Nelly Korda parred the second playoff hole to defeat Lydia Ko and win the Drive On Championship on Sunday for her ninth career LPGA Tour title.
World No 4 Korda, a 25-year-old hometown hero, closed her round eagle-birdie for the second consecutive day to force a playoff, then outlasted New Zealand’s Ko to deny the Seoul-born Kiwi her second victory in as many weeks.
“What a day,” Korda said. “I seem to always make it very dramatic and interesting. There’s no better feeling than to do it in front of a home crowd.
“Even when I was down, they were so positive and keeping me in it. It was such a grind out there, so back and forth. I never really got anything going. I just can’t even believe it.”
Korda, the daughter of former Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda, took her first LPGA Tour title since the 2022 Pelican Women’s Championship. Her last worldwide crown came last year in a Ladies European Tour event in London.
Korda and Ko each finished 72 holes on 11-under 273 at Bradenton Country Club. Ko fired a two-under 69 in the final round while Korda shot 73. American Megan Khang was third on 276.
Korda clung to a one-stroke lead after a bogey at 14, then sent her tee shot into water at the par-three 15th and made double-bogey.
Ko eagled the par-five 17th and Korda made another bogey at 16 to fall three adrift and even Korda figured she was beaten.
“I honestly thought the tournament was over going into 17 and I just kind of gave myself a chance,” Korda said. “I knew if I rolled that eagle in I had to birdie the last hole.”
Korda sank an eagle putt from the fringe at the 17th to climb within one of Ko, who sank a clutch five-foot par putt at 18 to stay in front.
Korda needed only the second birdie of the day at the course’s toughest hole, 18, but she had finished eagle-birdie on Saturday.
At the 18th, Korda smacked her approach inches from the hole and tapped in to force the playoff.
On the first playoff hole at 18, Ko pitched from the left rough near the stands to three feet and sank her par putt to extend the playoff.
On the second extra hole, Ko reached the back fringe in two and Korda went over the green.
Korda pitched three feet beyond the hole, Ko came up four feet short then lipped out on her par putt. Moments later, Korda sank her par putt for the triumph.
“I hit a good stroke on it. It just broke a little bit more than I thought,” Ko said. “The first putt, it’s difficult when there’s a lot of grain. I honestly didn’t think I hit it that far short. I misjudged the slope and the grain of it.
“But I played really solid today. I had a few three-putts and in the end I think that’s what cost me the tournament.”
With a victory, Ko would have qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame and become the first player since 2010 to win the first two events in an LPGA Tour season.
Ko began the day four adrift and was matter of fact about losing a three-stroke edge.
“To be able to eagle the 17th and have a chance of winning when I was quite a ways behind, it was nice to be in contention again,” she said. “I played really well.”
© Agence France-Presse
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