Nelly Korda threatens 59, settles for 62 after troubles on the 18th hole

August 05, 2021

Nelly Korda stands under an umbrella as she looks on from the 11th tee during the second round of the women's Olympic golf.

Mike Ehrmann

Nelly Korda stood on the 18th tee at Kasumigaseki Country Club in the second round with an opportunity to elevate the Tokyo Olympics into an echelon of their own in golf. With a birdie on the last, Korda could complete the second 59 in the history of the women's professional game. But after missing left off the tee behind a standalone tree, Korda made a double bogey.

The World No. 1 instead had to accept as consolation matching the Olympic scoring mark with a nine-under-par 62 that put her four shots ahead of three players with a 13-under total.

After pars on her first four holes, Korda picked things up and shot six under over the last five holes on the front nine, including an eagle 2 at the sixth when she drove the green at the 248-yard hole. She made the turn in 30, and then after pars at 10 and 11, Korda birdied the 12th, 13th, 14th and 16th. The 59 watch was officially on, and then the 23-year-old striped her approach to six feet for birdie at the 17th and made it. History was in play.

But, after a lengthy wait on the tee, Korda chose driver—a play she would later say was “stupid”—and hooked it left into the rough and behind the only pine tree that could block her shot to the green. She had the choice: make a dicey attempt at history or keep as much as she could of what was then a six-shot lead.

“It was a risky shot, honestly,” Korda said. “l had the water. I had to hit it low with the tree branch in front of me. I honestly took the safe way out and thought if I could pitch it on the green and get it within a good distance I could save par. But I came home with double.”

Korda pitched into the fairway, but punched her next shot into the front bunker and couldn’t get up and down from there in making a 6.

"It's golf. It’s gonna happen,” Korda reasoned. “That's kind of where you learn the most from.”

Despite the stumble, Korda still holds a four-shot lead on Denmark's Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Kristine Pedersen, and India's Aditi Ashok.

Late on Thursday (Tokyo time), it had not been decided if Korda was to defend her lead for 18 more holes or 36. The international golf committee continued to consider whether or not to try to play the fourth round Saturday due to a tropical storm coming in.