Korda focusing on inspiration rather than expectation

Mark McGowan

Nelly Korda (Darren Carroll/USGA)

Mark McGowan

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Nelly Korda arrives at the Chevron Championship – the first women’s major of 2024 – as the number one player in the women’s game, the number one player in the LPGA’s Race to CME Globe rankings, and the red-hot favourite to land her fifth consecutive PGA Tour title and second major championship in the process.

But despite the soaring expectations, she insists that it’s a positive rather than a negative.

“No, it’s an inspiration,” she told the media in her pre-tournament press conference. “I’m hopefully inspiring the next generation and hopefully it promotes the game. Hopefully we continue to climb up.”

But she’s aware of the fickle nature of the game and how quickly you can go from being on top of the world to searching for your game.

“Yeah, in 2021 I went on a run, and then in 2022 and 2023 golf really humbled me,” she said. “I think they’re sports; there are ups and downs. Every athlete goes through the rollercoaster, and that is what makes the sport so great. You mature and grow so much and learn more about yourself.

“You never take these weeks for granted. You always try to appreciate and become very grateful for them. It makes just all the hard work so worth it. But I think I’ve learned so much about myself even through the losses.”

Korda, famously, comes from high-achieving sporting stock; her father, Petr, was a Grand Slam winning tennis player, reaching a high of number two in the world, her mother was also a professional tennis player whose best world ranking was 26, sister Jessica is also a professional golfer and brother Sebastian has followed in his parents’ footsteps and is currently ranked 26 on the ATP rankings.

And having parents who’ve also both experienced the highs and lows of sporting achievement has provided her with a unique blueprint as to how to handle life as a professional athlete.

“Just to enjoy every second of it,” she replied when asked what their advice on navigating this purple patch was. “Careers go by really fast and there are so many highs and lows in a career. To just be grateful about it all and very humble.”

Only twice has anybody won five consecutive LPGA Tour events – Nancy Lopez in 1978 and Annika Sørenstam back in 2005, and there would be a certain symmetry with the latter should Korda become the third player to achieve the feat since Sørenstam’s fifth win came at the Kraft Nabisco Championship – the event that the Chevron Championship has replaced as the first major of the season.

But winning four tournaments in a row is naturally exhausting, so the week’s break following the Bank of Hope matchplay where she took down specialist Leona Maguire in the final match was like a gift from the gods.

“Yeah, last week I was so tired,” she admitted. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that tired. I would wake up and I was ready to go back to bed but I couldn’t. It’s almost to the point where you just can’t sleep; you’re just overly tired.

“Made sure to prioritize any rest. My parents are on top of me to not overdo it. I always want to practice more, do more to be better. So made sure to prioritize my rest and making sure to go to sleep early and sleeping a lot, too. That’s the number one thing for recovery.

“Overall this week I feel really good.”

And that’s an ominous sign for the other leading contenders.

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