Golf roundup: Nelly Korda’s ninth LPGA Tour victory is a playoff triumph in her hometown

AP photo by Steve Nesius / Nelly Korda holds her trophy after winning the LPGA Drive On Championship Sunday at Florida's Bradenton Country Club. Korda's wire-to-wire win was secured on the second hole of a playoff against Lydia Ko.
AP photo by Steve Nesius / Nelly Korda holds her trophy after winning the LPGA Drive On Championship Sunday at Florida's Bradenton Country Club. Korda's wire-to-wire win was secured on the second hole of a playoff against Lydia Ko.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Nelly Korda rallied to win the LPGA Drive On Championship, her hometown event, and delay Lydia Ko's entry to the LPGA Hall of Fame, outlasting the 26-year-old New Zealander on the second hole of a playoff after overcoming a three-stroke deficit with an eagle-birdie finish Sunday at Bradenton Country Club.

In calmer conditions after wind gusts to 30 mph, Korda won with a four-foot par putt on the par-4 18th after Ko's five-footer caught the lip and spun out. It wound up going down as the first wire-to-wire win of the 25-year-old American's career, even if didn't exactly feel like it.

"I seem to always make it very dramatic and interesting," Korda said. "So there is no better feeling than to do it in front of a home crowd. What a day!"

Ko won the season-opening Tournament of Champions last weekend at home in Orlando for her 20th tour victory to move within a point of the 27 needed to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame. Each regular tour win is worth a point.

"It's kind of like, 'What can you do?'" said Ko, one of just seven players with 20 LPGA victories before turning 27. "We played our hearts out until the very end, and we put ourself into the playoff. I tried my best out there."

Four strokes ahead of Ko after the third round, Korda closed with a 2-over-par 73 to match her at 11-under 273 for 72 holes. Ko, playing in the group ahead of Korda, also eagled the par-5 17th in a 69.

Korda dropped four strokes in a three-hole stretch — making a bogey on the par-4 14th, a double bogey on the par-3 15th and a bogey on the par-4 16th — before rallying with the eagle putt across the green on 17 and an approach to a foot on 18.

"Gosh, I thought that the tournament was over going into 17," Korda said. "I just kind of gave myself a chance. I knew that if I rolled that eagle in, I had to birdie the last."

On the first extra trip down 18, Korda missed a 12-foot birdie try from the back fringe after Ko got up and down for par after hitting to the grandstand wall over the green.

"Every win has a story," Korda said. "This one was definitely — just with the struggles of last year and just with today as well, I thought I completely lost it."

Soon after the victory, she talked to her sister Jessica, a fellow LPGA player who is close to giving birth to her first child: "She was like, 'I thought you were going to send me into labor.'"

Ko three-putted after leaving her 30-foot birdie putt short.

"Other than that, I don't feel like I lost the tournament," said Ko, a two-time major champion and a former No. 1 in the Women's World Golf Rankings. "I made a great eagle on 17, great par on 18, and then Nelly just went eagle as well and then birdied the last."

Feeding off the home crowd, Korda picked up her ninth LPGA Tour victory and first since the 2022 Pelican Women's Championship, another Florida event and played about an hour south of Bradenton.

"I think even when I was down, they were so, so positive and keeping me in it," Korda said of Sunday's support. "It was such a grind out there, so back and forth. I felt like I never really got anything going. I just can't even believe it right now."

Megan Khang was third at 8 under after a 72, while Lucy Li (69) and Ayaka Furue (73) were another stroke back in fourth.

After the two Florida events to open the 2024 schedule, the tour takes a break until resuming Feb. 22 with the Honda LPGA Thailand, the start of a three-tournament Asia swing.

Olesen runs away

RAS AL KHAIMAH, United Arab Emirates — Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen extended his overnight lead to win the DP World Tour's Ras Al Khaimah Championship by six shots over countryman Rasmus Hojgaard.

The 34-year-old Olesen closed with a 5-under 67 to finish at 27-under 261, clinching his eighth victory on the Europe-based circuit and first since the Thailand Classic last February.

On Sunday at Al Hamra Golf Club, Olesen had five birdies to go with an eagle on the par-5 eighth, with his only blip a double bogey on the second hole of the day, where he needed four shots to reach the green.

His second-round 62 on Friday tied the course record and is the lowest score so far in the 2023-24 season.

"It's very special," said Olesen, who praised Hojgaard. "You've got one of the most solid players right behind you, so I knew it was going to be tough."

Hojgaard's closing 69 helped him avoid sharing second place with France's Frederic Lacroix (68), who was alone in third at 20 under. Five players shared fourth at 17 under.

This was the third straight DP World Tour event held in the United Arab Emirates, after the Dubai Invitational and the Dubai Desert Classic. The circuit moves on from the UAE but remains in the Middle East with the Bahrain Championship, which starts Thursday.

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