Major champion Anna Nordqvist came to Southern Pines with little preparation after withdrawing from last week’s Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards and wasn’t too sure what to expect at a venue she’s never played. But it didn’t seem to faze the 34-year-old who opened her 14th appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club with a 4-under 67. The score ties her low round for the major championship – she also shot 67 in the final round at CordeValle in 2016 to finish solo second, her best result in the event – and Thursday saw Nordqvist make five birdies and one bogey, including three in a row on holes 14 through 16.
“I really didn't make a lot of mistakes out there,” said the Swede. “When I did, I put myself in good positions to make up-and-downs. But overall I felt like it was really solid. That's about all you can ask for in a U.S. Open. The course is hard. Even if you have a shorter iron in on some of the holes, you've just got to hit the right areas on the greens or they're going to roll away really far. I think it's a great golf course, a little bit different from a lot of other courses that we play.”
It was at last year’s AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie that Nordqvist captured her third major title, but since that win, she’s only notched two top-15s, neither of which have come in 2022. Her best finish so far this year is a tie for 26th that came at the LOTTE Championship, and though she hasn’t missed a cut in her seven starts, Nordqvist is looking to turn things around as the LPGA Tour enters the meat of the major season, hopefully beginning her bounce back this week in North Carolina.
“I definitely would say majors get my adrenaline going a little bit differently than some of the other courses,” said Nordqvist, who also won the 2009 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the 2017 Amundi Evian Championship. “I feel like a lot of courses we play are not so penalizing when you're a little bit off line. That's why I like the way the major sets up. You don't necessarily have to shoot 20 under to win. Ball-striking has always been my strength of my game, hitting a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, so it probably favors me when it gets a little bit tougher. And I'm pretty stubborn and I hate to give up, so I think that's probably more than anything the trait I need on a week like this.”