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Nelly Korda earns first LPGA win since 2022 with clutch late play in hometown

BRADENTON, Fla. ― Nelly Korda had no idea her homecoming would involve a ride on a rollercoaster.

For the victory, Korda’s ninth LPGA Tour triumph and first since capturing the Pelican Women’s Championship in November 2022, she earned a first-place prize of $262,500 and 500 points in the Race to the CME Globe. She finished Sunday’s round at 2-over-par 73, and minus-11 for the tournament, identical to Ko, the winner of last week’s opening event of the LPGA Tour season.

“Gosh, I thought that the tournament was over going into 17,” Korda said. “I just kind of gave myself a chance. I knew that if I rolled that eagle in, I had to birdie the last hole. Yeah, I seem to always make it very dramatic and interesting, so there is no better feeling than to do it in front of a home crowd. What a day.

“It was such a grind out there, so back and forth. I felt like I never really got anything going. But, I mean, I just can’t even believe it right now.”

For her efforts, the 26-year-old Ko took home a second-place prize of $163,689. Her win in last week’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions left her one point shy of reaching the 27 required to enter the LPGA Hall of Fame and Korda’s comeback denied her of that point, which would have made Ko the youngest player under the current criteria to gain enshrinement at 26 years, 9 months and 4 days.

Behind Korda and Ko at minus-8 was Megan Khang, who earned $118,745. Lucy Li and Ayaka Furue finished tied for fourth, each earning $82,897. Auston Kim and Xiyu Lin tied for sixth place at minus-6. They both took home $55,564.

A homecoming that followed the script for the first three days of the tournament flipped horribly for Korda. Her four-shot lead entering the day evaporated as the world’s No. 4 player submitted two bogeys and one double bogey on the back nine. The fade allowed Ko to take advantage.

Ko carded two birdies and an eagle on her back nine to vault ahead of Korda with two holes to play.

At minus-8 for the tournament, Korda needed to pick up three strokes over those final two holes, and the 25-year-old did just that. She eagled the No. 17 hole, moving one shot back of Ko, then needing a birdie on the par-4 18, Korda did, pulling even with Ko and forcing the sudden-death playoff. Korda carded a 65, 67 and 68 her first three days of the tourney before Sunday’s 2-over-73.

“Yeah, going into last week, who would have known that I would come first the first week and then to be in a playoff to be able to again,” said Ko, who went winless in 2023. “You know, I played really well this week. I think my second day was probably the most iffy. Other than that, just kind of shows that you can never give up until the very end. When I made the bogey on 16, I thought I was way back, then I saw the leaderboard and I was, like, tied with the lead. To be able to eagle the 17th to set myself up for an opportunity to be in the lead, I think that was probably the highlight of the week.”

As for Khang, her four birdies and eagle on Saturday shot her from a tie for 12th into a tie for second at the start of Sunday’s play. And consecutive birdies on holes 6 and 7  brought her even with Korda, who finished her front nine at 1-over, the result of a bogey on the par-4 No. 5 hole.

The LPGA Tour will take a break before resuming action in mid-February with the Honda LPGA Thailand. The following week, it travels to Singapore for the HSBC Women’s World Championship. After that, the Blue Bay LPGA returns to the People’s Republic of China for the first time in six years due to travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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