Amid the red-hot Korda family, perhaps the KPMG Women's PGA Championship is Nelly’s time
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Penn. – Nelly Korda is the second-ranked women’s golfer in the entire universe, and hot off a run of three consecutive top-five finishes on the LPGA as she arrives to this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club. That said, she isn’t even the biggest star of the day in her own family.
Older sister Jessica, five years her senior, is the one who paved the way for Nelly, 22, to be a quality LPGA pro, but it’s their younger brother, Sebastian, who was garnering the Korda headlines in the last week. He qualified for tennis’ French Open, one of the sport’s four majors, and advanced to the fourth round before losing to legendary Spaniard Rafa Nadal. He joked that he was probably the first player to lose to Nadal, then request his autograph. (Nadal signed his racket.)
The Korda sisters, whose Czech father, Petr, won the Australian Open singles title in 1998, set their alarm clocks early and watched Sebastian in his matches at famed Roland Garros, and now it’s their turn to shine. Their venerable playing ground for the week is Aronimink Golf Club outside of Philadelphia, a true Donald Ross gem with heavy bunkering and rolling greens that will test every facet of their games.
"This golf course is amazing,” Nelly Korda said Tuesday. “I played 18 holes yesterday, and I played nine today. It's a really nice track, so it's going to be an interesting week.”
Korda’s play has been sharp of late, her fifth-place showing at ShopRite last week following a tie for second at the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third in Arkansas. Her putting has been gaining momentum since a shift to left-hand low this summer, and her length is something that will be a huge asset on an Aronimink layout that has played long thus far as a result of some weekend rain and cooler temps amid which the golf ball hasn’t been flying as far.
Asked if she has identified a favorite hole, Korda smiles broadly. She seems to like all of them. “I think the overall golf course is really nice. I love (No.) 1 (a par 4 that plays downhill off the tee, then steeply uphill to the green). The tee shot on No. 1 is amazing. It’s a cool view, and it’s a cool way to start your day.”
Korda is one of a handful of young standouts who have been carrying the day in an exciting way for the LPGA. World No. 1 Jin Young Ko is 25, but has stayed idly on the sideline in South Korea as the Covid-19 pandemic plays out. Korda is only 22 and already a three-time winner on tour. World No. 4 Brooke Henderson of Canada, who won the KPMG PGA in 2016 at Sahalee (and was runner-up a year later), is 23. Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, ranked fifth is 21. Californian Danielle Kang, who won the 2017 KPMG as well as the first two LPGA events in the LPGA’s summer restart, sits third in the rankings. She represents women’s golf’s “old guard.” (We only jest. She’s 27.)
All these young fledgling standouts want to get into the mix for that No. 1 spot. Korda or Kang reaching that summit would mark the first time an American was on top of the women’s ranking since Stacy Lewis was No. 1 in April 2014.
“There's a lot of talented golfers out here, and there has been sort of some movement recently up near the top, and people battling it out,” Henderson said. “I’m sure over the next year or two there will be some more movement. It's just an exciting time to be a part of this, and to be in the position that I am, and hopefully I can just continue to improve and get a little better and hopefully add a few more wins to my resume, and then maybe my ranking will move up.”
Korda tends to take a similar approach to trying to reach the very top of the mountain. She respects that getting there isn’t something that just happens in a week. It’s a process that takes a steady run of good play and consistently good finishes, and this week at Aronimink presents another opportunity to climb.
“I’m not thinking about it too much,” Korda says of her quest. “Obviously it is a goal of mine in my golfing career, but honestly, I feel like if you set smaller goals you'll eventually get to the bigger goals. I'm just focusing on the smaller goals.”
Besides, these days in the Korda family, there already is plenty to celebrate. Just as her older sister inspired her, Nelly now is drafting off the rise of her brother as a tennis force at the French Open. It fuels her in a great way. A sibling rivalry? Hardly. The Kordas step up and lift one another.
“Everyone thinks it's really competitive between all three of us, but we're each other's biggest fans and we always try to encourage each other the most, so honestly I'm just super happy for him,” Nelly said.
As Nelly Korda chases a first major title, perhaps this week at Aronimink will be her time.