U.S. Women's Open - Preview Day 3
Credit: Getty Images

The Defending KPMG Women’s PGA Champion Nelly Korda is returning to action after a health scare had sidelined her for most of 2022.

And she’s eager to get going again, starting this week at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Korda, who made last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA her maiden major title, hasn’t teed it up on the LPGA Tour since Feb. 5. She played three weeks in a row to start the 2022 campaign and finished with a T15 at the LPGA Drive On Championship but about a month later, as she began preparing for swing through California that included the LPGA Tour’s first major of the season, she felt swelling in her left arm. She had a blood clot in the subclavian vein and had surgery in April.

Korda spent some of her rehab time in California so then she could be close to her coach, Jamie Mulligan, PGA. Mulligan was honored by the PGA of America as the PGA Teacher & Coach of the Year in January.

U.S. Women's Open - Round One
SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA - JUNE 02: Nelly Korda plays a shot from the fourth fairway during the first round of the 77th US Women's Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club on June 02, 2022 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Credit: Getty Images

“I’ve missed it so much,” said Korda. “Definitely as I got closer to (the U.S. Women’s Open), I started finally hitting it a little longer, I think the juices started flowing a little bit more, but I’m so happy to be out here.

“I’ve missed everyone, and I’m just grateful.”

Korda missed the cut at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, but then went on a celebrated run through the latter half of the 2021 season. She won four times along with claiming the Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Korda’s victory at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer helped her ascend to No.1 in the world.

Jin Young Ko has since taken over the No.1 ranking – she won five times last year to Korda’s four – but the LPGA Tour this season is showing more balance with 13 winners in 13 events so far.

As motivated as Korda is to start performing well again, she said she’s not looking too far ahead.

“To tee up and hit my first shot on Thursday. That is as far as I’m looking right now,” she said. “I’ve been out of competition since early February, and I’m honestly just grateful to be out here. I’m going to take it one step at a time.”

The schedule over the next 30 days is going to be a busy one for Korda as she ramps up her return. She’ll be the defending champion at the Meijer LPGA Classic in mid-June before she heads to Congressional Country Club to defend her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship title the very next week.

2021 KPMG Women's PGA Championship
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 26: In Gee Chun of the Republic of Korea poses with the KPMG trophy after the final round for the 2022 KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club on June 26, 2022 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)
Credit: Darren Carroll/PGA of America/PGA of America via Getty Images

“Girls are already in the midst of their seasons, and they have a bunch of rounds under their belts,” she said. “Honestly I’m trying not to think about it too much, and I’m just more grateful that I’m out here, I’m being able to compete, and I’m seeing all the girls, too.”

Korda, with a laugh, said she didn’t necessarily want her first event back to be the U.S. Women’s Open – this year hosted at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club – but she was keen to get back when she was 100 percent. Now that she is, this week’s major just happened to be the event she set her eyes on.

Regardless of her performance, however, she’s just happy to be back doing what she loves. Korda said her title defense at the KPMG Women’s PGA is one of the biggest events she has coming up, and she’s going to take it one day, and one round, at a time until then.

“It’s like when you’re sick and your nose is stuffy, you’re so grateful to be able to breathe. I feel like it’s the same way,” said Korda. “I think when (golf is) taken away from you, you kind of sit back and you realize how amazing of a sport it is and how you can travel the world and you can just do what you love.

“I definitely missed it.”

Korda will play rounds one and two at Pine Needles with Atthaya Thitkul and 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Champion Danielle Kang.

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