sunny.png
Thursday April 15th, 2021 7:31PM

Final birdie gives Nelly Korda a 1-shot lead in LPGA major

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Nelly Korda has had Grand Slam events on her mind for the last two weeks, not just her own, and she made it through the first round Thursday of the ANA Inspiration with just the start she wanted.

With heat-baked greens so firm she couldn't find pitch marks, Korda hit hybrid off the tee on the par-5 18th with a front pin. That set her up for a wedge to 3 feet below the hole for birdie and a 6-under 66, giving her a one-shot lead.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun had to scramble for par on the 18th for a 67. Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden matched that score with a par on her closing hole at the par-5 ninth with a third shot out of rough so thick she could barely see her golf ball.

Danielle Kang, projected to reach No. 1 in the world with a victory at Mission Hills, and Brooke Henderson of Canada were among those two shots behind.

The temperatures didn't quite hit 100 degrees in the desert — that's for later in the week — making this the most comfortable day. It was still exhausting for Korda, who described her start as "good, but tired, for sure.”

Imagine how her father felt.

Petr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open tennis champion, was on the 10th fairway in the morning to watch his older daughter, Jessica, post a 74. Then it was another 18 holes, along with their mother, to watch Nelly.

And this after returning from New York to watch his 20-year-old son, Sebastian Korda, make his Grand Slam debut in the U.S. Open, losing in four sets in the first round to Denis Shapovalov.

That got the attention of the golfing sisters, with Nelly rushing home from Arkansas last week to watch on TV.

“He looked really good, so hopefully he keeps trending upwards," she said. “It would be really cool to see him succeed.”

Korda is better placed for immediate success in her sport, a three-time winner who already has risen to No. 3 in the women's world ranking because of consistently solid finishes.

She wasn't about to get wrapped up with one good round on a Mission Hills course that is playing so different from its usual Spring spot on the calendar, with Bermuda rough and greens that were firm and bouncy.

“There's still three more days to play. There’s so much golf out there,” Korda said. “You never know what’s going to happen. And if I just string together another couple good rounds, then we’ll see where it goes.”

Chun was happy with her start, and more importantly, she's happy to be playing golf. She won two majors early in her LPGA career, starting with the U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster in 2015, that the pressure mounted as she tried to find perfection in a game that doesn't allow for it.

That became too much too handle, and Chun had to reset to find her passion. It started to return before COVID-19 pandemic shut down the LPGA Tour for five months, and the time in South Korea only helped.

“I really tried not to be hard on myself on the golf course. I wanted to have fun out there and work really well, and I made a great round today,” Chun said.

Kang was pleased with her scoring, too, especially the 5-iron from 191 yards on the par-3 fifth that was inches away from an ace, a shot that elicited a scream of “Get in the hole!” from a voice Kang recognized.

“My mom,” she said. “Yeah, this was the first time she got to come watch me play this entire year, so I’m really excited and happy about that.”

Her mother was excited, too, at least on that shot.

“She sometimes doesn’t even know if I made a birdie or not,” Kang said. “She just keeps taking off. I tell her, ‘Can you just watch instead of running off to the next hole?’”

There was plenty to see, and a full week left as Kang tries to add another major and rise to No. 1 in the world.

Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 player and defending champion at the ANA Inspiration, is home in South Korea has not played an LPGA event this year as she sits out the COVID-19 pandemic, playing only three times on the Korean LPGA.

Henderson, who turned 23 on Thursday, had a solid but uneventful start and was even par through 10 holes when she made up ground quickly. Her sister, Brittany, was among caddies who took advantage of a policy allowing them to drive carts because of the extreme heat.

“Normally I would never agree to taking carts, but definitely under the circumstances with it being so hot out here, and I definitely felt like since the LPGA was allowing us to use them, it was definitely an advantage for us,” Henderson said without a trace of doubt.

The players at 69 included two-time ANA Inspiration winner Brittany Lincicome, who carried an umbrella to shield her from the sun and wore a brace that was heavily taped around her left thumb to keep it from causing pain. Lincicome said it has limited her practice — not that she has a reputation for grinding on the range — but she now is swinging freely.

She mostly was happy about playing early because of the heat.

