She’s doing it again: Nelly Korda back in contention for record-breaking win

After 18 holes at the Cognizant Founders Cup, Nelly Korda is right where she needs to be as she chases a sixth straight victory.

Despite the mounting pile of expectations and obligations, Nelly Korda is in contention yet again as she chases a stunning, record-breaking sixth-straight victory.

Korda fired a three-under 69 in the opening round of the Cognizant Founders Cup on Thursday in Clifton, N.J. She was even par through the first eight holes at Upper Montclair Country Club, which might seem just average to those who were expecting immediate dominance, but Korda’s brilliance this year has been outlasting everyone over 72 holes, not the first nine or 18.

Her second birdie of the day arrived on the 18th hole, her ninth, and then another followed on the next par-5, her 11th of the day. Korda is one of the longest players in the women’s game, so that’s a bit of the same story, too. Hitting one good drive with her length allows her to turn par-5s into long par-3s. She played those four holes in three under Thursday. The afternoon wave is still on the course, but Korda is just four off the early lead held by Madelene Sagstrom, who finished at seven under and three ahead of the next closest competitor at the time

Asked about her round afterward, Korda called it “solid,” because that’s all it feels like when you’ve won five tournaments in a row. Just solid.

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Thursday’s round came after a busy week for Korda. Over the weekend, she was there for the very first junior tournament in her name, The Nelly, down in Florida. Then she was up to New York City for the Met Gala on Monday. (When’s the last time a golfer was at the Met Gala?) On Tuesday morning, she gave a press conference, as she is getting extremely accustomed to doing, and did an interview with ESPN. During her last conquest, a few weeks ago, Korda did a virtual interview with SportsCenter, but now ESPN has sent extra staffers to cover every step she takes this week.

ESPN+ is also providing streaming coverage of this week’s event, so on a playing field much bigger than a basketball court, not a shot will be missed for those who want to see it the most. (Considering the Golf Channel is delaying showing that coverage until the evening time, ESPN+ might be the spot for you.) The pressure is ramping up, one would think. And every round adds to it. Will that get to her, eventually? We get the lovely opportunity to watch her work through that.

“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 par.”

Whether or not it happens is obviously up to her, but there’s only so much defense she can play. Part of it is up to a field that is growing increasingly (in awe of and) tired of losing to her. Korda is a beloved figure on the LPGA Tour, but at some point, her reign of beating everyone will end. And it might come at the hands of Sagstrom, who is in the driver’s seat right now, but ask any of the ladies who have held that distinction this year and they’ll tell you it doesn’t mean much.

Lauren Coughlin led Korda by two at the Chevron Championship in April. She lost by three. Korda was well outside of the stroke play cutoff at the T-Mobile Match Play after one round in Las Vegas, but she rallied in time to pick apart the contenders in match play, slowly but surely, one at a time. Carlota Ciganda and Gabby Ruffels had Korda by two through 18 holes in Arizona, and they lost by four and five, respectively. We could keep going, but you probably get the point. Beating her is going to take a marathon effort. We’re just through the first quarter.

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