Nelly Korda Claims First Major Title at Women's PGA
NELLY KORDA landed the first major of her career and moved to world number one with a three-shot win at the Women's PGA Championship in Atlanta. The 22-year-old started the final day level with fellow American Lizette Salas at the top of the leaderboard.
However, Korda had two eagles in a four-under final round of 68 as she won on 19 under, with Salas recording a 71.
"I've put in a lot of hard work and to finally get a major championship... I don't even have the words," Korda said.
The decisive hole was the par-five 12th, which Korda played in three shots, while Salas signed for a bogey six to fall four shots adrift. And although Korda had a double-bogey five at the par-three 15th, Salas was unable to close the gap further, finishing with six straight pars and a total of 16 under. Italy's Giulia Molinaro and Kim Hyo-joo of South Korea finished a further six shots behind on 10 under.
Korda's older sister Jessica finish tied for 15th at four under, alongside a clutch of players including Ireland's Leona Maguire, who fired a closing 71. English pair Georgia Hall and Charley Hull were a further shot back.
First-round leader Salas was overtaken with a tournament record-equalling nine-under-par 63 from Korda in Friday's second round and the pair found themselves tied for the lead after Saturday's play.
The victory for Korda, daughter of former Czech tennis player Petr Korda, came a week after her fifth career win at the Meijer Classic. "I had a great week last week and carried the momentum into this week," she said. "This is something I have worked for since I was 14, since I played in my first tournament I wanted to be a major champion and to get it done here, it's really special.
"Lizette played really well as well, I just tried to keep a level head and take it one shot at a time."
HARRIS ENGLISH won the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands after a record-equalling eight-hole playoff. He defeated the unheralded Kramer Hickok with a 20-foot birdie putt after both players had finished tied on 13 under par.
It took a total of 80 holes to separate the pair. They made birdies for fun during regular play but then each parred seven holes before English finally came out on top. It was his second victory of the season and it takes him to second place in the FedEx Cup standings.
“That was awesome,” English said. “Hats off to Kramer. What a competitor. The fans were unbelievable and I am really glad that we were able to put on a show for them.
"This is a validation win,” added the 31-year-old, who won earlier this year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, his first since 2014. “It took me seven years to win again ... this is a validation of where my game is right now.”
After halving the 17th in pars, they headed to the 18th. From less than 100 yards, English hit a dreadful approach that plugged in a green side bunker. His chance of victory appeared to be gone but, incredibly, he came out to seven feet, holed the putt and on they went to the third playoff hole.
This time it was back to the par-four 17th. Both men found the fairway but left themselves long putts. Hickok ran his first effort more than six feet beyond the cup but showed nerves of steel to make his par. It meant that English had to hole from five feet to keep his hopes alive. And he duly did so.
Off they headed to the 18th again. Driving first, English hit a wild tee shot into the left rough, leaving himself an awkward downhill stance. With Hickok finding the semi-rough, he held the advantage. English found the green but once again left himself a long, difficult putt. From the perfect position, Hickok struck a sand wedge into the greenside bunker. It was beginning to look like this could be a marathon playoff.
The last time there was a playoff at the Travelers, Jordan Spieth famously holed out from the same bunker to win. Hickok had a perfect lie and a simple shot left. But first it was down to English to see if he could put the cat among the pigeons by making an unlikely birdie putt from distance. He made a bold try and secured his par. Hickok’s bunker shot grazed the edge of the hole and ran six feet past. Could he hole yet another putt? Watched by close friend Sam Burns, who won for the first time earlier this season, he produced another nerveless putt.
They headed off to the 17th for the fifth playoff hole. By now, the tension was unbearable. Both players again found the 17th in regulation but English had a difficult downhill putt and left himself another six-footer for par. It looked like it would be redundant as Hickok’s birdie try seemed certain to fall but somehow stayed out. So now the pressure was on English to make his par to keep things going and he was up to it yet again. Five extra holes played, all halved in par.
Back to the 18th again and this time both men found the same fairway bunker. Playing first, Hickok took a touch too much sand and came up short. English had a perfect lie and struck a glorious approach to six feet. Advantage English. And it seemed to be game over when Hickok ran his first effort fully 10 feet past. Unbelievably, he holed that too, leaving English his birdie putt to win. But this time he missed.
They would now keep playing the 438-yard 18th until somebody won. This time English hit a massive drive that found the centre of the fairway. Naturally, Hickok did precisely the same thing, leaving himself 117 yards to the flag. His approach finished about 18 feet away. English had just 80 yards but ended up outside his rival and had to settle for a par. And so did Hickok. And English finally took it with a birdie on the eighth playoff hole.
English won the Tournament of Champions earlier in the year and finished third at the US Open. He is now looking good for a place in Steve Stricker’s US Ryder Cup team. The 31-year-old was striving for his sixth PGA Tour success but there is a sense among his peers that he has failed to live up to his potential. He possesses a languid golf swing, a terrific short game and a wonderful temperament.
Hickok began the week ranked 331st in the world and 139th in the FedEx Cup standings. He had missed 10 cuts in 19 starts. But this was a whole different week.
Earlier, Bubba Watson suffered a dreadful collapse while tied for the lead. The left-hander played the front nine in 32 and was leading at 13 under par when he stood on the 14th tee. Then began a run of bogey, bogey, bogey, double-bogey, bogey as he tumbled to a share of 19th place.
History very nearly repeated itself for Australia’s Marc Leishman. Nine years ago, he went into the final round tied for 20th and six shots off the lead when he arrived at TPC River Highlands. But he shot a 62 to race through the field and win.
And when he shot a final round of 64 to join Watson and Hickok at the top of the leaderboard on 12 under it seemed that he might well do so again but he came up one stroke short. Hickok had shared the 54-hole lead with Watson and closed with a 67, while English shot a magnificent 65, closing with a magnificent birdie putt. Moments later, Hickok did the same thing.
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)