Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)


Nelly Korda opens bid for her first major with a 66 to lead by one


Nelly Korda is the first-round leader of the ANA Inspiration. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Christian Petersen

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Nothing is inevitable in golf, though Nelly Korda eventually winning a major championship continues to hint at the likelihood. She took a bold first step toward doing so on Thursday.

On a calm, warm afternoon at Mission Hills C.C., Korda posted a six-under-par 66 to take the first-round lead in the ANA Inspiration.

Korda made seven birdies, the last at the 18th hole of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, and only a single bogey. She leads In Gee Chun of South Korea and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom by a stroke.

The second highest-ranked player in the field, third in the Rolex Ranking, Korda already has won three times on the LPGA, and she tied for third in her most recent start, at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. The 22-year-old also tied for 10th at the ANA in 2018 and has had top 10s in two of her last four majors.

She, too, has a veteran’s understanding of how to proceed from here, by not looking beyond her next round. Or her next shot.

“There’s still three more days to play. There’s so much golf out there,” Korda said. “You never know what’s going to happen. And if I just string together another couple good rounds, then we’ll see where it goes. I’m just going to take it shot by shot.

“I felt good really ever since my last two events at the [Women’s] British [Open] and in Arkansas. If I keep my head up and stay calm out there, which my caddie Jason and I did a really good job of doing today, and staying hydrated, then it’s a lot easier.”

The only player in the field ranked higher than Korda is Danielle Kang, who is No. 2. She is behind only South Korean Jin Young Ko, who is not playing here. Kang opened with a four-under-par 68 and is pursing a third win since the LPGA resumed its season last month.

Meanwhile, Chun, 26, is in familiar territory, atop a leader board in a major championship. She has won two majors—the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2016 Evian Championship. Yet she has not played well in recent years.

“I think I made stress for myself because it wasn’t perfect,” she said following her round of 67. “I wanted to make more perfect for my golf game and putting more pressure, so I tried to reset for everything. No matter what, just try and have fun out there.”

Sagstrom, 27, has one LPGA victory, at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio early this year. But she has missed four straight cuts in advance of the ANA Inspiration.

“Golf is so up and down and I’m coming off a rough few couple months starting up again,” she said. “I think just finding my way back into my rhythm and my game has been my priority, so right now I’m just happy to be under par and shooting some good scores. I’m excited for what the weekend holds. I know what it feels like to be in those groups, so I’m hoping to be in contention when the weekend comes.”