PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club



Chevron Championship

With weather delay, Nelly Korda faces marathon day to win five straight

April 20, 2024
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Nelly Korda watches a shot during the third round of the weather-delayed Chevron Championship.

Icon Sportswire

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Nelly Korda enters Sunday at the Chevron Championship in prime position in her quest for five straight wins. She sits at 10 under par, tied with Brooke Henderson and a stroke off the lead of Atthaya Thitikul.

The obstacles the final day presents amid this streak? After third-round play was suspended on Saturday afternoon, Korda has 25 holes left to finish after thunderstorms were expected to continue to soak the Carlton Woods course overnight. The final-round temperatures aren’t expected to rise out of the mid-60s and the wind is supposed to be in the mid-teens.

"I think you just have to try to be positive about it and just tell yourself that you can't get caught up in possibly girls being on 18 or not having that many holes left," said Korda, who will resume her third round with a short par putt on the 12th. "If you think about it positively, then I have a lot of opportunities left in the day that I can go out and maybe capitalize on a couple of them. … I'm going to think about it positively rather than negatively."

Play is scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. local time, with 33 players still needing to finish their third round. The tour anticipates Carlton Woods absorbing around 1½-2 inches of rain from the suspension of play through Sunday morning. The LPGA will re-pair groups after all players finish 54 holes, and the plan is to start the fourth round around 9:20 a.m. off both the first and 10th tees. They anticipate the final group starting at 11:31 a.m., one minute later than when the last threesome teed off Saturday.

Korda is no stranger to extra holes on Sunday over her four-in-a-row win streak. The 25-year-old beat Lydia Ko in a two-hole playoff at the Drive On in January and bested Ryan O'Toole in a one-hole playoff at the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship in late March. After Korda's round Thursday, she pointed out that her energy level was at 70 percent at the start of the Chevron, with last week off still not enough to fully recover from winning three consecutive events at the Seri Pak, Ford Championship, and T-Mobile LPGA Match Play.

Should Korda survive another extended Sunday slog to win the Chevron, her fifth consecutive victory would move her season into the upper echelon of career LPGA years. The Bradenton, Fla., native would join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) as the three players ever to win five in a row.

The $1.2 million first-place check would nearly match Korda's current season earnings ($1,224,216), taking her to just over $2.4 million. With just more than $100 million remaining in the LPGA's purse, Korda could easily shatter Lorena Ochoa's record earnings from 2007 of $4.3 million. Korda earning her second career major title would put the 12-time winner in a commanding position to capture her first Rolex Player of the Year award. She would earn 60 points, bringing her total to just 23 points shy of Lilia Vu's winning amount (203) from last year.

As impressive as Korda’s streak, it doesn’t come without enormous pressure.

"I think the tough part is just being able to focus and get rid of all the pressure because the press asks you every day, ‘What you're going to do? Can you do it?" Lopez said on Golf Channel Friday. "So the press is really the people that put the most pressure on you. I don't think I really put the pressure on myself."

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Atthaya Thitikul reacts on the seventh green.

Gregory Shamus

It is appropriate that Thitikul serves as Korda’s top Sunday foil. According to Justin Ray, the lead data analyst of the LPGA's KPMG Performance Insights, Thitikul (2.02) and Korda (+1.75) are the top two players on the LPGA in strokes gained on the weekend at majors over the past three seasons. Thitikul sits at a bogey-free three under for the third round with six holes to play and holds a one-stroke lead despite this week being her first LPGA start of the season.

The 21-year-old was sidelined with a hand injury the past three months. She felt discomfort for the first time two weeks after the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. Thitikul initially planned to return at the Ford, but didn't quite feel comfortable with the changes to her grip to compensate for the injury. The 2023 Vare Trophy winner lost about 15 yards off the tee when she started practicing again. It took her dad buying an extra grip for her to hold onto during car rides to get the two-time LPGA winner used to the adjustment.

Thitikul is already accustomed to extra holes in contention on Sunday at an LPGA event. At the Maybank Championship last October, she and Celine Boutier battled out a nine-hole playoff before Boutier finally took down the Thai.

"Still young now," Thitikul said. "Still good. But energy-wise, I don't really worry about it, but the mental, how I'm going to play, the mental, the mindset is the most important for tomorrow."

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Brooke Henderson chips onto the 12th green.

Andy Lyons

Henderson moved 20 spots up the leaderboard Saturday with by playing eight holes in eight under from the seventh thr, an energizing eight-under over eight holes run from the seventh through 14th. She said her day was jump-started with a one-putt par save on the sixth, the first of a dazzling 10 consecutive one-putts for the Canadian.

The scoring surge put Henderson in position to contend for her third career major title. The 26-year-old is one of the most consistent winners on the LPGA, having won at least once in eight of the last nine years. The 13-time winner will resume play on the par-5 18th hole at eight under for the round, one better than the Carlton Woods' Chevron Championship 18-hole record of seven-under 65.

"I feel like this year I've just played pretty solid, but I haven't really seen that run and kind of had that excitement," Henderson said. "That was really fun for me today, and hopefully just do something similar tomorrow."

A similar scoring barrage may be what it takes to best Korda, who signaled an additional comfort as the greens softened up from the rain.

"The greens are a little softer than maybe days prior, so I could be a little bit more aggressive," Korda said. "But overall, I felt pretty good out there."