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Nelly Korda Clinches Hometown Victory at LPGA Drive On Championship
In a stunning turn of events, Nelly Korda emerged triumphant in her hometown tournament, the LPGA Drive On Championship held in Florida. The thrilling finale saw her edge out Lydia Ko in a playoff, prolonging the New Zealander’s wait to join the prestigious LPGA Hall of Fame.
With just two holes remaining and trailing Ko by three strokes, it seemed as though Bradenton-born Korda’s chances for an emotional win were slipping away. A series of unfortunate bogeys and double-bogeys had dimmed her hopes. However, in true dramatic fashion, the 25-year-old rallied with an eagle-birdie finish to tie her rival at 11-under overall and force a playoff.
The tension escalated as both players parred the first extra hole. Then came the pivotal moment – world No. 9 Lydia Ko missed her par putt on the subsequent replay of the 18th hole while Nelly Korda remained composed and sunk hers to claim victory amidst wild cheers from her local fans.
“The amount of support I received this week was unbelievable,” expressed Korda gratefully during a press conference following her triumph. “I’m so surprised by how many people came out to watch and kept me motivated throughout. At one point, I didn’t even think I stood a chance anymore! But then making that eagle on 17 gave me hope; it reminded me that all I needed was a birdie on 18 for even just a shot at getting into a playoff.”
Reflecting on this incredible win, Korda summed it up saying, “Just wow. Good ol’ Nelly fashion making it dramatic.”
This victory marks Korda’s ninth title on the LPGA Tour and her first since defending her Pelican Women’s Championship crown back in November 2022. With a winner’s purse of $262,500, she has now crossed the $9 million mark for career earnings on the LPGA Tour.
The world No. 4 hopes this triumph will propel her towards future successes, particularly in adding to her sole major title – the 2021 Women’s PGA Championship. However, Korda is also mindful of seeking less stressful finishes as she supports her sister and fellow LPGA Tour star Jessica Korda during her pregnancy.
“She [Jessica] jokingly said to me after the tournament that she thought I was going to send her into labor!” laughed Korda. “Thankfully, the baby is still safely in the belly for now.”
Lydia Ko had appeared poised to secure automatic qualification into the LPGA Hall of Fame with a win at this tournament following her recent victory at Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions last week – which marked her 20th LPGA Tour title.
A Wait Continues
However, fate had other plans as Ko found herself unable to clinch that all-important 21st tour victory required for automatic induction into the prestigious Hall of Fame – an honor achieved only by South Korea’s Inbee Park who became its youngest ever member at just 27 years old in 2016.
“It’s kind of like… what can you do?” reflected Ko while speaking with reporters post-tournament. “We gave it our all until the very end and put ourselves into a playoff situation. All I can do is continue giving my best on the golf course and hope that one day it will lead to automatic qualification into the Hall of Fame.”