A pretty good day: Nelly Korda wins her first major and rises to No. 1 with victory at KPMG Women’s PGA
Nelly Korda has dreamed about winning a major championship ever since the first one she competed in eight years ago. For years, she has thought about one day becoming the top player in women’s golf, too, a position last held by an American in 2014.
She then stepped out on a sunny afternoon at Atlanta Athletic Club and, in a single swoop, accomplished both. At the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Korda finally shook free from gritty Lizette Salas to capture her first major title.
Korda proved too powerful and too steady, shooting a closing 4-under 68 on the Highlands Course at storied Atlanta Athletic Club to finish at 19-under 269, tying the lowest scoring total in relation to par in the long history of the LPGA Championship.
Korda would beat Salas, with whom she was tied to start the final round, by three
“It’s been amazing, honestly,” Korda said of her victory and ascension to No. 1. Not since Stacy Lewis in 2014 had an American been on top of women’s golf. “The past few days, the battle with Lizette, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been stressful. I think it had everything. I just can’t believe it. I’m still in shock.”
Believe it. Korda made two eagles in her round Sunday, making it difficult for the
shorter-hitting Salas (71–272) to keep up. Korda hit 7-wood from 243 yards to tap-in range at the 516-yard fifth; at the par-5 12 th , where the tees were moved up to 454 yards to encourage golfers to play aggressively, Korda had 173 yards in and a 6-iron in her hands. The shot didn’t come off as planned.
“I chunked it,” Korda said somewhat sheepishly. “I was very lucky, honestly. You have to have a little bit of everything to win. You have to have luck on your side. So thank God right there.”
The ball had just enough to carry the water fronting the green, then released to 10 feet. The putt was tricky, but Korda buried it, and knew the significance of it. On the 12th tee, only a single shot separated the two. Salas had laid up and hit a poor wedge shot into a back bunker, failing to save her par. The result was a three-shot swing. Suddenly Korda led by four.
“I was a little nervous over that eagle putt because I knew it meant a lot, that I could get myself a bigger lead going into the last final holes, especially with the (par-3) 15th coming up, because that’s my favorite hole,” Korda said.
She smiled for emphasis, her words dripping with sarcasm. She would play the 15th, 190 yards with water right and front, at 3 over for the week, making double there on Sunday, the lone glitch of her round.
“I was just happy to drain it,” she said of her second eagle, “because it wasn’t an
After the double at 15, Korda would coast home with three pars. The par 5s on the
Highlands Course would prove the difference for the week. Korda played those holes in 11 under (4 under on Sunday); Salas was 6 under on the par 5s (and even on Sunday).
Salas, who opened up about her struggles with anxiety after her opening round, never left the fight. Her putting was sensational, leading her to three 67s to start the week, staying right there with Korda. Her play was special. Having fought so hard, Salas shed tears of joy, too.
“Before, I was tired of playing with that chip on my shoulder, and now I own that
instead of running away from it,” said Salas, 31, who had contemplated retiring from the game last year. “I played great this week. I think this is the start of something great.”
South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim (68) and Italy’s Giulia Molinaro (72) each made birdies on the last hole to tie for third at 10-under 278. Former KPMG champion Danielle Kang (67) and Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit (74), who won the ANA Inspiration in April, tied for fifth.
Nelly Korda is only 22 and has carried high expectations for many years. Her family has had an overabundance of athletic success. Patriarch Petr Korda was a world-class tennis standout (he won the 1998 Australian Open) and Regina, the Kordas’ matriarch who was there on Sunday, played tennis for Czechoslovakia in the Olympics. Sebastian Korda is a rising tennis force who is about to play Wimbledon, and older sister Jessica Korda, five years Nelly’s senior, was first to get to the LPGA, and has imparted lots of advice on her sister.
Nelly teared up talking about all the sacrifices her family has made for her, and
saluted the contributions of his big sister. Jessica Korda tied for 15 th at KPMG to likely seal her own spot on the U.S. Olympic golf squad alongside her sister. There was a touching scene just before Nelly teed off. Jessica was walking behind the first tee, from the ninth green to the 10 th tee, and the two stopped, saw one another, and embraced. They would embrace later off the 18 th green, too, each soaked in champagne. Both were memorable moments.
“It was so nice,” Jessica said. “I wasn’t expecting to see her, so we said what we
needed to say last night, a couple of text messages here and there this morning. It was so nice to be able to see her and give her a hug right before she teed off. It’s really cool.”
Nelly had played poorly at the U.S. Women’s Open, missing the cut, and then
returned home and got to work. Her father put her through a “boot camp” for three or four days, and she responded well to the structure of it. Last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan, she shot 25 under par and won. Then she headed to a major and put up 19 under. Pretty stout.
“I don’t know that anyone has ever put two tournaments together like this back-to-back,” Jessica said. “This is something really, really freakin’ special.” Via Facetime, Petr, who was in London with Sebastian, told Nelly, “You’re welcome
for the boot camp.”
After a practice round on Tuesday, Nelly, still tired from her Michigan triumph, joked that that she felt “ hit by a bus.” On Thursday, when the KPMG started, she was the bus.
It’s not easy to break new turf among the Kordas when it comes to sporting
accomplishments. Nelly, a three-time winner already in 2021, now matches her father for major championship victories, one apiece. Dad once was ranked No. 2 in tennis. But No. 1? That was all hers. After an incredible and dominating week of golf at the KPMG Women’s PGA, she had earned that much.