We can’t get enough of Nelly. And she knows. The No. 1 on the Rolex leaderboard showed exactly the kind of show these Thursday Olympics needed, shooting a low-career 62 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club and going into round three with four punches. But it was so much more. After a slow start – four opening pars on holes where the field in front of her had made one birdie over the other, and a day when an in-depth weather system covered the rest of the contest with a huge question mark – Nelly put on the show that everyone hoped to see in their homeland. Four birdies and an eagle started on the fifth hole, completing the first nine in 30.
The brilliant attack started with a double-breaking 15-footer for birdie on the 5th par-5 hole. Then, on the wheeled par-4 6th, Korda 3-wood hit 245 yards to 25 feet and made that putt for Eagle to take the lead. Three more birdies to close the top nine added some separation.
She made five more birdies on the second nine, which would put any American fan who was still awake at 59 o’clock. Had she screwed the last hole, Korda would have been the second woman in history after Annika Sorenstam to crack 60 in a tournament. Korda’s older sister Jessica also flirted with the magic number earlier this year. At the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, the first tournament of the 2021 season, Jessica had seven birdies and an eagle in the last nine holes of the third round to score 60.
Back then everyone thought this was the Korda moment of the year. But then Nelly scored a 63 at the Atlanta Athletic Club during the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, setting a course and championship record. That came a week after she set up a 62 at the Meijer LPGA Classic. And she made them all look simple. Fairways; Greens; Top 10 of the tour within driving distance; Top 20 in overall putting; No. 1 on average scoring; No. 1 in rounds under par; No. 1 in laps in the 60s; No. 1 overall eagle for the year; No. 2 overall birdies of the year – you get the picture. There is no weakness, no big mistake. There’s no part of her game where you can say, oh, if she was a little longer, or god imagine she could do a few more 15 feet, or gosh, what if she did a few would find more greens in it? Regulation.
Nelly plays golf like Jack Nicklaus in his prime. It’s longer than average, hits a ton of greens, does the putts it’s supposed to, and minimizes mistakes. She also has a golf swing, which Brandel Chamblee raved about in Golf Channel coverage. “You won’t find a better one anywhere,” said Chamblee as he analyzed Nelly’s amazing move.
It’s hard to find fault with her swing, putting stroke, or wedge technique. She is mechanically solid in every part of the game. But the real benefit is their emotional behavior; their ability not to overtake themselves; not be shaken; so as not to let the moment get too big. At the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, she found the water on par-3 15th in the final round and did double bogey, the same shot and score Jason Dufner got in the 2011 PGA Championship a decade earlier. Dufner had a 5-shot lead at the time and lost to Keegan Bradley in a playoff. Korda, on the other hand, finished with three solid pars to win.
On Thursday in Japan, she was on the last tee and needed a birdie to hit 59. She pulled her tee shot – one of the few fairways she missed all day. But instead of trying to hook an iron out of the rough, she hit at wedge clearance. This strategy didn’t work. She found the green bunker and did a double bogey to shoot 62. However, she immediately shrugged and left the hiccups behind.
“Honestly, the link (at 18) got in my way and I should have pulled it out of the rough,” she said. “I just didn’t think it was worth it (the risk). Rather, I was thinking, okay, introduce it and then try to get close and try to save a par. But I was a little too cute with this pitch shot and hit the bunker. ”
Regarding the possibility of posting a 59, she said, “I haven’t thought about it at all. I thought, oh, cool, I’ve got a pretty good lead on 18th, unfortunately (I have) doubles on 18th, but that’s golf. It goes like that sometimes.
“Every day is a clean sheet. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what you’re going to shoot. The best you can do is leave with a good attitude and do your best. ”