BRADENTON, FL (AP): Nelly Korda rallied to win her hometown LPGA Drive On Championship and delay Lydia Ko’s LPGA Hall of Fame entry, outlasting the New Zealander on the second hole of a playoff after overcoming a three-stroke deficit with an eagle-birdie finish.
In calmer conditions after wind gusts to 30 mph at Bradenton Country Club, Korda won with a 3-foot par putt on the par-4 18th after Ko’s 4-footer caught the lip and spun out.
“I seem to always make it very dramatic and interesting,” Korda said. “So, there is no better feeling than to do it in front of a home crowd. What a day!”
Ko won the season-opening Tournament of Champions last week at home in Orlando for her 20th tour victory to move within a point of qualifying for the Hall of Fame.
“It’s kind of like, `What can you do?’” Ko said. “We played our hearts out until the very end and we put ourself into the playoff. I tried my best out there.”
Four strokes ahead of Ko beginning play Sunday, Korda shot a 2-over 73 to match Ko at 11-under 273. Ko, playing in the group ahead of Korda, also eagled the par-5 17th in a 69.
Korda dropped four strokes in a three-hole stretch — making a bogey on the par-4 14th, a double bogey on the par-3 15th and a bogey on the par-4 16th — before rallying with the eagle putt across the green on 17 and an approach to a foot on 18.
“Gosh, I thought that the tournament was over going into 17,” Korda said. “I just kind of gave myself a chance. I knew that if I rolled that eagle in I had to birdie the last.”
On the first extra trip down 18, Korda missed a 12-foot birdie try from the back fringe after Ko got up-and-down for par after hitting to the grandstand wall over the green.
On the second playoff hole, Korda went long to the wall and chipped to set up the winning putt.
“Every win has a story,” said Korda. “This one was definitely — just with the struggles of last year and just with today as well, I thought I completely lost it.”
Soon after the victory, she talked to sister Jessica, the fellow tour star who is close to giving birth to her first child — a boy.
“She was like, `I thought you were going to send me into labor,’” the winner said.
Ko three-putted after leaving her 30-foot birdie putt short.
“Obviously, I three-putted the second playoff hole, but other than that I don’t feel like I lost the tournament,” Ko said. “I made a great eagle on 17, great par on 18, and then Nelly just went eagle as well and then birdied the last.”
Feeding off the home crowd, the 25-year-old Korda led wire-to-wire for the first time in her career en route to her ninth LPGA Tour victory and first since the 2022 Pelican Women’s Championship.
“I think even when I was down they were so, so positive and keeping me in it,” Korda said. “It was such a grind out there, so back and forth. I felt like I never really got anything going. I just can’t even believe it right now.”
Megan Khang was third at 8 under after a 72. Lucy Li (69) and Ayaka Furue (73) were 7 under.