Caroline Hedwall made the perfect return from two months out through injury by successfully defending the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen in Austria on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Swede compiled rounds of 67, 66 and 70 for a three round total of 203, 13 under to win by four strokes – the same margin of victory as the previous year- on a hot and sunny day at Golfclub Fohrenwaldh in Wiener Neustadt.
“I’m very happy and especially coming back from injury. This is more than I could have hoped for. I definitely wasn’t expecting to win and I just wanted to make the cut when I came here but I found my game and played really well,” Hedwall said.
The second year tour player had no expectations coming into the week having been out from competition for eight weeks with a hip injury but stamped her authority on the tournament from the first round, which she co-led with Australian Alison Whitaker.
She had established a two stroke lead over Whitaker after the second round, which was immediately cut to one on the final day when the Swede bogeyed the first hole.
Hedwall struggled on the greens at the start but then birdied four holes in a row from the sixth to establish a four stroke lead at the turn on 14 under.
The 23-year-old from Barsebäck rolled in a five-footer for birdie on the par-three sixth then birdied seven and eight sticking her approach shots close. She drove into a fairway bunker right on nine but was able to recover with a lay-up shot and then holed a perfectly judged birdie putt from seven feet.
Three-time tournament champion Laura Davies of England was her closest challenger on 10 under at the turn after a five under par front nine containing five birdies, however a one over par back nine featuring two bogeys and a final hole birdie saw her end nine under in a share of second with Swede Mikaela Parmlid.
There were hiccups on the back nine for Hedwall too, who bogeyed the par-three 10th and then the 12th after duffing a chip. However, she birdied the 14th to re-establish a three stroke lead and after Davies had bogeyed 15 and 16, Hedwall had a five shot lead with three to play.
“After hole 15 I saw Laura miss a pretty short par putt on 16 and I was five up at that point so I thought if I’m going to lose this I need to play really bad. But at the same time, you saw Alison and people can hole shots so you need to stay focused,” Hedwall said.
Whitaker holed her third shot for eagle on 18 to move up into a share of fourth place with the 2009 event champion Linda Wessberg and Anne-Lise Caudal.
Davies, playing in the penultimate group, holed a 12-footer on 18 to move into a share of second before Hedwall made her par there to seal her fifth Ladies European Tour win and the €30,000 first prize.
The Ladies European Tour now moves to Royal Liverpool for the Ricoh Women’s British Open taking place from Thursday, where we can expect to see more of Hedwall.