Nelly Korda marches to first major victory in Women’s PGA Championship

A resolute Nelly Korda saw off a stiff challenge from Lizette Salas, flying on eagles to secure her first major championship

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Nelly Korda - John Bazemore - Associated Press

28 June 2021: As she walked up to the 15th tee, Nelly Korda, soaring on eagles, had a five shot cushion over Lizette Salas. She had run 49 holes without a bogey, but what is a major without some added drama. Korda got wet on the par-3 15th hole enroute to a double bogey, lending a slim thread of hope to Salas. But she steadied her nerves and walked to a memorable victory on three straight pars, including a 15-footer to finish the week.

The big turn came at the par-5 12th hole. Salas kept in touch with Korda with a pair of birdies at 5 & 6, in response to an eagle at the fifth and a birdie at the third by her rival. Only one shot separated the two women as they made the turn. Korda stretched her lead to four with her second eagle of the round, when Salas conceded a bogey at the 12th.

“This is something that I’ve worked for since I was 14, since I played in my first one,” said Korda “I wanted to be a major champion.”

In her 26th major, Nelly not only achieved her dream, but became the first American atop the world rankings since Stacy Lewis in 2014.

“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,” Korda said. “But I just can’t believe it. I’m still in shock.”

Starting the day at 15-under with Salas, Korda ended the week at 19-under emulating the mark set by Inbee Park in 2015, for a share of the Women’s PGA Championship scoring record.

Salas found solace in losing to a worthy opponent. “She played great, and there’s nothing I could have done differently to change her game plan, and that says a lot about her,” Salas said. “I’m just lucky she’s on the American side for that Solheim Cup.”

“I’m extremely proud,” said Salas, who also was runner-up in the 2019 AIG Women’s Open. “We came in with a goal and I think we exceeded it. When things weren’t going my way, I still said, I’m okay. 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.”

“I played great this week, and I think this is the start of something great,” Salas said. “We racked up some Solheim Cup points, and the beautiful thing is there’s two American flags on top of that leaderboard.”

Hyo Joo Kim (68) and Giulio Molinaro (72) shared the third spot at 10-under, a whopping six strokes behind Salas and nine behind the winner.

Danielle Kang (67) and Patty Tavatanakit (74) finished at 8-under, in a tie for fifth. Austin Ernst and Celine Boutier were in seventh at 6-under with Amy Yang, Cydney Clanton and Xiyu Lin rounding off the top ten.

Petr Korda no longer has the sole rights to brag in the family of stars. Nelly joins her father on the pedestal as the second major champion in the family. Her sister Jessica Korda is a six-time winner on the LPGA and brother Sebastian Korda won his first ATP Tour title in May this year.

The two sisters were locked in an emotional embrace on the 18th green as they realised the gravity of the moment. Between them, they have twelve LPGA titles and a major. Jessica is six years senior and the younger sister has thrown her the gauntlet. There are likely to be several more chapters to this family tale.