8 things you need to know about KPMG Women's PGA champ Nelly Korda
Nelly Korda poses with the trophy after winning the KPMG Women's PGA by three shots over Lizette Salas.
Kevin C. Cox
The 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship turned into a two-player showdown over the weekend. Nelly Korda and Lizette Salas started three shots ahead of the field Saturday and five clear of everyone to start Sunday.
It remained a neck-and-neck chase until the par-5 12th, when Korda stuffed her second shot close again while Salas put her third into the back bunker. That would produce a three-shot swing when Korda made her second eagle of the day and Salas bogeyed.
The lead grew to five on the 14th, then shrunk to three with Korda double bogey on the 15th hole, but from there the 22-year-old didn't flinch, shooting a closing 68 to grab her first career major title with a 19-under 269 total.
The victory didn’t just produce Korda’s first major title, it lifted her to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s Golf Ranking. It also fulfilled the promise Korda seems to have displayed since bursting on the scene as a teenager.
Here are eight things to know about the new KPMG Women’s PGA Champion.
1. She’s the first American to be ranked No. 1 in the world since Stacy Lewis in October 2014
Korda takes the crown from Jin Young Ko, who held the top position since winning the 2019 Evian Championship, more than 100 weeks ago. “It [being No. 1] has a lovely ring to it, I’m not going to lie,” Korda said.
Korda joins Lewis and Cristie Kerr as the third American to have held the No. 1 spot in the world.
Nelly Korda is the first American to be ranked No. 1 on the Rolex Women's Golf Rankings since Stacy Lewis in October 2014.
Kevin C. Cox
2. Korda holds the lowest scoring average in all of golf
The new No. 1 is the only player in professional golf with a stroke average for the current season that’s less than 69. With her final-round 68, Korda is averaging 68.86, with Hall of Famer Inbee Park in second place on the LPGA Tour at 69.47. Jon Rahm, who moved to No. 1 in the world after winning the U.S. Open last week, leads the PGA Tour in scoring at 69.60 per round. Annika Sorenstam holds the all-time single-seaosn scoring record on the LPGA with a 68.7 mark in 2002.
3. Both Nelly and sister Jessica qualified for the Olympics
Nelly secured her spot in Tokyo before starting the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, but older sister Jessica joined her with a T-16 finish this week. Perhaps it’s fitting that the emotion of her victory didn't wash over Nelly until she hugged her sister.
“Jess is like the best big sister,” Korda said. “I don’t think anyone can come close to her. She has a heart of gold.”
Their mom, Regina, followed Nelly all week at Atlanta Athletic Club. She is a former Olympian herself, having played tennis in the 1988 in Seoul. “It doesn’t really sink in until someone says it, but that’s really cool,” Korda said.
Jessica and Nelly poses for a Golf Digest photo shoot.
4. Korda’s victory is the sixth American win of the 2021 LPGA season
After the Korda sisters and Austin Ernst set the tone winning the first three tournaments of 2021, Americans are winning more than any other country this season. Nelly Korda has three all by herself, and Ally Ewing won the match play event in Las Vegas. Currrently, Americans have the same number of wins in 15 tournaments as they had in the entire 2019 season of 33 events.
5. Korda is the first American to win an LPGA major since 2018
Nelly snapped 11-major drought for Americans dating back to Angela Stanford’s win at the 2018 Evian Championship. the last American to win a major. Their closest opportunity before AAC was in Korda’s hands at the 2020 ANA Inspiration; she lost in a three-way playoff with Brooke Henderson to Mirim Lee, who chipped in three times that Sunday to take the title.
6. Nelly now has as many career wins as Jessica
In her 93rd career start, the younger Korda reached the winner’s circle for the sixth time. The older Korda made her 211th start this week. Nelly credits Jess for her success on the LPGA.
“She's five years older, so she's showed me the ropes of the LPGA, the ropes of professional golf. I'm super lucky to have been showed that because a lot of people don't get that opportunity,” Korda said. “If I'm struggling, she's right there for me. I can't thank her enough for everything she's done and how selfless of a person she is.”
They're one of three sets of sisters to both win on the LPGA, alongside Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam and Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn.
Nelly Korda reacts after putting in to win on the 18th green during the final round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
Kevin C. Cox
7. Bubba Watson’s words of wisdom took Korda to another level
During the Friday of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Watson spoke to the media about his struggles with his mental health. Upon hearing Watson explain how he tries to juggle golf and the rest of his life, Korda drew inspiration as she’s struggled with trying to make sure golf didn’t define her self worth. Since processing Watson’s words, Korda is 34 under par over her last 108 holes. She’s finished in the top 10 in eight of 11 starts this year, along with her three victories, rebounding after missing the cut at Olympic Club to the top player in the world.
8. The LPGA Tour’s youth movement is on full display at majors
Korda (22) joins Patty Tavatanakit (21) and Yuka Saso (19) as the LPGA’s major champions in 2021 this year. Per Grant Boone of Golf Channel, it’s the youngest trio of winners ever in the LPGA’s 71-year history.