Nelly Korda is the cover star of GOLF’s May 2022 issue.

One Friday night in December, a group of major champions gathered in a ballroom at the Orlando Ritz-Carlton. This was a multigenerational meeting of golf legends, players like Watson and Trevino and Singh, in town to play the PNC Championship, now assembling for a group photo. Tiger Woods entered the room with his son, Charlie. He spotted someone he’d never met. “Nelly! Hey!” he said, delighted at his first encounter with, at the time, the world’s top-ranked female golfer. She couldn’t believe it.

“I was like, Oh my God, he knows my name,” Nelly Korda remembers. “He knows who I am! That’s crazy.”

We’re at The Yards, a lively 12-hole public course southeast of Jacksonville, Fla. Korda’s taking a break between photos, grinning as she recalls the moment. It’s as incredible to her as it is obvious to me: Of course Tiger Woods knows who Nelly Korda is. Who doesn’t? But you can forgive her for geeking out. Superstardom is, after all, relatively new to her.

Korda’s 2021 changed everything. She won five events. Became a major champion. Took home Olympic gold. Ascended to World No. 1. In the process, the 23-year-old with the picture-perfect golf swing attained a newfound status too: the face of American women’s golf.

Korda knows she locks in at game time. She spends most tournament rounds in “my own bubble,” which proves particularly effective; she has a surreal ability to zone in on the shot and block out distractions. That’s a quality she shares with the man she met in the Orlando ballroom.

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