South Pines, NC – Nelly Korda closed.
Like really closed.
It’s Saturday in US Women’s Open, but it could be anywhere in the world. At the moment, there is Nelly Korda and there is a task at hand. nothing else.
She walks in long, measured strides, her shoes piercing the ground with precision indicating that there is an advantage to be gained from the ground beneath them.
Suddenly, she turned and took two more cautious steps forward, extended her hand down and pulled out a small piece of grass.
She rubs her thumb on her index finger, watching emotionlessly as blades of grass fall behind her.
The wind is now blowing over the fifth hole in the Pine Needles, and it’s time for Nelly to charge up.
Star Nelly Korda’s status has been restricted, up to this point, within the confines of women’s golf. before you are Nelly, was the most recent adolescent phenomenon; half of the brilliant sister duo in the LPGA; Winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship; A on world number 1.
But at the US Women’s Open, her stardom has clearly changed. There are quite a few theories about the catalyst – the gold medal victory in Tokyo, the four wins in 2021, the gold medal winning Forbes ’30 Under 30 Honors – But it’s not hard to see the reaction.
The squadron around Korda in Pine Needles on Saturday afternoon bore a very different character than the fairs that came before (or after) it. Fans pressed ropes for a photo, shouted her name as she walked, and followed her through showrooms that looked (and sounded) a lot like those following the biggest stars in the men’s game.
“It was really cool,” Korda said afterwards. “Honestly, super special. I don’t think I’ve had that big of a following for me at the Women’s Open or in general on Saturday, not even in the last two.”
For the game’s biggest player at its biggest event, the fans’ reaction was amazing. It was also poignant, considering that just a few months ago, you wondered the next time you’d hear anything about them at all.
It was a rainy morning in mid-March, the Friday of the Players Championship, when Korda’s arm began to swell. She called her doctor who advised her to visit the emergency room as a precaution.
Not long after, it was Korda He was diagnosed with a blood clot in her subclavian vein. Doctors advised her that she would have to undergo surgery to remove the clot, which would take her away from golf for the foreseeable future.
Rehabilitating the injury for three months, she slowly got back into shape at her Florida home with the help of her swing trainer, Jimmy Mulligan. Finally, in late May, she said Share Instagram announcing her return.
“See you guys @uswomensopen next week.”
Korda arrived in North Carolina with uncertain expectations. Her rhythm felt good, but she hasn’t played a tournament round in over four months. She did her best to accept the unknown, sealing her Yards book with “Be proud. Be you.” and “Chen Up, you’ve got this!”
Once the play began, Nelly was her regular old self-smashing motors and smoothing irons with her blissful, quiet swings. Well, except for one thing. As her infamous intensity returned, a new sense of purpose joined her.
“I’m glad to be here,” she said. “I’m doing what I love and I’m very competitive here at the US Women’s Open, and a couple of months ago I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. So I’m just grateful.”
She played her inaugural round third, and on Saturday entered the Pine Needles on the fray.
After a birdie in the first, Korda started a long walk from the club. It wasn’t long before her meticulous steps brought her to the furthest point on the property: the tee box at No. 5.
The 188 yard par-3 is beefy, and on Saturday it plays in heavy winds. Most competitors played hybrid or wood off the tee, but not Nelly. She’s stuck between irons, and when Andrea Lee’s shot falls off the pitch, she decides.
Pick up her club and have a low-key conversation with her Jason McDiddy, her box. In the end, the two of them came to an agreement, and Nelly carefully placed her ball on the floor. Her eyes close to the target as her focus increases.
Softly, she steps onto the ball, pulling her batons to ankle height before returning them to their spot in the title. Then, with one slash, I finally called. The ball pierces the air, darting slightly towards the left rear flagpole.
Its only emotional flash is the clubworm, which returns the blade to its hip. She loves him.
Eventually, the ball returns to the ground about 10 feet from the flagpole. The crowd breaks out. Without staring at her, Nellie picks up her tee from the ground and hands her wand to McDede.
Saturday will not end Nelly in charge. She makes a birdie on day 5 and eventually climbs all the way to 7 under – just a few hits out of the lead – but three in a row closes her round in a moan. Entering Sunday’s nine-stroke from behind, her championship hopes are dimmer enough.
When she got to the recording area, she was still frustrated with the way her tour ended. But a large part of it is cheerful. Here she is, playing the biggest tournament in women’s golf, realizing in real time that it’s the biggest attraction of her sport in quite some time.
Does Nelly Korda enjoy the challenge?
“Yes, I definitely do,” she said, flashing a smile. “I didn’t really enjoy the challenge of the last three holes, but I do, yeah.”
Perhaps a better question is: which one?
There is not a lot of Korda I can not an act. In just a few short years, she became the highest-rated golfer in the world, won a major tournament, grabbed the attention of millions, and became a global celebrity… and she’s still only 23 years old.
If there is one constant in her life, it is her ability to decipher the words we used to define her. So maybe it’s time we stop limiting ourselves to words like “woman,” and start calling Nelly Korda what she is.
The next golf star.