Sunday afternoon at the Pelican Women’s Championship ended with a familiar scene — Nelly Korda holding a trophy. However, just an hour earlier, a win for the 23-year-old superstar looked far from likely.
Korda held shared the lead with Lexi Thompson standing on the tee box of the short par-4 17th, but after some uncharacteristic mistakes — yanked drive, missed gimme — she posted a triple-bogey 7 that all but dashed her hopes of a win. Thompson missed a short putt of her own, but after her meltdown, Korda faced a two-stroke deficit heading to the 18th.
She pumped her drive down the fairway and walked after her ball with caddie Jason McDede by her side.
“You didn’t want to know what I was saying from the 18 tee box to the 18 iron shot,” Korda said. “I was definitely venting. There were definitely F bombs flying around just here and there … I think it was good that I kind of got it out, that anger out, because I was very angry after 17. I thought I lost it there.”
But that rage didn’t last long. On the advice of her caddie, Korda took a moment to recenter her thoughts after reaching her drive in the 18th fairway.
“I want you to take this one minute and just think positive thoughts,” McDede told her. “No negativity.”
Korda hit her approach on the green and trudged after it. Although her mind was now clear, she’d still need some help to secure the win.
Facing 20 feet for birdie, Korda sized up the putt and putt her best roll on it. The ball found the bottom of the cup, and suddenly, she had life.
“I was just like, ‘Okay, just try to give it your best shot and see what happens,'” she said. “Lexi still had I think a four- or five-footer. They’re not easy, the left to righters.”
Pressure putting has never been Thompson’s forte, and the balky putter that doomed her chances at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open made yet another appearance. Her would-be winning putt slid past the hole and four players were tied for the lead after 72 holes, with Sei Young Kim and Lydia Ko joining Thompson and Korda for the playoff.
For Korda, the playoff hole — the tough par-4 18th she’d just birdied — played out like a dream. For Thompson, it was another nightmare.
While Kim and Ko missed the green and played themselves out of the hole, the stars from the final pairing both found the dance floor. Korda faced a similar putt from her birdie look in regulation, while Thompson knocked her ball inside 10 feet.
Yet again, Korda was able to will her left-to-right breaker into the hole. And, yet again, Thompson’s short-putting woes persisted.
Korda watched from beside the green as her adversary missed yet another shortie. For world No. 1, the celebration was on. For Thompson, her shell-shocked look said it all.
“It’s a crazy game and I never give up,” Korda said. “Even though I say I think I lost hope, I will never give up. I’ll go down fighting every single time.”