Nelly Korda’s brilliance on full display at Chevron. Here’s why

Nelly Korda stands over a putt at the Chevron Championship.

Nelly Korda was the clubhouse leader after her second round.

Jack Hirsh/GOLF

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Nelly Korda has a feeling of inevitability around her this week.

She bogeyed her opening hole of the Chevron Championship — then played the best round of the afternoon wave Thursday to post a 68, putting her two of the lead.

Friday, she doubled her first hole of the second round. But Korda immediately followed with a birdie and another one at the 4th. On the 8th, she bounced back again with a birdie after her only other bogey of the day.

Even when she drove into the tall grass on the 14th hole and had to pitch out, she still managed to save par.

Then Korda came to the par-5 finisher at the Club at Carlton Woods, blasted driver down the center of the fairway, flew a 5-iron onto the green and made a stress-free two-putt for birdie and the outright lead. By day’s end, Korda was in solo third, one shot behind co-leaders Atthaya Thitikul and Jin Hee Im.

Light work for the winner of four straight. Korda can win not only her second major title this week, but she’d also become the first player to win five straight starts since 2005, when Annika Sorenstam did so.

The computers are even already ready to crown Korda. According to KPMG performance insights, as of Friday afternoon, Korda has a 37.2 percent chance to win this week. But while a fifth-straight win may feel inevitable to the computers, or to the media, or to the several hundred fans who followed the World No. 1 Friday, it doesn’t to Korda.

“I’m just at the halfway point right now,” she said after her third-round 69. “The amount of golf that I’ve played, I still have that to go. There is still a lot of golf left and anything can happen. Just going to stick to my process and vibe with it, is what my coach says.”

Korda has battled through most of the tournament, first getting the wrong side of the early/late draw and playing in conditions that were nearly two strokes harder Thursday afternoon. Korda posted one of just two rounds in the 60s from the afternoon wave in the first round. Then she took two swings to get out of a fairway bunker on the first hole Friday morning, leading to two dropped shots right off the bat.

Once she had recovered to even par to the day, she dropped another shot at the par-3 7th, but managed to turn in one under thanks to making back-to-back birdies at 8 and 9 for the second-straight day.

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“I think having the mentality that there are opportunities out there and I’m hitting it good and that there are some wedge shots, and making sure that I don’t get too down on myself is really important during a major,” she said. “It takes a lot of patience to win. At the end of the day, the person that makes the least amount of mistakes or recovers the best from their mistakes ends up usually winning.”

Korda noted that all four of Carlton Woods’ par-5s are reachable in two this week and it’s allowed her to stay composed after her mistakes. She birdied all four par-5s Friday and is six under for the week on the three-shotters.

She also said her recovery during the quick turnaround between her first and second rounds was better than it was for Thursday. An apple in the middle of her first nine sparked the run which got her into contention, but no such mid-round snack was needed on Friday.

“Yeah, just recovered well. Went straight home,” Korda said. “Didn’t even go hit the range or putt or anything, which usually I tend to do. I made sure to prioritize my recovery. Had treatment, ate my Uber Eats and went to sleep.”

With her spot in the final groupings secured for Saturday’s third round, Korda will have all the time she wants as she chases her fifth win in a row. Because despite how it feels, it’s far from inevitable.

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