Ernst rallies to win LPGA's NW Arkansas Championship
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Austin Ernst rallied to win the NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday for her second LPGA Tour title, closing with an 8-under 63 for a two-stroke victory over Anna Nordqvist.
Ernst, 28 and ranked 58th in the world, had 10 birdies in an eight-under par 63 that gave her a 54-hole total of 20-under par 193. Nordqvist, a two-time major champion from Sweden, had taken a three-shot lead into the final round after a second-round 62.
Nordqvist kept her nose in front with back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth and another at the 11th, but her first bogeys of the week at the 12th and 14th saw her fall two adrift of the surging Ernst and a birdie at 16 wasn't enough.
Ernst, meanwhile, notched the round of the day, opening with birdies at her first three holes and bouncing back from a bogey at the fourth with birdies at the sixth and seventh. Another birdie at the ninth was followed by birdies at 11 and 12 and she answered a bogey at 13 with a birdie at 14 -- which gave her a two-shot lead after Nordqvist bogeyed the same hole.
She capped her round with her 10th birdie of the day at the last for the final margin of victory. "I knew I needed a really low score," Ernst said. "You knew that out here you needed to attack and you couldn't be afraid and couldn't just kind of middle-the-green it all day. I didn't officially know where I stood, but I assumed I got the lead pretty early on in the back nine. I just knew I needed to attack and make a lot of birdies coming in."
Ernst notched her first victory since the 2014 Portland Classic. "It was long," Ernst said of the gap between the victories. "A lot longer than I thought it would be. Oh, man, it feels good. I have worked really hard."
Nordqvist said she'll come away from the event feeling positive. "I played great this week," she said. "On the back nine, (I) hit a lot of good putts, they just didn't go in. Two bad drives that kind of killed me a little bit. (But I) felt like I did a lot of good things today, too."
Americans Angela Stanford and Nelly Korda shared third on 197, Stanford carded a 65 and Korda signed for a 67. It was a further stroke back to South Koreans Jenny Shin (68) and Kim Sei-Young (69) on 198.