Nelly Korda Didn’t Know She’d Returned To Number 1 In The World Until Someone Told Her She Was Running From 18the green on Monday during a pro-am round.
“I was like, ‘No, you’re kidding. How is that possible?’ Korda recalls, “So it was a bit of a shock to me.”
Shocking because neither Jin Young Ko, now No. 2, nor Korda played last week, and it’s strange to think that anyone can rise to No. 1 without hitting a wave. In fact, Korda hasn’t played in three weeks. (The Rolex ranking is based on a rolling two-year period.)
This week’s Pelican Women’s Championship, the penultimate event on the LPGA schedule, will take place November 11-14 at Club Belleair, Florida, and will feature the first of two head-to-head battles between Korda and Ko to wrap up the 2021 LPGA . season.
Korda has won three times on the LPGA, including a major and Olympic gold. Ko, the most popular golfer, has won four times since July.
“I was pretty dominant in the summer, and now she’s dominant,” Korda said, “so I think that’s how sports go. You kind of pass the baton, and somebody passes you and you just try to fight it out .”
Korda follows Ko by 15 points in the Player of the Year race and said she had no idea where she stood in that season-long competition. However, she knew she would not qualify for the Vare Trophy, which is awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average of the season. Both awards are worth one point to the LPGA Hall of Fame (requiring 27 points).
To qualify for the Vare, players must participate in 70 rounds or 70 percent of the official tournament rounds, whichever is less. In this case, that would be 70 laps.
Neither Korda (currently 15 events, 54 rounds, 69,074 average) nor Ko (17 events, 59 rounds, 69,186) will meet the minimum eligibility requirement. Lydia Ko, currently fourth on the list with 69,615, is the highest-ranked player to qualify.
When asked if she was considering adding events late in the year to qualify, Korda said her schedule was “crazy enough.” She also didn’t realize she wouldn’t be eligible for the award this year until she read about it in the media.
“I had to pull out of Portland at the last minute because I just wasn’t feeling well,” Korda said, “and the same with Walmart.
“So, no, I don’t think I could have played more events because my body was so tired. I usually play all the events at the beginning of the year, and when I play well I take some time off, because traveling in the summer was just so crazy.”
Older sister Jessica said that in her 11 years on the LPGA, she had no idea there was a round minimum for the Vare Trophy. When asked if she thought that minimum should be changed or reconsidered in a year when several events were canceled due to the global pandemic, Jessica said “100 percent.”
“Other people have to decide that,” she continued. “We’re just here to play.”
The Korda sisters grew up in Bradenton, Florida, and spent a lot of time competing in junior tournaments in the Tampa Bay area. This week they rent a house near the course and brought food that their mother Regina cooked every night to warm up.
Nelly said she drove back to Sarasota after Monday’s pro-am round to spend some extra time at home. Although Jessica competed in the inaugural Pelican event last year, Nelly came out as a spectator as she was still suffering from a back injury at the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA.
A year later, she has the chance to continue her claim as the best of 2021. A win at one of the last two events of the season is worth 30 points and second place is worth 12.
“Honestly, I think I’ve always said that good golf sorts it all out in a way,” Nelly said.
“I’m not going to worry about anything, no trophies, nothing, until I make that first shot and hopefully sink that last well on the 72nd hole.”