U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Daily Digest: Korda Reels Off Five Straight Birdies July 7, 2016 | San Martin, Calif. By Ron Driscoll and David Shefter, USGA

Nelly Korda rallied from a rough start to post an even-par 72 on Thursday, thanks to five consecutive birdies on her second nine. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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Despite her relatively young age (17), Nelly Korda knows better than to let a rocky start ruin her week in the 71st U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle.

“I’m a bit more comfortable, a bit more at ease,” said Korda, who turned professional in February and competes on the Symetra Tour.

Korda, of Bradenton, Fla., four-putted her opening hole of the championship, the par-4 10th, for a double bogey, and she was 5 over through her first eight holes of the day. But the younger sister of 23-year-old LPGA Tour star Jessica Korda gathered herself and took heart from the consecutive pars she made on holes 18 and 1. Then she really got it going, with birdies on five straight holes – from Nos. 2 to  6 – en route to an even-par round of 72.

“On the 18th hole, I hit every shot well, including a wedge shot in really close,” said Korda. “I did the same thing on No. 1, so I told myself, I’m hitting the fairways, I’m hitting the greens and I’m hitting it close. It’s going to go in when it goes in.”

It didn’t take long for Korda’s premonition to come true. She knocked her approach shot to within a foot on the difficult par-4 second, and blasted a bunker shot to a foot on the par-5 third after going for the green in two. She converted a tricky downhill 6-footer for birdie on the par-3 third, then converted consecutive 6-footers on holes 5 and 6 after precise wedge shots to bring herself back to even par for the day.

“That stretch of holes really pumped me up and kept me going,” said Korda, who matched Sei Young Kim’s stretch of five consecutive birdies in last year’s championship at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club. “It helps me to be playing with professionals. I’m a bit more comfortable – I know I can shoot a low score and come back.”

In the early going, CordeValle seems to be lending itself to low scoring.

“I really like the golf course – standing on some of the tee boxes, the scenery is breathtaking,” said Korda, who tied for 64th in her only previous Women’s Open start in 2013. “It seems to suit everyone’s eye.”

Tee-to-Green Perfection

Since the USGA began keeping statistical date in 1986, no player had ever hit 18 greens in regulation in a U.S. Women’s Open – until Thursday.

Anna Nordqvist, 29, of Sweden, who is the oldest winner of a 2016 LPGA Tour event (Shop-Rite Classic), hit every green at CordeValle en route to a 4-under 68.

This kind of ball-striking might not be much of a surprise to regular followers of women’s golf. Nordqvist is third on the LPGA Tour in greens in regulation (77.7 percent), trailing only Ha Na Jang (80.1) and Lexi Thompson (78.7).

After the Meijer LPGA Classic in mid-June, Nordqvist spent eight days completely away from the game in her native Sweden. She returned refreshed, but admittedly a bit rusty for last week’s event in Portland, Ore., where she tied for 13th.

“I worked hard with my coach, Jorge Parada, last week and I feel like my game is in really good shape,” said Nordqvist, a six-time LPGA Tour winner, including one major championship, the 2009 McDonald’s LPGA Championship. “I just have to keep doing what I am doing. I am sure the USGA has something in store for us [over the next three rounds].”

Quotable

“I feel very, very old. I played some practice rounds with the college girls. And when I start not knowing who the college coaches are, that's when you know you're old.” – Brittany Lang, 30, asked about the influx of young players on the LPGA Tour.

Christina Kim, on overhauling her swing: “My father took a look at everything and was like, we’ve got to change this. So I've made a huge overhaul. Plus I turned 32 this year, and my dad said, ‘You played pretty good when you were 16, so why don't you pretend you’re only half your age when you’re on the golf course.’”

Anna Nordqvist, on being the oldest winner on the LPGA Tour in 2016 at age 28: “I did get a lot of comments about options for retirement homes and stuff like that after winning. The level of talent out here is just unbelievable. I’m just stunned with Lydia Ko and she’s 19, and Brooke Henderson, she’s 18 and they are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. I wasn’t anywhere near that level of play at that age. I’ve just got to keep it up to keep up with the young ones.”

By the Numbers

Mirim Lee was the only player to birdie all four par 5s in the first round.

Amy Yang (67) has posted scores in the 60s in six of her last eight U.S. Women’s Open rounds.

Minjee Lee holed a pitching wedge from 102 yards for an eagle on the par-4 sixth hole. It was one of three eagles for the day: Melissa Reid and Jade Schaeffer both eagled the par-5 15th hole.

If Albane Valenzuela (70) makes the cut, she will be the first player from Switzerland to do so since Carole Charbonnier in 1984.

Moriya Jutanugarn (69) was the only player to shoot a bogey-free round on Thursday.

CordeValle played 1.84 strokes more difficult for the afternoon wave (75.28) than the morning wave (73.44). 


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