Three weeks ago, Nelly Korda unceremoniously missed the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open after being touted by many as one of the favorites. Sunday evening, Korda will be the first American player in seven years to rise to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings after her victory at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for her first major championship victory.
Korda, 22, shot a final-round 68 to finish 72 holes at 19-under 269 at Atlanta Athletic Club and a three-stroke victory over Lizette Salas. She is no longer the best women’s player in the world without a major but after the U.S. Open, this was not in her sights.
She went home after the Open for what she called a “boot camp” with her father, tennis major champion Petr Korda, which was more of a reset. She returned to the LPGA Tour and shot 25-under at the Meijer LPGA Classic, which included a third-round 62.
“I had a great week last week and I think I carried the momentum into this week,” said Korda. “I've put in a lot of work, and to finally get three wins under my belt this year, and to get a major championship, I don't even have words, honestly.”
The KPMG Women’s PGA title was Korda’s seventh career win since she debuted on LPGA Tour in 2017. In addition to three wins this year, she’s had a second and two thirds.
“I was kind of struggling early on this year,” said Korda, who was No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings coming into the week. “Usually, I hit my irons or low irons like arrows, and I kind of got away from that. I don't know how and why. But I started finally doing it the week before Meijer and just carried the work I put in the week before. After the missed cut, I really grinded. I mean, it's paid off, which is super nice. It doesn't usually pay off right away, and for it to pay off right away is amazing.”
“Never give up, honestly. I guess that's the motto that you have to have. It's golf; you're going to have -- I bet you I'm going to miss so many more cuts, and hopefully I have a lot more wins, but you look back at this situation, you're like, okay, I can do it, I can bounce back.
The tournament had become a two-player competition over the final 36 holes. Korda took the halfway lead by one over Salas with a 9-under 63 on Friday. Salas, who was the first-round leader by two strokes, tied Korda after three rounds with her second of three straight 5-under 67s.
Korda broke the tournament open with an eagle-3 at the par-5 12th, while Salas was making a messy bogey. The 3-shot swing gave Korda a four-stroke lead, which she increased by one with a birdie at the par-4 14th. But her tee shot at the par-3 15th was wide right into the water and the subsequent double-bogey cut the lead to three with three holes to play.
“She played great, and there's nothing I could have done differently to change her game plan, and that says a lot about her,” Salas said. “I'm just lucky she's on the American side for that Solheim Cup.”