Scottie Scheffler, Nelly Korda and a remarkable chase for something we’ve never seen

Scottie Scheffler and Nelly Korda are chasing history this weekend.

Scottie Scheffler and Nelly Korda are chasing history this weekend.

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After Nelly Korda won last week’s Seri Pak Championship, she celebrated in proper West Coast fashion.

“A nice In-N-Out burger and Animal Fries,” she said with a smile. It wasn’t a particularly glamorous celebration — the burger stop came as she and fellow pro Olivia Cowan were splitting the six-hour drive to Gilbert, Ariz., for this week’s Ford Championship — but it did the trick.

“Yeah, it was nice,” she said from Arizona, reflecting at a pre-tournament press conference.

Scottie Scheffler knows about celebrating with cheeseburgers. We don’t have confirmation on his Players Championship celebration two weeks ago, but in a 2022 interview with GOLF, Scheffler explained that when he wins, he celebrates at Burger House, a fast-food chain in Dallas — plus he served cheeseburger sliders, “Scottie-style,” at his Masters Champions dinner. (And when he misses the cut he gets Burger House, too, as a pick-me-up.)

But it’s not just beef that binds the two. Korda’s latest win got her back to No. 1. Scheffler’s latest win ensured he’ll stay at No. 1 for a while. And this week they’re chasing an intriguing bit of golf history.

For Korda, this week marks her return to World No. 1 and a 38th career week in that position. It was also her second victory in as many starts; she’d won the LPGA Drive On Championship in Bradenton in January. When she teed it up on Thursday she began the chase for the first three-tournament win streak of her career.

Scheffler’s victory at the Players Championship only cemented his status as World No. 1; his lead over World No. 2 Rory McIlroy (4.35 average OWGR points, if you care) is about the same as McIlroy’s lead over World No. 22 Tom Kim. But like Korda it was his second victory in as many starts after his Arnold Palmer Invitational victory a week before. So, like Korda, he teed it up Thursday in pursuit of a first career three-peat.

Three consecutive wins don’t happen often on either tour. The last LPGA pro to pull off the feat was Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016 when she won the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, the Kingsmill Championship and the LPGA Volvik Championship. (Those were, improbably, the first three wins of her career.) On the PGA Tour the last man to pull it off was Dustin Johnson, who in 2017 won Genesis, WGC-Mexico and the WGC-Match Play in consecutive starts as part of his reign as World No. 1.

Three consecutive wins also isn’t a record. On the men’s side, Byron Nelson won a preposterous 11 times in a row in 1945. Tiger Woods won five times in a row (in 2007-8) and six times in a row (in 1999-2000) and seven times in a row (in 2006-7). On the women’s side Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-5) have each won five starts in a row. But from what I can tell it’s never happened like this, where World No. 1s on both the men’s and women’s tours would pick up three straight in the same week. That sort of parallel greatness is worth appreciating.

Especially because another thing the two have in common — along with world-class ball-striking — is that they’re relatively nonplussed by anything like this.

“I think my goal is to stay very present, take it — as boring as it sounds — one shot at a time and go from there,” Korda said. “I have a good, solid team around me, which I’m so grateful for. And just kind of stay in my own bubble.”

“Yeah, I don’t really think much about that kind of stuff,” Scheffler offered in his own pre-tournament press conference at the Houston Open. What does he want from this week? “I think just more of the same. I want to approach this week with a good attitude, hit good shots.”

You don’t have to look or listen hard to see the similarities. There’s what they wear (Nike) what they play (TaylorMade) how they work (hard) how they win (often) and how they talk about it (humbly).

You can find some common ground in their roads to the top, too.

Both played in U.S. Opens as amateurs; Korda made the cut at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open as a 14-year-old, while Scheffler qualified in 2016 and 2017 as a college athlete; he was low am in 2017.

Korda skipped college and turned pro, leapfrogging her career past that of Scheffler, who’s two years older. She played the Symetra Tour for just a season before graduating to the LPGA for the 2017 campaign. After graduating from Texas, Scheffler played a season on the Korn Ferry Tour before graduating to the PGA Tour for the 2020 season. Each had early success, but similar breakout years sent them to the top: In 2021 Korda won four times on the LPGA Tour, including her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA (plus Olympic gold). And in 2022 Scheffler won four times on the PGA Tour, including his first major at the Masters.

Korda’s latest win was the 10th of her LPGA career; Scheffler now has eight. They still own one major each. In an era where each tour is always looking for its next dominant star, they’re each happy to throw their hat in the ring. Just don’t ask ’em to praise their own accomplishments; they’re similarly unimpressed with their efforts up to this point.

“I don’t think I ever think of that actually,” Korda said this week when asked if she’s considered her chances at the Hall of Fame. “I just think of everything in my present time and just take it one week at a time. If I get there, then great, but that’s not something that I think that I put on my goal sheet. I think small goals then eventually lead to your bigger goals.”

“We’re playing at Riv this year, and I hit my tee ball and this guy yells out, like, ‘Congrats on being No. 1, Scottie … 11 more years to go,'” Scheffler said at the Players, laughing. The fan’s reference was the the OWGR No. 1 record set by Tiger Woods. “Eleven more years to go,” Scheffler repeated for emphasis.

Winning any golf tournament is an unlikely feat for an individual, so it’s not likely both No. 1s will hoist their respective trophies on Sunday. But it feels likely they’ll be in the conversation.

Korda took it easy early in the week, she said, hoping to keep her energy levels up for the tournament. She entered as the tournament favorite with 9-to-1 odds to win and opened with a round of six-under 66 that left her just three shots off the lead.

Scheffler arrived in Houston with preposterously low odds of +275 and that number cut in half after he opened with five-under 65, just one shot off the lead.

After his round, a reporter asked Scheffler if he now expects to win. He dismissed the question.

“No,” he said. “I start every tournament the same way, I try and stay patient, I try not to look too far ahead, I try to do my best. Simple as that, really just one shot at a time. I like to control things I can control and that’s being committed to the shot and trying to execute.

“On Thursday I’m definitely not thinking about Sunday.”

I guess that means no cheeseburger plans yet, either.

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