BESEDA, Md. (AP) — Just a year ago, Nelly Korda won the Women’s PGA Championship, securing her first major. And reach the world’s first.
“Honestly, it feels like a long time ago,” she said.
A lot has happened to Korda since then—for better or worse. She also won an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. last year, but has only recently returned after a four-month hiatus this year because of health issues. This week, she defended her title at the Women’s PGA at Congressional Country Club — and after a near win in Michigan last week, she looked ready to play.
“I gave myself a chance last week,” she said. “If you told me I’d be happy when I was lying in the emergency room.”
Koda’s season was interrupted when she felt swelling in her left arm – a blood clot in the subclavian vein. She missed her first major of the year in California Desert and underwent surgery in April.
It was unusual for her to spend so much time away, but since returning she has been in great shape. She tied for eighth at the U.S. Women’s Open before losing a playoff at the LPGA Major Classic last weekend.
“That’s the longest time I think I’ve been away without golfing,” Korda said. “Since I started hitting, I’ve been giving it my all, and I’ve been practicing. I haven’t had two or three days off since then. I’m excited to play competitive golf here.”
Korda said it was important to stay positive after her health problems.
“I think the more you like it there, the better you play, the less you get ticked, and I think, in a sense, the less things go wrong,” she said. “Since I came back, I made sure I had a good attitude and enjoyed every second, which I think contributed to my good performance.”
This week’s tournament, sponsored by KPMG, doubles the prize money $9 million, with the winner taking home $1.35 million. The 6,894-yard, par-72 Capitol Course is likely to moderate in the first round. Some thunder rumbled through the area on Wednesday, with more rain likely overnight.
“I think KPMG and the PGA have just done a phenomenal job of getting us into these amazing golf courses and really raising the bar for women’s golf,” said Brooke Henderson. “Thank you so much for that. I’ve said a lot, but I’m so excited to play on this amazing golf course.”
Weather permitting, Korda is scheduled to tee off Thursday morning with Henderson and Inbee Park. The group has won the tournament five times. Park Geun-hye won three straight titles in 2013-15 before Henderson ended the streak with her own victory in 2016.
Korda entered the tournament as No. 2 in the world, behind South Korea’s Jin Young Ko. Australia’s Minjee Lee is third and recently won a major at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Jennifer Kupcho, who won the major Chevron Championship, also won last week in Michigan.
“It’s definitely a good confidence,” Kupcho said. “I think it’s really important to play so well last week. Especially going into the majors.”
Korda also has reason to feel confident. She was part of a three-way playoff tie that forced Michigan State. She looks healthy enough to compete in Congress — and mentally ready after winning the Women’s PGA last year.
“I don’t think I’ve changed a lot in the past year. In a sense, I think I’ve just become more consistent and confident that I can win a major,” Korda said. “I think I just learned my way during majors week, don’t put too much pressure on myself and enjoy every moment because a lot of people put a lot of emphasis on majors week. Maybe they put it on themselves Too much pressure because at the end of the day, you’re hanging out with the same girl almost every week.”
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