Nelly Korda wins Chevron Championship for five in a row that deserves wider acclaim

Home » Nelly Korda wins Chevron Championship for five in a row that deserves wider acclaim

Nelly Korda has done her bit, now it is time for golf to step up and make the most of her extraordinary talents.

By claiming a second major title, with victory at last Sunday’s Chevron Championship in Texas, the 25-year-old American equalled the LPGA Tour record of five consecutive wins.

Korda has moved alongside legends Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-5) by achieving such a phenomenal feat of dominance. Nancy, Annika and now Nelly – golfing athletes instantly identified for superstar status by their first name.

Yet, the question remains over how much impact beyond the golfing world will Korda’s run of success generate?

  • ‘Exhausted’ Korda pulls out of next LPGA Tour event

It really should mark her out as one of the sporting greats of our time – as should the enduring winning streak of Scottie Scheffler in the men’s game.

Here we have two golfers whose performances should catch the eye of the general sporting audience, not just golf fans.

But their wins have coincided with a consistent fall in TV audiences for the sport across the United States of America – golf’s biggest marketplace.

Both Korda and Masters winner Scheffler are producing extraordinary excellence that should prompt wider acclaim. Fresh from donning the Augusta Green Jacket, Scheffler won a Tartan Jacket by following up with a convincing win at the RBC Heritage.

This after wins at Bay Hill, the Players and a runner-up finish in Houston for the tall Dallas-based star, who is a class above the rest in the men’s game.

We can say the same of reigning Olympic champion Korda. She proved it by confirming the air of destiny that followed her throughout a tumultuous week here in Texas.

To reach this point she has needed to recover from serious health issues, including a blood clot in her arm in early 2022, the year after her maiden major win at the KPMG PGA.

Golf became a relegated priority. “Then I was just more scared for my health,” Korda admitted.

“Competing was kind of on the backseat. I was not thinking about competing at all.

“But I think all of the sad times and the health scares that I have gone through have made me who I am today.

“I think it has matured me a lot, it’s shaped me into the person I am today, and I’m grateful for the ups and downs.”

At the Chevron, she was always in control despite finding herself on the tougher side of the draw for the first two rounds. In Thursday’s first circuit she defied tricky, strengthening winds to birdie four of the last six holes to surge into immediate contention.

Her name remained resolute on leaderboards throughout the rest of the tournament. The Tokyo gold medallist needed to get up at 04:00 local time to complete her third round on Sunday morning and she began the closing 18 holes just one shot off the lead.

The cool gusty winds of that final day played into her hands, such is the quality of her ball striking and exceptional composure. None of her rivals currently have the same capacity to golf their ball to her level.

This was best illustrated on the final hole at Carlton Woods near Houston where Korda was one of the very few capable of holding the green with her second shot on that closing par five.

It was straight down wind; the putting surface was rock solid despite the stormy saturation that had curtailed play in mid afternoon the previous day.

Korda was feeling the pressure. History was on the line. “I was really nervous on that back nine,” she admitted. “I really, really wanted this win.”

She needed to wait an age to hit her second shot. The pace of play – like at the Masters – was glacial and the world number one is a refreshingly quick player.

Eventually it was time to hit and she struck a beauty, inspecting the club to see the ball mark smack in the middle of its face as she walked after her shot.

At last she could smile. She had three putts for the record-equalling win and her 13th LPGA title. She only needed two.

“It’s been an amazing feeling knowing that I can go on this stretch and that if I stay in my bubble and I keep golf simple, then I can have so, so much fun out here,” she said.

“To get five in a row, and my lucky number is 13, and for me to get it here in Houston and it to be a major feels even better.”

Less uplifting was the conversation I had with my taxi driver on the way back from the course. “So, has there been a tournament?” he enquired.

He was not alone. I had to explain what was happening in this leafy part of the Woodlands to all but one of the dozen or so drivers who ferried me to and from the course last week.

It was not a scientific poll, admittedly, but it was one of a number of sobering reminders of golf’s failure to cut through to the masses, even when history is on the line.

Minutes before Korda began her quest last Thursday, US television coverage turned away from Texas to show the first round of the men’s PGA Tour event in Georgia. The Chevron switched to niche cable.

In the media centre that afternoon there was a long period where we were watching Rory McIlroy and Ludvig Åberg in a featured group at the Heritage rather than the top draw at the event we were covering.

And despite the fact that we had US majors in consecutive weeks, I was seemingly the only reporter to cover both events on site.

This might seem like insular golf media evidence, but how can the women’s game be elevated without proper coverage?

The TV networks’ investment is threadbare compared with the men’s output. They do not have the resources to provide additional footage to mask the debilitating effects of slow play in the way that those covering the Masters were able to do.

And for those who feel women’s sport can never hit the same heights as male counterparts, they should maybe consider the impact of Caitlin Clark in basketball.

As previously noted, the WNBAs first draft helped generate TV ratings twice those of the Masters in a college game.

We are in a big moment for women’s sport and, in Nelly Korda, golf has a superstar to capitalise. Now is the time for the game as a whole to embrace this challenge.

And if it does, the future should be very bright for emerging talent behind Korda.

Prominent among those has to be British amateur Lottie Woad – who tied compatriots Charley Hull and Georgia Hall to finish one under par in a tie for 23rd on her major debut.

“It’s been a crazy, whirlwind few weeks,” said the 20-year-old from Farnham, who thrillingly won the Masters curtain-raising Augusta National Women’s Amateur to earn her place into the Chevron field.

Woad added that comparing her game up close with professionals and “not being too far off” was heartening for her.

She is a hugely impressive prospect, a terrific ball striker and so secure on the greens.

“She has something special about her; a typically British reserve but a strong inner confidence,” former Women’s Open champion Karen Stupples told me.

Woad goes back to the college game now, but returns to the major stage at the US Open in late May.

Let’s hope people will be watching. Korda’s feats mean there should be no excuses.

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