PGA Championship

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Nelly Korda starts strong, but has ground to make up in search for sixth straight LPGA victory

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Elsa

Nelly Korda finds herself in a familiar position after her first round at the Cognizant Founders Cup—near the top of the leaderboard. She carded an opening three-under 69 Thursday, putting her in a fifth-place tie and four shots off Madelene Sagstrom’s lead through the morning wave. But by the end of the day she was tied for 18th place and six shots behind Rose Zhang, who shot 63. Korda is looking for a sixth straight victory, which has never happened in LPGA history.

“Yeah, there are still three more days,” Korda said. “You still have a lot of things that you—I know the weather is not supposed to be great and there are just different factors that go into the rest of the tournament. So it's definitely nice to get a good round in. You know, still a long, long ways away from Sunday.”

Through her win streak, the World No. 1 has trusted the work she put in during her off weeks and has leaned on her short game to clean up mistakes. After winning the Chevron Championship, Korda withdrew from the JM Eagle LA Championship to take two weeks off. She put her clubs away for a few days and relaxed with family before hitting the gym to prepare for a chance at six consecutive wins. Nancy Lopez (1978) finished T-13 at the Lady Keystone Open after winning five straight and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) finished T-12 at the Michelob Ultra Open in her bid for six straight.

With the narrow fairways at Upper Montclair Country Club, Korda focused on a selective aggressive approach; if she hit the ball in the rough, Korda aimed for the middle of the green. If the 25-year-old missed the green, she relied on her chipping to get her out of a jam.

The 13-time winner would fire at the flag only if she had a clear line after navigating the wind off the tee. Korda consistently gave herself chances to make par or better off the tee, even with a tendency to miss right on Thursday. She hit 10 of 14 fairways, made four birdies and had only one bogey.

This year, the conditions in Clifton, N.J., have allowed for more aggressiveness, as the course is a little softer than last year, where Korda missed the cut. The Bradenton, Fla. native’s scoring opportunities mostly came on the par 5s, where she carded three of her four birdies, including a two-putt birdie on the 473-yard second.

"It was just kind of stupid to be aggressive on your first day where a mistake can set you back instead of just being very consistent through your round," Korda said.

The steady-handed Thursday approach has put Korda in the top 10 through the opening 18 three times amidst this run: she was the leader after Day 1 at the Drive On Championship, T-2 at the Chevron Championship and T-9 at the Ford Championship.

Korda pointed to last year’s missed cut as a reason not to get ahead of herself. She shot 72-74 to miss the weekend by a stroke.

“I have not thought about the streak at all honestly,” Korda said. “I think that's only going to do more harm for me than do good. Big thing for me is taking it a shot at time and being present and in my own bubble. That's what I'm focusing on.

“I'm not trying to think about the outside noise. Would it be amazing? Of course. But it's still so far away and proud of what I've achieved so far.”