Nelly Korda should be the leading story in golf this year


OCALA, FL. – Unfortunately all the noise impacting the men’s pro golf tours has detracted from what is a huge story in the sport overall this season. The extraordinary accomplishments of Nelly Korda haven’t received nearly the attention they’ve merited.

This week should change that. The 79th U.S. Women’s Open tees off on Thursday at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania.

It was big news when Scottie Scheffler won four of five tournaments in his hot streak earlier this year.  Korda did even better, winning five in a row and six of her last seven starts heading into the Women’s Open.

Let’s put all that in historical perspective.

In the women’s game only two other players have won five LPGA tournaments in a row – Nancy Lopez in 1978 and Annika Sorenstam in 2004-05. Maybe more to the point, only three players have won six tournaments before June – Babe Zaharias in 1951, Louis Suggs in 1953 and Lorena Ochoa in 2008.

Korda has already matched that mark. Next goal is to get seven wins for the season, a mark jointly held by Zaharias, Karrie Webb in 2000 and Taiwan’s Yani Tseng in 2011. It’ll be interesting to see how many more wins Korda has in her before 2024 is over.

If you want to compare Korda’s streaks with the men, Tiger Woods won five straight in 2007-08, six in a row in 1999-2000 and seven consecutively in 2006-07. Ben Hogan won six straight in 1948.

But, if you want to go further back both the LPGA and PGA Tour have records that seem – at this point – safe even from Korda.  On the men’s side Byron Nelson won 11 in a row and 18 tournaments overall in 1945 and on the women’s Mickey Wright triumphed 13 times in 1968, along with 11 times in 1964 and 10 in both 1962 and 1963.  Golf was a different game when Nelson and Wright were in their heydays than it is for Korda now.

Korda is playing in an era where there are more tournaments, more prize money and more good players to beat. Still, she’s only 25, so there’s plenty of time for her to pile up more wins.

Korda’s genes at least suggest she could do it, too. All the Kordas are, or were, world-class athletes. Her parents, both from Czechoslovakia, were top tennis players,  Father Petr was No. 2 in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings in 1998 and won a Grand Slam title that year in the Australian Open. Nelly’s mother, Regina Rajchrtova, was ranked No. 26 in the world and represented Czechoslovakia in the Olympics.

Nelly’s older sister, Jessica, was successful on the LPGA Tour, too. Now 31, she dropped off the LPGA Tour a year ago after battling some lingering injuries.  She won six times on the circuit with career winnings of $7.6 million and became a mother for the first time in February.

Both Jessica and Nelly were on the U.S. Olympic team in 2020 with Nelly winning the gold medal. Their brother Sebastian has won over $5 million dollars in six seasons on the Association of Tennis Professionals circuit.

Now, though, it’s all Nelly’s show and she’ll be going after her third major title in this week’s Women’s Open. She has 14 career LPGA wins and overcame a serious injury when she developed a blood clot in her arm that shortened her season in 2021.

The U.S. Women’s Open hasn’t been kind to her, however.  She’ll make her 10th appearance this year with her best a tie for eighth in 2022 at Pine Needles, in North Carolina.

This year she’s won $2,943,708, or more than a million more than Hannah Green, who is second on the money list. In fact, Nelly has been so good that Michael Kim, a PGA Tour player, has declared that she should get a shot at playing in an event on the premier men’s circuit.  Seven women have been accorded that honor.  If Korda is interested in it, she should be an automatic No. 8.

The Women’s Open will at the least put her in the golf spotlight world-wide.  The tourney will have 26 hours of live TV coverage and Lancaster hosted one of the best previous Opens when a record 135,000 spectators showed up nine years ago.  That event turned into a battle of Koreans with then 20-year old In Gee Chun beating out Amy Yang. Chun became the fourth player to win the title in her first event.

One footnote regarding this year, though.  The 2024 U.S. Women’s Open didn’t have a record entry.  Last year 2,107 entered when the finals were at California’s Pebble Beach.  Entries this year hit 1,897.