ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
AP photo by John Bazemore / Nelly Korda kisses the trophy after winning the KPMG Women's PGA Championship on Sunday in Johns Creek, Ga.

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — First came the tears when Nelly Korda hugged her older sister and didn't want to let go. That was followed by the spray of champagne on the 18th green to celebrate a day that will be hard for her to top even at age 22.

With one round, she became a major champion for the first time and reached No. 1 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.

"Is this week even real?" Korda said. "It's amazing."

Just like her performance Sunday in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Korda powered her way to a pair of eagles that wore down Lizette Salas at Atlanta Athletic Club and put an American atop the world ranking for the first time in seven years.

Korda nearly holed out with a 7-wood shot from 243 yards for a tap-in eagle. She seized control by using her length from that graceful swing, leaving her a 6-iron into the par-5 12th hole that narrowly cleared the water and set up an eight-foot eagle putt. The final stroke was a 15-foot par putt for a 4-under-par 68 and a three-shot victory over Salas (71).

"The past few days, the battle with Lizette, it's been a lot of fun. It's been stressful. I think it's had everything," Korda said. "But I just can't believe it. I'm still in shock."

At 19-under 269, Korda tied the Women's PGA record to par last matched by Inbee Park at Westchester Country Club in 2015. Korda won for the second straight week — and secured her third LPGA Tour victory this year — and it was enough to become the first U.S. woman at No. 1 since Stacy Lewis in 2014. South Korea's Jin Young Ko had held the No. 1 spot for nearly two years.

Korda's older sister, Jessica, was among the first to embrace her on the 18th green as the emotions began to emerge. Jessica finished much earlier — they shared a hug as Nelly was teeing off and Jessica was making the turn — though the older sister had another reason to celebrate: She easily held down the fourth American spot for the Olympics in Japan.

It was a big celebration for one of the top sporting families in the world. The Korda sisters each have six LPGA victories. Their younger brother, Sebastian, is at Wimbledon this week as the 50th-ranked player in men's tennis and has a chance to join them in Tokyo for the Olympics next month.

Their father is Petr Korda, who won an Australian Open singles title in 1998.

"You don't realize it until someone really talks about it because we're always so in the zone," Nelly said of the family success. "We're always just striving to achieve more, and for our family just to back each other through every situation ... it's so surreal."

Korda and Salas started the final round tied for the lead, five clear of anyone else.

"She played great, and there's nothing I could have done differently to change her game plan, and that says a lot about her," Salas said. "I'm just lucky she's on the American side for that Solheim Cup."

Korda is the first American to win a major since Angela Stanford three years ago in the Evian Championship, and it continued a big year for U.S. women's golf. Americans have won six times on the LPGA Tour this season. South Korea and Thailand are next with two victories apiece.

 

Stricker wins another major

AKRON, Ohio — Steve Stricker won the Bridgestone Seniors Players Championship at difficult Firestone Country Club for his second victory of the year and third major title.

Eight strokes ahead in the third round and four in front entering the final round, Stricker closed with a par round of 70 for a six-stroke victory over Jerry Kelly, his friend from Wisconsin who was trying to repeat as champion.

"It was so hard," Stricker said. "It's so hard to have a lead. And then to play with a friend, Jerry, out there, basically it's his home course. This is exactly what he grew up on in Madison, Wisconsin. He plays well here. I could tell that he was playing well and I'm just trying to hang on. It's tough to play when you're not that aggressive, but I'm happy. It was a tough fight."

Stricker finished at 7-under 273 on the South Course. The U.S. Ryder Cup captain opened with a 63, shot 68 in the second round and 72 in the third.

Kelly bogeyed four of the last five holes in a 72. He was coming off a victory two weeks ago in the American Family Insurance Championship, the tour event that Stricker runs in their hometown of Madison.

"Just a good golf course," Kelly said. "I mean, to shoot even par when you've got a lead like that, that's tough. I would have had to shoot 4 under to catch him."

Stricker rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 fourth with birdies on the par-4 sixth, par-3 seventh and par-4 ninth to make the turn at 9 under. He dropped strokes on the back nine on the par-4 11th and 13th.

He won the Chubb Classic in April in Florida, then squandered leads in the first two senior majors of the year, falling to Alex Cejka in the Regions Tradition in Alabama and the Senior PGA Championship in Oklahoma.

"I knew that I had the lead in the other two and didn't come away with a victory in either one of them," Stricker said. "It was even harder because I had that in the back of my mind, so it means even more that I was able to come out on top."

Stricker has has seven senior victories after winning 12 times on the PGA Tour. He earned a spot in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass next March.

"Looking forward to that," Stricker said. "I got in this year on Thursday morning, so next year I get a little more practice and prep. Looking forward to that. It's always fun to go to The Players Championship."

Fred Couples shot a 67 to tie for third with David Toms (70) at par. Ernie Els (72) was fifth at 2 over, and Jim Furyk (73) was another stroke back.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT