Eight-time LPGA Tour winner Anna Nordqvist, the defending champion, enjoyed a successful season in 2017. She earned her first win since 2014, three seconds and three thirds in 10 LPGA events. Her third round score was a tournament record 20-under for the two-day event that she won in style.
This week, she is in Saudi Arabia to play alongside 17 other players in the first-ever LPGA tournament outside the United States. She recently spoke with Catherine Bertini, the LPGA’s senior international field producer.
In Saudi Arabia, each player is paired with a youth. Anna and her partner are 15-year-old Rachel Wang of China.
“At the start of the year when I was watching that course online, I couldn’t figure out how it is different to the course I’ve played for so many years, how the greens were rolling differently and, most importantly, how the tee shot came off,” Nordqvist said. “As I started to play more golf there, I had a newfound respect and love for the course, and for the region. There are a lot of people and traditions that make up the country that deserve so much attention.
“I really believe it is the right time and the right place to have an LPGA event.”
On the relationship between golf and religion in Saudi Arabia
“One of the things that really stood out to me after I played in the first round was that there were literally thousands of people praying on the tee box. That’s something you don’t see every day on a regular tour. They are showing such respect and reverence for all the sport of golf as well as their own religion. They are praying at one point before teeing off and they are helping each other before play. We have talked with a lot of people in Riyadh that are really excited about us being there. We have been blown away with what they have said about our presence. They are really proud of the sport. They have all been very supportive.”
On her expectations for the tournament
“There are so many positive things that have been mentioned, from the recent elections where many of our players are Muslim to the fact that we are hosting the first LPGA event. So I see no reason why our tournament can’t go off and have a really good time. Hopefully the course will be incredible and my partners will do their best and we’ll see how we all do.”
On her motivation to stay fit
“Golf has been very, very good to me and helping me along my way in my career. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year, a lot of ups and downs, and I think because of that, I feel more and more thankful for what has happened. I have more time to do other things outside of golf, like travel, write. For years, I’ve been training constantly. Now that I have a family of my own, I’m able to do more things like that.
“I’m trying to stay as fit as I can. I think it’s nice to have a little bit of down time and to look at the things that I’m working on. And when I do come out for the next tournament, I’ll have that down time to get it done.”
On why she will be back next year
“I think once I finish the first tournament, I think we will sit down and see what goes next. Hopefully we’ll have some positive energy from the event. I do know that I would love to be back next year, not just to get back in the swing of things but to give it my full attention. As long as the season is there, I want to be there.”
On her philosophy on playing
“I am a creature of habit. Once I get into the rhythm of being on the golf course and always getting in the practice, it really helps me with my mindset. When you’re very focused and you’re very alert, then you can truly see and become aware. If you get outside of that, you get yourself into a bit of trouble. I think as a golfer, you have to be able to focus your mind, because that is what allows you to play and to have a very good season. I think if you get distracted then, for example, if you don’t focus on the key areas on the golf course or you’re thinking about other things, then it’s going to be a more challenging time on the golf course.”