Sunday chaos at Carnoustie? A packed leaderboard of stars like Anna Nordqvist, Lexi Thompson and Nelly Korda set to deliver

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Sunday at Carnoustie could be an absolute free-for-all dripping with drama. Last month at the Amundi Evian Championship, Minjee Lee overcame a major record-tying seven-shot deficit to win her first major.

The board at the AIG Women’s British Open has 39 players who are at or within seven shots of leaders Anna Nordqvist and Nanna Koertz Madsen at 9 under. Both are looking to play their way onto the European Solheim Cup team.

Nordqvist carded a championship-best, bogey-free 7-under 65 in Round 3 to put herself in prime position for a third major title. With husband Kevin McAlpine, a native of Dundee, only 20 minutes away, Sweden’s Nordqvist is somewhat of a quasi-local.

“I played here on December 26 a couple years ago,” said Nordqvist. “We were back for Christmas and it was awesome. We played on summer greens, so maybe two or three greens and a little mat and that’s how I grew up playing. It’s such a good venue and I really enjoy coming back here.”

Leona Maguire, who happens to be four back, believes that anyone at or within five shots has a chance on Sunday. That list of 26 includes the likes of Lizette Salas (-8), Lexi Thompson (-7), Ariya Jutanugarn (-6), Moriya Jutanugarn (-6), Nelly Korda (-6), Brooke Henderson (-6), Yealimi Noh (-6), Sei Young Kim (-6) Georgia Hall (-6) and Patty Tavatanakit (-6).

Speaking of local connections, Lexi Thompson, who used to have McAlpine on the bag, has local caddie Paul Drummond keeping her loose inside the ropes.

“I’m very grateful to have Paul on the bag,” said Thompson, “and he’s been giving me great lines and bounces around the green which I would never play for.”

American rookie Yealimi Noh had it to 10 under at one point on a wet Saturday before she closed her round with bogey, bogey, double-bogey on the last three holes.

The last nine LPGA major winners have been first-timers. Madelene Sagstrom, Koertz Madsen, Salas, Noh and amateur Louise Duncan are among those looking to keep the streak alive.

Scotland’s Duncan, 21, is only two back in her major debut. A 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green Saturday in front of a packed grandstand has been the highlight of her week.

“I had 155 yards, hit a 6-iron,” Duncan said of her play up the last. “Flushed it, as well, which was nice. That was ideal, really because my previous hole, I hit a horrendous iron shot. So it was nice to hit that pretty close and felt like I was due a putt from the last.”

AIG Women's Open - Day Three
AIG Women's Open - Day Three

Louise Duncan reacts as she finishes her round at the 18th hole during Day Three of the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie Golf Links on August 21, 2021 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Duncan still has two years left of schoolwork at Stirling University. Next week she’ll represent Great Britain and Ireland at the Curtis Cup in Wales.

Nordqvist finished tied for seventh at the 2011 British Open at Carnoustie, the only other time the women have played the British Open at the famed links venue. She had her mental coach caddying for her back then and remembers teeing off at 6:15 a.m. that year alongside Caroline Masson and Sophia Popov, who was an amateur at the time. The trio had a laugh about the memory this week.

“I think it’s a ball-striker’s golf course because you have to challenge a few bunkers out there or you’re going to stand with really long clubs,” she said. “In links golf in general, when my game is on, I feel like I’m pretty consistent and my misses are not too big. Just love playing links golf for a while because it’s so different from what we play in the U.S. every week.”

Salas, who is playing her fifth week in Europe, said the Women’s British requires a different type of mental toughness and that she slept 11 hours on Friday night.

“Been really focusing on changing my attitude as far as focusing on the positive,” said Salas, who came close at this event in 2019 when she finished runner up. “Really just trying to peak at the right time.”

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