweden after the CME to be with her loved ones. Nordqvist's longtime caddie, Jason Gilyrod, is back on the bag after Rose Zhang parted with him going into the Asia swing. Leona Maguire took Nordqvist to dinner on Monday to be there alongside her Solheim Cup teammate. Close friend Suzann Pettersen and her husband Christian Ringvold greeted her as she walked off the 18th green Thursday.
"It's small things that create some kind of normalcy in a very unnormal situation right now," Nordqvist said.
With three days remaining before returning to the safe haven of home, and hoping to begin the healing process to return to the LPGA in 2024 in a better place, Nordqvist continues to fight so that her final rounds of the year can inspire those going through their own trials.
"I feel like everyone is having different battles," Nordqvist said. "You know, we all do our best, try to move on, but at the end of the day we're just normal people. This year, as tough as I try to stay, I'm just human. It's been a lot of tears, I'll tell you that."