NAPLES, Florida – On a course she wasn’t expecting, Nelly Korda delivered the lap she needed with a 6-under 66 that took her two punches out of the lead on Thursday and got her off to a good start on the LPGA Tour -Player of gave the year.
The $ 1.5 million prize for winning the CME Group Tour Championship is also within reach.
Former US Women’s Open winner Jeongeun Lee6 didn’t make a birdie on the rain-soaked Tiburon Golf Club until the sixth hole, and then she didn’t stop. She finished with three straight birdies for an 8-under 64.
Lee6 was ahead of four players, including former Tiburon winner Sei Young Kim. The score was so low that 18 players were 67 or better.
The 60 players who qualified for the season finale have the same chance of winning the $ 1.5 million prize, the highest in women’s golf, regardless of their placement in the Race to CME Globe.
The more convincing race is the points-based award for LPGA Player of the Year, which goes to Korda and Jin Young Ko with four wins each. Korda has a 10 point lead, which means that Ko would have to finish second to stand a chance.
The South Korean star has some catching up to do after tying a 69 in 25th place, especially with Korda looking as sharp as she often does this year.
“I got some good looks within 3 meters,” said Korda. “Two ‘oopsies’ with three putts, but I think I’ve hit most of the greens and got some really good looks … Hopefully I can wear it for the next three days.”
Hannah Green from Australia, who already collected $ 1 million this week for winning the Aon Risk Reward Challenge bonus program, took a step towards even more money by joining the US Women’s Open at the age of 66. Winner Yuka Saso joined Korda in the group.
Ko and Korda played in the final group based on the Race to CME Globe rating, and the South Korean star got off to a slow start. Her wedge to a back pin on the par 5 opening hole was too strong and went over the back, she went up the slope and missed a 4 foot par putt badly. She rallied with two birdies on her last three holes.
Korda also started a little slowly, taking into account the conditions, opened with a 7-foot birdie putt on the par 5 and then contented himself with short irons with medium-long chances.
At this point several players were already at 5 under. That didn’t surprise Korda, given the nature of the course. The players avoided the worst of the weather, but Korda couldn’t help but notice a series of tees moving forward based on the forecast.
“I was pretty surprised when I saw a lot of tea boxes,” said Korda. “I would like to know how far we played today because I think they expected a lot of rain. We all did. But it played pretty short and I think a lot of girls could have short clubs and be more aggressive on those greens . “
She eventually joined birdies with a shot at 7 feet for birdie on number 9 and then a wedge on 4 foot pin high on number 10 and another wedge 8 feet behind the hole in 11th place.
But then it was like everyone else.
Mina Harigae advocated Eagle on par-5 17th and almost made a hole-in-one on par-3 eighth by the end of her round. She was in the group when she was 65, along with Celine Boutier and Jennifer Kupcho.
Coming from a bogey-bogey finish that resulted in a playoff loss, Lexi Thompson looked better over the short putts, finishing with two birdies on her final three holes for a 67.
Only five of the 60 players at Tiburon shot over par.
Korda doesn’t get distracted by much, and that includes the chance to be Player of the Year. She knows what’s at stake. She was reminded again to play alongside Ko. And then she went about her business as usual.
“I’m sure you’re sick of hearing it, but honestly I don’t think about it. When I say it, I honestly try not to think about it, ”she said. “I don’t really look at the leaderboards that way. If you want my honest opinion, I look at the money list and that’s all I see.”
Otherwise everything is in front of her.
“We’re here. Everyone has a chance to win $ 1.5 million. Everyone plays good golf,” said Korda. “You need anything to be on your side to win, so I’ll just pop it up and try just one shot at a time. As boring as it sounds, I like this game plan. “