All eyes on Korda as elite women prepare to take on Lancaster CC

Mark McGowan

Nelly Korda (Darren Carroll/USGA)

Mark McGowan

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She may not have made it six from six and set a new consecutive wins record on the LPGA Tour when she finished tied for seventh at the Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey, but another win at neighbouring Liberty National sees Nelly Korda hop across state lines to Lancaster in Pennsylvania looking to make it two from two in the 2024 majors and further stake her claim as the most dominant force that women’s golf has ever seen.

The U.S. Women’s Open is the longest running of the five ladies’ majors, and the most prestigious by a distance, and with a Women’s PGA Championship and the Chevron Championship to her name already, victory would put her over the halfway mark on her journey to the career grand slam, something that only six women have previously managed, the last being Annika Sorenstam who achieved the feat in 2003.

And in many ways, the course sets up perfectly for Korda who is one of the longer hitters in the women’s game and has been driving the ball immaculately all season. At 6,600 yards and a par of 71, it will be among the longest golf courses ever to host a women’s major – the longest was Broadmoor East in Colorado Springs which hosted the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, but due to the elevation, it played closer to 6,300 yards and was a par-72. Early indications are that the greens will be firm and fast, so long and straight off the tee – which is never a bad combination – will provide an even bigger advantage than it typically does.

But it’s never quite that simple, and though she’s handled the weight of expectation extremely well to this point, she’s got a large target on her back and the cream of the women’s game taking aim.

Rose Zhang, who won the Cognizant Founders Cup, is the second favourite with the bookmakers and with a full year under her belt since turning pro and winning in dramatic fashion in her first professional start, will fancy her chances, as will Atthaya Thitikul and Brooke Henderson, both of whom pushed Korda all the way at Carlton Woods in the year’s first major.

Australian Hannah Green is the only other player to have notched two victories in 2024, and is up to a career high of fifth in the world rankings, while disappointingly, world number two Lilia Vu remains sidelined with a back injury.

As always, Irish hopes rest mainly upon Leona Maguire’s shoulders, though the Cavan star has struggled for consistency in 2024, following up her runner-up finish at the LPGA Matchplay with a missed cut at the Chevron Championship, a T12 finish at the Cognizant, and then another ‘MC’ at Liberty National.

That being said, the tougher the course, the better for Maguire and though the USGA have yet to court the same level of controversy with course set up at the Women’s Open as they have at the men’s equivalent, we can still expect the winning score to be in single digits under-par and she’ll always have a chance.

Stephanie Meadow arrives with back-to-back missed cuts in her last two starts, and also sat out the weekend here in 2015, though she had turned pro just over a year previous before going on to post a career best solo third at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.

The wildcard for the Irish will again be amateur Aine Donegan, who made a big name for herself with her exploits at Pebble Beach in last year’s Open and earned her way into the field this year by topping the qualifier at Rockwall last month.

She’s keeping expectations to a minimum, and it’s a huge ask for any amateur to mix it with seasoned pros on the biggest of stages, but she’s proven that she’s got the game to shake things up and after winning the hearts of the crowds in California, who’d bet against another fine showing this week?

She’ll be the first of the trio of Irish girls to get their tournaments underway when she joins Korean So Mi Lee and the United States’ Yealimi Noh on the first tee at 12:29 Irish time, while Maguire is paired with fellow Solheim Cup star Madelene Sagstrom and Thai sensation Patty Tavatanakit at 13:13 on hole number one.

Korda goes off at the same time as Maguire, but she starts her round on the 10th alongside fellow American Megan Khang and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, while Meadow plays in the penultimate threeball to start on the first, playing with Germany’s Esther Henseleit and Mi Hyang Lee of Korea at 17:31.


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