Austin Ernst ends LPGA victory drought by holding off Anna Nordqvist in Arkansas

Austin Ernst has not won on the LPGA since 2014. But in breaking that streak Sunday evening at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Ernst had to derail the ending of another such streak.

Ernst fired a closing 8-under 63 at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. With a two-putt birdie on the par-5 closing hole, she effectively closed out Anna Nordqvist, who had taken the lead with a second-round 62 and was looking for her first LPGA win since 2017.

“It was long,” Ernst told Golf Channel of the break between her first LPGA victory and this, her second. “A lot longer than I thought it’d be.”

To be exact, it was 143 starts long.

Scores: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

Ernst was one of many players who tried to take something positive out of the break in competition forced by a global pandemic. She worked hard on the putting green, even changing from a blade-style putter to a mallet.

“I just grinded on my putter and my wedges and driving the ball,” she said. “I think what’s held me back in the past was I didn’t hit quite as many fairways and I didn’t make as many putts.”

Ernst’s sole victory was at the 2014 Portland Classic, but another highlight of the 28-year-old’s career was her appearance in the 2017 Solheim Cup, where she compiled a 2-2-0 record. Interestingly, she played alongside Angela Stanford, an assistant captain for the 2021 Solheim Cup, in the final round at Arkansas.

The significance of that didn’t even cross Ernst’s mind, she said afterward. Still, she put on an impressive showing.

After starting the day in third, Ernst threw out 10 birdies on Sunday to combat two bogeys. Her final-round 63 followed up previous rounds of 65 and got her to 20 under, one better than Nordqvist.

For her part, Nordqvist hadn’t made a bogey all week until she reached the back nine on Sunday. She lost ground with bogeys at Nos. 12 and 14, but birdied No. 16 to have a chance coming up the final par 5. She needed a birdie there, but when she settled for par and a final-round 69, she found herself one shot short.

Stanford and Nelly Korda finished at 16 under, close behind on what became an exciting Sunday. Jenny Shin and Sei Young Kim tied for fifth another shot back.

There was another race going on in the final round at Arkansas, too. Two spots in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open were on the line for players inside the top 10 who weren’t already in the field.

Shin claimed one of those, and the other went to Katherine Kirk, who secured a T-7 finish with a gutsy two-putt par on the 18th green. Kirk, of Australia, will play her 16th Women’s Open. It will be the 11th appearance for Shin, who finished T-10 in 2014.

Comments are closed.