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Nelly looking for win

With a month remaining in ‘up and down season,’ Nelly Korda still looking for first LPGA victory

October 25, 2023
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Chung Sung-Jun

An Angel Yin press conference is guaranteed to bring laughs, and it only took the first question Wednesday in Malaysia ahead of the Maybank Championship for hilarity to ensue. Asked about the support Yin has received since her first career LPGA victory at the Buick LPGA Shanghai two weeks ago, she got called out by Nelly Korda, who was sitting alongside her.

"A lot of text messages, and I'm sorry I never got back to a lot of people," Yin said.

"Including me," Korda then joked.

Oddly enough, this season, Korda doesn’t have a win of her own, but has posted seven top 10s in 15 starts, has been the No. 1 player in the world twice, and has represented the U.S. in both the International Crown and Solheim Cup. With four events remaining, Korda is staring down the possibility of a winless year during a non-COVID impacted season for the first time since her rookie season in 2017.

"I think the season has been up and down," Korda explained. "There have been really good finishes. At the beginning of the year golf felt really easy. Just was top-10-ing, and then I got injured and the momentum of my season really shifted. So kind of a little bit disappointing obviously, but that's golf, right? You kind of have to ride the wave of it. You got to put your head down and sometimes work.

"I've been doing that, and I'm hoping for a momentum shift going into this week and then the last two in Florida as well. But, yeah, definitely a bit of an up and down year, which, you know, they're sports, so I feel like athletes are always kind of in a spotlight, so when we have bad days they're really magnified too. So unfortunately I've definitely had a few of those this year, but hoping to change that momentum."

Korda, 25, posted top 10s in six of her first seven events, including a runner-up at the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore at the beginning of March. She then returned to the No. 1 spot in the world rankings after a third-place finish at the Chevron Championship, going under par in all four rounds at Carlton Woods. Through her first seven events, Korda’s scoring average was 68.81, a mere rounding difference from the 68.77 she averaged during her four-win 2021 campaign. A victory, as it always seems with the uber-talented American, felt like a matter of if, not when.

What did stop her season was another injury. She played through a lower back tweak sidelined during the Founders Cup in May, missing her first cut of the year. After taking a month away, Korda still has yet to find the dominant form that kept her near the top of most of the LPGA's early-season leaderboards. After returning at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in June, Korda's lone top 10 was a T-9 at the Amundi Evian Championship. Her best performance came away from the LPGA, with an 11-under-par winning score at the Ladies European Tour's Aramco Team Series event in London in July.

That didn't stop Korda from searching for answers. She flew her coach out to Oregon, where they worked into the evening Wednesday ahead of the Cambia Portland Classic. Since June, Korda has averaged 71.6, which would put her in 60th on tour.

If there is any silver lining, Korda actually is in familiar territory, even if it doesn’t seem like it. She did not have a victory at this point one year ago, albeit she did have a four-month break due to a blood clot in her arm that limited her to 15 starts. Korda then successfully defended her title at the Pelican last November, and she will have a chance to three-peat at that event in two weeks.

Despite Korda not being in peak form, leave it to Yin to believe that this week also gives Korda a great chance to win. After all, the grass at Maybank host Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club is Bermuda on the fairways and rough, the same setup as Pelican Golf Club, site of her last victory.

"I was like, this is Nelly's golf course,” Yin said. "Looks like Taiwan where she won twice and looks like Pelican. The grass is like perfect for her. It's right back to Bradenton, Fla."

"Hopefully," Korda said.