“Playing in the morning you have to take advantage of it because tomorrow, l think even par is going to be fantastic,” he said. “A few greens today were releasing 20 yards already, and that’s only in the morning. Tomorrow I’m going to have to battle the heat, battle the firmness of the greens, and it’s going to be a little bit more challenging, for sure.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Tennis, AP Online Golf, AP Sports - Women's Tennis, AP Sports - Women's Golf
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Final birdie gives Nelly Korda a 1-shot lead in LPGA major
This week is Nelly Korda's turn for a Grand Slam event and she opened with a 66 for a one-shot lead in the ANA Inspiration
10:33PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Asian shares mixed after technology fall leads US stock fall
Asian shares are trading mixed following a selloff of technology shares on Wall Street
10:31PM ( 16 minutes ago )
The Latest: Williams takes first set 6-1 in US Open semi
Serena Williams is a set away from another U.S. Open final after overpowering Victoria Azarenka 6-1 in the first set of their semifinal
10:30PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Helped by net, bad call, Osaka gets past Brady in US Open SF
Naomi Osaka has reached her third Grand Slam final by edging Jennifer Brady in three sets in the U.S. Open semifinals
9:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Osaka beats Brady, returns to US Open final
Naomi Osaka has reached the U.S. Open final for the second time in three years, pulling away to beat Jennifer Brady 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 in the first semifinal
9:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
Chiefs nix headdresses, war paint to start NFL season
Kansas City Chiefs fans who filed into Arrowhead Stadium for a masked and socially distanced start to the NFL season were prohibited from wearing headdresses or war paint
9:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
The Latest: Osaka begins US Open semifinal vs Brady
Naomi Osaka is trying to return to the U.S. Open women’s final, facing first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Jennifer Brady
7:21PM ( 3 hours ago )
'It's how you finish': Serena Williams into Open semifinals
Serena Williams hit 20 aces and came back to beat Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets to get to the U.S. Open semifinals
11:12PM ( 23 hours ago )
The Latest: Azarenka-Williams; Brady-Osaka set for semis
Naomi Osaka vs
8:53PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Tennis
Kang beats desert heat and shares early lead in LPGA major
Danielle Kang beat the heat and shared the early lead at the ANA Inspiration
5:04PM ( 5 hours ago )
Mission Hills familiar place in an familiar spot on schedule
Mission Hills has a familiar look to the LPGA Tour players in the California desert
6:05PM ( 1 day ago )
Brooks Koepka out of US Open with lingering injury
Brooks Koepka has pulled out of the U.S. Open next week because of lingering pain in his left knee
3:54PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Golf
The Latest: Carreño Busta tops Shapovalov in 5 in US Open QF
Pablo Carreño Busta has beaten Denis Shapovalov in five sets to reach the U.S. Open semifinals for a second time
1:12AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Shapovalov, Carreño Busta to 5th set in Open QF
Denis Shapovalov and Pablo Carreño Busta are heading to a fifth set in their U.S. Open quarterfinal
12:31AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: 2018 champ Osaka beats Rogers to reach Open SF
Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has played powerful, clean tennis to beat 93rd-ranked Shelby Rogers in straight sets in the U.S. Open quarterfinals
8:45PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - Women's Tennis
Timing is everything for 4 players who get into the US Open
Brian Harman and Mark Hubbard were among those who thought they lost a chance to get into the U.S. Open
3:54PM ( 1 week ago )
PGA Tour reaches rich end to a pandemic-shortened season
The PGA Tour season began last September, shut down for three months in the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic and now reaches its conclusion at the Tour Championship
10:00AM ( 1 week ago )
Spieth, Fowler among those needing help for big fall events
Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka are now in position to have to ask for a sponsor exemption to compete
4:30PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Sports - Women's Golf
Asian shares mixed after technology fall leads US stock fall
Asian shares are trading mixed following a selloff of technology shares on Wall Street
10:31PM ( 16 minutes ago )
The Latest: Williams takes first set 6-1 in US Open semi
Serena Williams is a set away from another U.S. Open final after overpowering Victoria Azarenka 6-1 in the first set of their semifinal
10:30PM ( 18 minutes ago )
10 now dead in massive Northern California wildfire
A Northern California wildfire has become the state's deadliest of the year, with at least 10 people confirmed dead, and the toll could climb because 16 people are missing
10:21PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Maddow beneficiary of scramble for attention by authors
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is a beneficiary of the scramble for attention by authors trying to sell books that pick apart Donald Trump's presidency
10:17PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Power trio: Freeman, Swanson, Acuña rally Braves past Nats
Freddie Freeman homered twice, Dansby Swanson hit a go-ahead shot in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat the Washington Nationals 7-6
10:01PM ( 47 minutes ago )