Nelly Korda Opens Title Defense With Game Clicking for 1-Under Par 71
Consistent wind and drizzle poured over Congressional Country Club on Thursday morning as Nelly Korda began mounting her title defense of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Her steady approach, tempered by a major championship victory, had the 23-year-old finish at 1-under par in grueling conditions, one of eight players to finish in red figures from the morning wave of the opening round.
“Any first round under par is good at a major,” Korda said, “I don't know what golf course In Gee is playing. She must be playing really well. I would think when I tee it up today, I would be very happy with the score that I shot.”
Adding to the challenge were the soft conditions furnishing the length of Congressional’s test. Korda teed off at 7:30 A.M., granting no time for the course to dry out after two inches of rain pelted Congressional on Wednesday evening and continued raining into Thursday morning.
Korda explained succinctly the course conditions Thursday.
"Long," Korda said.
She highlighted the par-5 ninth as an example of managing such a lengthy course. “I had driver, hybrid, 7-wood into the green,” Korda noted, “That's the longest par-5 I've ever played. I was happy to play the front nine even.”
She birdied the third and bogeyed the fourth for an opening 36, then birdied the 11th and 12th to get to 2-under par. The 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist held serve but let two chances slip away to cut into In Gee Chun’s lead over the last two holes. She with a missed four-foot downhill look for birdie on the 17th. Then, on the closing hole, the wet fairway caught her approach shot, and she ended up leaving her chip short of the green on the 18th to settle for a bogey.
Her 71 is three-quarters of a stroke higher than her scoring average in majors (70.24) since 2020. KPMG Insights notes Korda leads the LPGA tour in major scoring over that period. Instead of comparing her performance to Chun's barn-burning 12.08 strokes gained on the field Thursday, leading to an 8-under par 64, Korda maintained perspective on her first 18.
“I think at the beginning part of the day you saw some higher numbers," Korda said, "In Gee is just playing really well, and applause to her. Sometimes it just has to be your week, right? You're going to continue to stick to your game plan and hopefully shoot some good numbers coming into Sunday.”
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Korda's game plan led her to hit 13 of 14 fairways Thursday. Even with a four-month layoff due to surgery to remove a blood clot in Korda's subclavian vein from her left arm, she's averaging the third-best strokes gained off the tee on tour (0.94) in 2022. The eight-time LPGA winner paid off consistently hitting the fairway by finding 15 of 18 greens in regulation. Korda hit 32 putts for her opening act at Congressional, with her game in a strong groove going into the second round.
“I think every part of it [my game] is clicking,” Korda said, “I'm hitting it pretty good off the tee. I'm hitting my irons well, and I'm making some putts when I need to. So I think overall every part of my game is kind of syncing up together.”