Golf roundup: Nelly Korda wins third straight LPGA Tour start

AP photo by Ross D. Franklin / Nelly Korda hits a tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round of the LPGA Tour's Ford Championship on Sunday in Gilbert, Ariz.
AP photo by Ross D. Franklin / Nelly Korda hits a tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round of the LPGA Tour's Ford Championship on Sunday in Gilbert, Ariz.

GILBERT, Ariz. — Nelly Korda won her hometown event in a playoff after an eagle-birdie finish in late January. She withstood brutal wind in Southern California to win in another playoff last week.

The world's top-ranked women's golfer made it three straight by staying steady through a soggy Sunday in the desert.

Korda became the first LPGA Tour player in eight years to win three straight starts, shooting a 7-under-par 65 to rally for for a two-stroke victory in the Ford Championship.

"It's very hard mentally to be 100%, especially after a win, especially playing in tough conditions," Korda said. "So as boring as it sounds, I was just taking it shot by shot and seeing where I was going to end up. To get three in a row, that's just a dream come true."

Korda won the Drive On Championship in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, back in the winter before sitting out all of the LPGA Tour's Asian swing. She was still sharp after a seven-week break, winning the Seri Pak Championship in a playoff last week near Los Angeles to move back atop the world ranking.

Korda stayed steady through four days in the desert, entering the final round two shots back through weather that got progressively worse at Seville Golf and Country Club.

She nearly holed out her second shot on the short par-4 16th to take the lead and made a birdie on No. 18 to finish at 20-under 268 in the 72-hole event for her 11th career LPGA victory. The 25-year-old is the first LPGA Tour player to win three straight starts since Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016 and the first American to do so since Nancy Lopez won five straight in 1978.

"Just honestly feels like a blur," Korda said. "Taking it day by day, really trying to stay very present, and just played really good golf, solid golf in tough conditions today, which I'm very happy about."

Australian rookie Hira Naveed was in position to tie Korda after hitting her second shot just right of the par-5 18th, but an indifferent chip led to a par. The former Pepperdine player shot a 66 to finish second in her second career start.

Lexi Thompson briefly shared the lead and was within a shot through 15 holes in her bid to win for the first time since 2019. The 29-year-old from Florida hit driver on the 16th and sent it way right into the water, leading to a bogey.

Thompson also missed a short par putt on No. 17 before closing with a two-putt birdie on 18 to shoot 68. She finished in a five-way tie for fourth at 17 under.

"It was crazy conditions, but it was almost just like it gets to where it's mental when it comes to these kind of conditions," Thompson said. "You just have to stay positive with it and know that pars are a good score. If you have a good number, take advantage of it: Try to shoot for the pin and make some birdies."

Temperatures dropped dramatically and steady rain fell most of the final round, adding a layer of difficulty at a tournament that started with two days of record-setting scores. The inclement weather did little to slow the leaders down, with four players tied for the lead and 11 within two shots early on the back nine.

"Just tried to stay really aggressive, and I knew I had to shoot a low one to be in contention," Korda said "Just played really smart golf out there today."

Goosen is good enough in the end

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Retief Goosen hit into the water on the par-5 18th hole but saved par to win the PGA Tour Champions' Galleri Classic with a 3-under 69 — and plenty of help from the blunders of Steven Alker.

Goosen and Alker were tied for the lead going to the final hole at Mission Hills Country Club. Goosen was on the edge of a bunker and hit a 4-iron shot so thin that the ball splashed twice in the water that surrounds the 18th green on the Dinah Shore Tournament course.

Instead of laying up, Alker also chose to go for the green. His 5-iron shot narrowly cleared the pond, but the ball bounced back into the water. He pitched onto the green and missed his par putt.

Goosen took his penalty drop, hit a wedge shot that left the ball eight feet from the cup and rolled in the par putt for a one-shot victory he never saw coming. It was the 55-year-old South African's third career win on the 50-and-older tour.

On the par-3 17th, Goosen was in a bunker left of the green and hit out to four feet to save par. Alker had a lengthy birdie putt that he rammed some 10 feet by and three-putted.

"I'm glad it flipped my way," Goosen said.

Goosen said his ball was sitting nicely in grass near the edge of the bunker. He was first to play and wanted to put pressure on Alker, torn between a 5-iron and a 4-iron. He went for the longer club to be safe, and it didn't work out the way he imagined — in so many ways.

"The ball was a little bit above my feet and the ball was sitting up so nicely," Goosen said. "I was in between a 5 and a 4, and I thought I'll just hit a smooth 4 and completely thinned it."

No worries. Instead of laying up short of the water and leaving a short wedge for his third, Alker followed him into the water.

"I thought Steve was going to lay up and just go from there," Goosen said. "When he hit it in the water, it was a bit of a shock."

Alker did not regret his decision — he said the ball was sitting up perfectly in the light rough, and that a solid 5-iron should have been enough — though he knew the execution was lacking.

"Just got a little high on the face, and just kind of come out soft," Alker said.

Goosen finished the 54-hole event at 13-under 203.

Ricardo Gonzalez, who had a one-shot lead at the start, was tied for the lead until taking a bogey after a drive into a fairway bunker on the 16th, and then making bogey from the bunker on the par-3 17th. But his birdie on the 18th gave him a 71 and moved him into a share of second place with Alker and Alex Cejka (68).

First win for Japanese rookie

NEW DELHI — Keita Nakajimachose to focus on the Europe-based DP World Tour instead of a smaller American circuit and made the decision pay off when the Japanese player closed with a 1-over 73 to win the Indian Open.

Nakajima had a two-shot lead to start the final round at DLF Golf and Country Club and made four birdies in the opening eight holes. That stretched his lead to nine shots, and then it was only a matter of finishing. He shot 40 on the back nine and still won by four for his first victory on the DP World Tour.

"The win definitely gives me a lot of confidence in myself, and hoping now to take what I did this week and turn it into even more wins in the future," Nakajima said.

Nakajima, whose 87 weeks as No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking are more than anyone, won for the fourth time in the past 10 months. The other three were on the Japan Golf Tour last year and enabled him to win the Order of Merit.

Finishing as No. 1 in his home country gave the 23-year-old Nakajima a DP World Tour card, along with status on the Korn Ferry Tour, which feeds the PGA Tour. The victory moves him to No. 13 in the Race to Dubai — the season-long points race for the DP World Tour — and No. 9 among those who do not already have PGA Tour status. The leading 10 players after the season get PGA Tour cards.

Veer Ahlawat (71), Sebastian Soderberg (67) and Johannes Veerman (67) tied for second.

No one had a serious chance at winning the way Nakajima started, and his only frustration was the way he finished. He made a double bogey on the 14th hole, bounced back with a birdie, then closed with three straight bogeys to finish the 72-hole tournament at 17-under 271.

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