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Chevron Championship

This impressive stat is the runaway reason why Nelly Korda is dominating the LPGA

April 19, 2024
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Nelly Korda hits a shot during the second orund of the Chevron Championship.

Andy Lyons

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — In her run of four wins in a row, Nelly Korda has capitalized on one of the best stretches of par-5 scoring the LPGA has ever seen. She's averaging 4.33 strokes on the par 5s over the victory run, slightly better than men's World No. 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler's leading PGA Tour average of 4.35.

Korda, 25, understands how dominant she has been on them. After suffering a double bogey to start her second round of the major Chevron Championship on Friday, she reminded herself about the chances on her best scoring holes.

"There is still so much golf to be played and there is still a good bit of gettable par 5s," Korda said. "So that's usually what I think about, is just the opportunities that I have ahead."

Korda birdied all four par 5s Friday on her way to a three-under-par 69 that moved her to the top of the leaderboard at seven under as play continued in the afternoon. Through 36 holes, she's six under on Carlton Woods' par 5s.

From the beginning of Korda's win streak at the LPGA Drive On in January through the first two days of the Chevron Championship, she is 43 under on the par 5s, and that accounts for nearly all of her 47-under total in the stretch. Dating back to the records kept since 1992, Korda is on pace to eclipse the par-5 single-season scoring record of 4.45 set by Sei Young Kim in her two-win 2020 campaign. Yuka Saso, the 2021 U.S. Women's Open winner, has the best career average (4.57), with Korda (4.58) in second.

It took Korda capitalizing on par 5s during the final round of her first two victories of 2024 to get her streak started. In her hometown of Bradenton, Fla., she eagled the 499-yard par-5 17th at the Drive On to get to one behind Lydia Ko's clubhouse lead. Korda then birdied the 18th and beat the 20-time winner in a playoff. Outside of Los Angeles last month, Korda eagled the 509-yard 13th in the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship, giving her the margin of error to still get into a playoff even after bogeying the last two holes.

Korda's caddie, Jason McDede, views her improvements in driving accuracy and chipping as helping Korda have the confidence to attack every par 5 in front of her. Even if she misses the green, Korda's touch with her wedges can still lead to a birdie opportunity.

"I feel like we get to the par 5s," McDede said. "I remind her to have good rhythm. She gets up there. She goes through the process. Hits the golf shot. And then from there, generally speaking, if it's a good one, we're normally going for the green. Honestly, I think it's just really getting to those holes and being locked in."

Korda's on-paper average driving distance (263.1) is 39th on tour this season and a far cry from what one would expect of a player succeeding on the longer holes. However, when she took seven weeks off, Korda missed four events in the heat of southeast Asia, bolstering her peers' driving stats. In the five events she's played, she's averaged 23rd on tour in driving distance. At the Chevron, she was third in length off the tee during the first round (298), facing the longest average par-5 distance (527.8 yards) in the last five starts.

Her 71st-ranked driving accuracy (74.1 percent) this season also is slightly skewed by her schedule. At Shadow Creek for the Match Play last month, one of the toughest venues on the LPGA plays, she hit 64 percent of the fairways, dragging her average down. Removing the outlier performance and including the first two days at Carlton Woods, Korda is hitting 76.1 percent of her fairways, matching her career best from her four-win 2021 season.

"I'm just hitting the driver really well and exactly kind of where I want," Korda said. "I think that's key on par 5s."

When Korda was asked after her first Chevron round what fueled her four birdies over the final six-hole stretch to close an opening 68, it was almost a dismissal that she'd birdied two par 5s—the 509-yard fourth and 526-yard eighth.

"Hit a really good tee shot, and then I was just on the front of the green on [8]," Korda said Thursday. "And the other one I was just on the fringe, too. I two-putted pretty much for birdie on those."

The consistency of her scoring is fueling an air of invincibility for Korda, who hasn’t dropped a shot on par 5s in the past 11 rounds.

And if Korda happens to come to the 18th hole on Sunday needing a red number to win, consider this: Last year in the Chevron, she eagled the 477-yard par-5 18th to finish third.

But as she has preached all week, even as she is about to move on to network TV for the weekend, Korda is focused on trusting her routines.

"I'm just at the halfway point right now," Korda said. "The amount of golf that I've played, I still have that to go. There is still a lot of golf left and anything can happen. Just going to stick to my process and vibe with it is what my coach says."