RBC Canadian Open

Hamilton Golf & Country Club

Chevron Championship

Nelly Korda opens strong in her bid for a fifth straight victory

April 18, 2024

Andy Lyons

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — The weight of Nelly Korda's four-straight-victory run hasn't yet lifted from her shoulders. Even with an off week before the Chevron Championship spending quality time with family, Korda, 25, felt at the start of her first round that her energy was at about 70 percent. As the gusting winds firmed up the greens and amped up the difficulty at Carlton Woods, the No. 1 player in the world shot a four-under 68, the low round of the second wave and two off the lead at T-2.

"I can definitely still feel maybe a little bit of tiredness, so it took me a while to get going," Korda said. "I felt the nerves definitely at the start of the round. Once I made the turn, I was just playing free golf."

Korda began her 1:10 p.m. tee time off the 10th with a combination of nerves and exhaustion, contributing to a bogey to start her quest for a fifth straight title. The Bradenton, Fla. native felt sluggish until the 13th, when the solution to pick her energy up was having an apple. It was just the energy boost she needed to bring her world-beating game to the forefront.

"After that I just kind of buckled down and actually Jay (her caddie) told me, okay, let's get it back here now," Korda said.

Korda recalled two times the course conditions challenged her. On the back nine, Korda recalled having a 58-degree wedge downwind from 80 yards roll out 20 more after landing. On the second hole, Korda's approach landed on the green and went into the rough long with an awkward downhill lie, ending up in her second bogey of the day. The less receptive greens are not what Korda navigated in her third-place finish at last year's Chevron.

"I would say the firmness of the greens is just by far the biggest difference (from 2023) because I know last year we got so much rain that it was actually really, really soft," Korda explained. "They're definitely rolling out on the fairways, and they're really firm, and they're not that fast, but they're just really firm."

The greens' varying receptiveness resulted in a self-described guessing game of how far to hit certain approaches. But Korda had more control of her distances thanks to her average of 298 yards off the tee, the third longest in the field, putting more short irons and wedges in her hand. The 2020 Olympic gold medalist birdied four of the last six holes by reaching the par-5 fourth and eighth in two and set up short birdie looks on the sixth and ninth with a wedge in hand.

Korda's late birdie blitz to reach four under was one of only nine rounds under par in the afternoon wave, which played 1.24 strokes harder (74.18) than the opening wave (72.94). The next task was to try and recover for the next morning's round, which bodes more promising scoring conditions: Lauren Coughlin's six under from Thursday's first wave was the best of 21 rounds under par. Korda wrapped up her press conference around 6:45 p.m. local, trying to get to sleep by 9:30 p.m. before her 8:10 a.m. Friday tee time.

"I think anything under par this afternoon is a really good score," Stacy Lewis, who grew up in The Woodlands, Tx., said. "It's a major championship. That's what it should be.

"And, I mean, nothing Nelly does surprises me."