Nelly Korda, despite struggles, still the world’s best entering KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

At 5 feet 10, Nelly Korda is used to most of her LPGA competitors looking up to her. But when you consider the distance between her and the rest of the class in the world golf rankings, Korda is a redwood among pines.

The 5.56 points separating her from second-ranked Lilia Vu is equal to the total separating Vu from No. 71 Narin An. In the ultimate walking sport, Korda, from Florida, has run away from the field.

The problem for the 25-year-old is that she didn’t work the weekends in either of her past two tournaments. This wasn’t self-care so much as it was self-immolation, as a series of gaffes — the most notable being a 10 she posted on a par 3 in last month’s U.S. Open — caused her to miss consecutive cuts.

Before that, Korda had won six of her previous seven tournaments, including the major that was last April’s Chevron Championship. It was the type of dominance we used to see from that Nike-capped Stanford grad who wore red on Sundays.

Then came this recent skid. Whoa, Nelly! one second, Woe Nelly the next.

Perhaps that’s why Korda isn’t the overwhelming favorite to win this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee. As of press time, the oddsmakers had her at 9-to-1 to capture her third career major, with Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul coming in next at 14-to-1.

But Korda is still the best player in the world in the midst of the best season in her lifetime. So don’t expect to hear much worry in her voice.

“That’s golf. I mean, I’m going to go through these situations so many times where I feel like I’m playing really well, and I’ll go through a little lull where golf is the hardest thing in my life,” said Korda, a three-time Solheim Cup participant who won the Women’s PGA Championship in 2021. “So that’s I feel like what grows myself as a person and what makes me appreciate the sport so much, and makes me appreciate the wins and the highs and good shots and crowds out there, as well.”

It’s possible that Korda’s crowd includes longtime Washingtonian Wendy Ward, who will be competing in this week’s tournament. The 51-year-old is a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour who earned a spot in the Women’s PGA Championship by finishing eighth in last year’s LPGA Professional National Championship — an event for instructors.

Ward said if she has a chance to watch Korda in person this week, she’s going to do it. She has been a fan of Nelly’s for a while now, and remembers advocating for her to be on the 2015 Solheim Cup team as a 17-year-old.

Juli Inkster, the captain at the time, decided not to take her, which surprised Ward. But both saw the potential the kid possessed.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She has no weakness,’ ” Ward said. “And Juli goes, ‘Yep, I think I’m going to have to pass on her.’ We’re like, ‘What?’ She goes, ‘Trust me. Just give her another couple years, and she’s going to do amazing things.’ “

Fourteen LPGA wins and two majors later, it’s safe to say Inkster was correct. Oh yeah — there’s also the Olympic gold medal Korda won in Tokyo three years ago, a feat she will attempt to repeat in Paris this summer.

Not that the defense is what will be first and foremost on her mind when she lands in France. Nelly said she is most looking forward to the croissants she anticipates will be on every street corner. She seems to like baked goods as much she does cooking her opponents.

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