Greatness runs in the Korda family, and Sunday was Nelly’s turn to take center stage. The 22-year old was the hottest player in the field entering the week after last week’s win at the Meijer LPGA Classic and was the favorite to break through and win her first major. Her hot hand travelled to Atlanta Athletic Club as Sunday’s battle with Lizette Salas felt like a coronation for Korda as she pulled away to win by three at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Korda came into the day tied with Salas at 15-under and the two were three shots clear of the third-place trio of Patty Tavatanakit, Giulia Molinaro, and Celine Boutier. By the 10th hole, that margin had grown to five as Korda and Salas were playing match play the rest of the way.
Korda had a one-shot advantage as the final pairing made their way to the par-5 12th. Korda’s significant length advantage left her just 173 yards for her second shot. Korda took dead aim and left herself less than 10 feet for eagle. Salas was forced to layup and hit her third into the bunker behind the green.
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Korda poured in her eagle putt dead center and Salas failed to get up and down for par, the three-shot swing gave Korda a four-shot lead with six holes to play. Another birdie at 13 for Korda and suddenly she was five clear of Salas.
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— LPGA (@LPGA) June 27, 2021
Rain during the final stretch and a double bogey at the par-3 15th failed to dampen Korda’s walk to her first major title. With the win, Korda becomes the third American and first since Stacy Lewis in 2014 to reach the top of the Rolex World Rankings.
Luck is often a factor when it comes to deciding major championships, and Korda said her pivotal second shot at the 12th was a combination of luck and skill.
“I actually chunked it. I was very lucky honestly. You have to have a little bit of everything to win. You have to have luck on your side. So thank God right there,” Korda said. “It was a hard putt, and I just put a really good stroke on it, was confident with it, rolled it in. That really helped a lot.”
Korda said her monumental accomplishment hadn’t set in yet shortly after the round, but Korda certainly isn’t planning on stopping now.
“Never give up, honestly. I guess that's the motto that you have to have,” Korda said. “It's golf. I bet you I'm going to miss so many more cuts, and hopefully I have a lot more wins, but you look back at this situation, you're like, okay, I can do it, I can bounce back.”
Lizette Salas came up short Sunday, but she wasn’t letting the loss dampen what she called a ‘magical week’. Salas opened up about her mental health struggles after the round and said was considering retirement last year, but her performance this week has her confident moving forward.
“It's a complete, complete 180. I was considering retirement,” Salas said. “I didn't think I could get out of that deep hole, and really my team stepped it up.”
Salas’ praised the numerous athletes who have spoken up about mental health recently and that it makes them much more relatable.
“I think it shows that we're normal people. I feel like it just shows that we don't get a pass on anxiety or depression or anything like that,” Salas said. “I think all of us speaking out shows how brave we can be, how vulnerable. It's scary to even talk about it, but I think it just shows the rest of the world that we're just like everyone else and that we can all come together and help each other out and overcome whatever it is that is going on.”