ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Jessica Korda opened the LPGA Tour season last month by winning the Tournament of Champions.
On Sunday, it was Nelly’s turn.
Nelly Korda followed in big sister’s footsteps with a three-shot victory that looked easier than it felt. She seized control with three birdies through six holes, closed with 12 pars and shot a 3-under 69 at Lake Nona to win the Gainbridge LPGA.
“Yeah, Jess’ win, I was like, ‘OK, I got to get one now,’” Korda said. “We were close that one year. She won in Thailand and I was leading in Singapore. But it’s nice to get back-to-back Korda wins now.”
More than just matching her sister, Korda won for the first time on American soil. The other three victories for 22-year-old Nelly were in Australia and twice in Taiwan. It also was the first time she won with her parents watching. Her father, Petr Korda, is a former Australian Open tennis champion.
“I’ve had an amazing week and I made some clutch putts when I needed to and pulled it off,” Korda said.
On the other side of the course, Annika Sorenstam wrapped up her return after more than 12 years of retirement with a par on the ninth hole for a 76, finishing last among the 74 players who made the cut. The 50-year-old Swede was making this one-time appearance because Lake Nona has been her home course for two decades.
“I’m just thankful being here, playing here and being able to make the cut,” Sorenstam said. “I think I never gave up, even though it was not really going my way and I wasn’t hitting as well as I should be to be out here. The purpose was to get some tournament rounds, and I did that.”
She has said she plans to play the U.S. Senior Women’s Open this summer and she’ll need to get sharp, though Sorenstam said preparing for that would not include another LPGA event.
“I have so much respect for these players,” she said.
Sorenstam finished 29 shots behind Korda, who won by three over Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko.
Korda, who finished at 16-under 272, began the final round with a one-shot lead over rookie Patty Tavatanakit, the former UCLA star who fell back quickly and wound up with 74 to tie for fifth.
There wasn’t much drama on the final day. Korda made sure of that with a steady diet of pars and picking up enough birdies when she needed them. That doesn’t mean it was easy.
“Honestly, I did not play very good golf today, and I just stayed really solid,” Korda said. “I don’t even know what I did. It was definitely very stressful.”
Ko, a former world No. 1 trying to end nearly three years without winning, had a 69. Thompson closed with a 68.
Jin Young Ko, the current No. 1, took bogey on the par-5 second hole and dropped too many shots along the way to mount any sort of a rally. She shot 71 and finished fourth.
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