JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — As screams and hollers rained from the crowd around the 18th green at Atlanta Athletic Club, American golf fans greeted their next superstar.
Nelly Korda — whose talent and resume had gotten good enough to take over unenviable ownership of “Best Player Without a Major” — finally added the most important line to her CV: major champion.
“I just can’t believe it,” she said. “I’m still in shock.”
Her three-shot victory at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship represents the 22-year-old’s sixth win on the LPGA Tour, and she becomes the first American to win a women’s major since 2018. Korda also becomes the No. 1-ranked player in the world with the win, overtaking Jin Young Ko.
To get her hands on the trophy, Korda had to go head-to-head on the weekend with the dogged Lizette Salas. The short-hitting (yet deadly accurate) veteran proved a formidable opponent.
The air on the first tee was thick both with anticipation and humidity. Temperatures were in the low 80s in suburban Atlanta. It felt like triple digits.
The final pairing got off to a steady start, if quieter than in their birdie-filled opening act to the third round. Korda carded birdie on the 3rd, but the par-5 5th hole represented the first pivotal moment of the day.
Power and finesse were pitted against one another yet again. This time, power won out.
Korda bombed a driver down the fairway and chose 7-wood from there. She sent it soaring directly at the pin. When it reached its destination, mere inches were all that separated Korda’s ball from the hole.
“When you have that short of a putt, it makes everything so much easier and takes so much more stress off of you,” Korda said. “You kind of catapult forward.”
With her playing partner looking at a sure eagle, Salas laid up and wedged onto the green. She holed the birdie putt but still lost a shot. At last, Korda had flexed her massive power advantage.
Still, Salas would not go away. She picked up a shot on Korda at the short 6th hole and headed to the back nine with the margin at only one shot. The scrappy underdog was still in it.
Korda finally seized control for good on the par-5 12th. Once again, she bombed a drive into the fairway and, once again, took aim at the flag. Her ball finished within 10 feet of the cup. She rolled in the putt and pumped her fist. With Salas making bogey, the margin was up to four.
When Korda added a birdie at the 14th, she extended the lead to five. It had become a coronation.
A double bogey on the tricky 15th slowed momentum a bit, but the margin was still three as Korda stepped to the 18th tee. As she walked down the fairway, basking in the southern sunshine, the crowd embraced their champion.
“This is something I’ve worked for since I was 14,” Korda said. “Since I played my first one, I’ve wanted to be a major champion. And to finally get it done here, in Atlanta, with such an amazing crowd. Honestly, it’s really special.”
She wiped tears from her eyes and was ushered away, headed to her next media obligation. Superstardom has its requirements, after all.
America’s next superstar has arrived.