Nelly Korda Wins at Atlanta Athletic Club for Her First Major Championship Title
Nelly Korda calmly rolled in a par-saving attempt on the 72nd hole at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and raised both her arms in triumph before wrapping them around her sister, Jessica, in a tearful embrace.
“I’m so proud of you,” Jessica told her after witnessing Nelly’s victory the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Korda finished at 19-under for the week and won her maiden major title by three shots over fellow American Lizette Salas.
“It’s been amazing, honestly. The past few days, the battle with Lizette, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been stressful. I think it’s had everything,” said Korda, who played with Salas on both Saturday and Sunday. “But I just can’t believe it. I’m still in shock.”
The win will take Korda to No.1 in the world on Monday, and she will be the first American to hold top spot since Stacy Lewis in 2014.
“I’ve just been constantly trying to inch towards (the No.1 spot) and to finally get it is amazing,” said Korda.
Korda also won last week on the LPGA Tour at the Meijer LPGA Classic and earlier in the year at the Gainbridge LPGA.
Korda’s boyfriend (Andreas Athanasiou, who plays for the L.A. Kings in the NHL) has been with her the last few weeks and was on site when she missed the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open. She joked that her early exit was his fault. The next week, while at home, Korda said Athanasiou asked for a win.
“Then I got him a win at Meijer and he’s like, ‘You did it for me.’ And I’m like, ‘No, I did it for myself.’
Korda’s three victories have come on different stages, and none bigger than her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship accomplishment – although she said, with a laugh, all the effort she’s put in recently has aged her.
“I feel like I’m 30, in a sense,” she said with a smile. “You have to grow up so fast being on Tour, traveling, managing everything yourself. I don’t even feel like a 22-year-old.”
Korda shot matching 4-under 68s on the weekend after firing a Championship record-tying 63 on Friday. Korda’s win was the fifth by first-time major winners at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in the last six years.
“I go into obviously every year wanting to succeed and wanting to reach my goals and to finally check this off my list feels so nice,” said Korda.
At the beginning of the day, it seemed to be a match-play situation between Salas and Korda, tied through 54 holes. But Korda birdied the par-4 3rd plus added an eagle on the par-5 5th to start pulling away.
Korda added another eagle on the par-5 12th and at one point Sunday she tied the record for the most under par at a major at 21-under. But she made it interesting on the par-3 15th, hitting her tee shot in the water and making double bogey.
Salas, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going through the back nine and couldn’t make up any ground on Korda.
“She played great,” said Salas of Korda’s effort Sunday, “and there’s nothing I could have done differently to change her game plan. That says a lot about her.”
Salas shot a 1-under 71 but didn’t record any birdies on her final seven holes to try to make up ground.
Salas, who spoke about some mental health challenges she had overcome through 2020 earlier in the week, was emotional after the tournament wrapped up. But she called them ‘happy tears.’ She had a big-time result at a big-time Championship. She earned valuable Solheim Cup points, she said, and notched her first top-3 finish on the LPGA Tour since the 2019 CP Women’s Open.
“I’m extremely proud and I think my family and my team are extremely proud of me. We came in with a goal and I think we exceeded it,” said Salas. “I did what I planned to do. When things weren’t going my way, I still said, ‘I’m OK.’
“There’s just a lot going on right now. There’s a lot of emotion. I’m really grateful for being in this position and for fighting until the end.”
Salas matched her best-career finish at a major championship this week and has now notched top-10 finishes in three of her last four KPMG Women’s PGA Championship starts.
Hyo Joo Kim and Giulia Molinaro tied for third at 10-under for the week while Patty Tavatanakit and Danielle Kang finished at 8-under and tied for fifth.
But it was Korda’s week, and certainly Korda’s day on Sunday.
In the last three weeks Korda has missed a cut and then won twice, including her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
So what was her biggest lesson?
Never give up.
“I guess that’s the motto you have to have. It’s golf… I bet you I’m going to miss so many more cuts and hopefully I have a lot more wins,” said Korda, “but you look back at this situation and you’re like, ‘OK, I can do it. I can bounce back.’”