Entering U.S. Women’s Open, Nelly Korda stands alone because of her team

LANCASTER, Pa. – Nelly Korda’s young career has come full circle as she returns to the U.S. Women’s Open, the championship that ignited her passion for golf.

“Getting to play it as a 14-year-old back in the day, was where I realized that this was what I wanted to do for a living,” Korda said about making her U.S. Women’s Open debut in 2013. “To get to come out here every year and compete at the golf courses for the highest prize money and against the best players in the world, there’s nothing better than that.”

Korda, 25, is amid one of the hottest seasons in tour history, already a six-time winner on the LPGA and owner of the first major title of the year. Asked often what has been her key to success, Korda has credited her ability to remain within her “bubble,” her inner-circle of supporters that includes her caddie, physiotherapist and family.

And her coaches.

Jamie Mulligan and his assistant, Brett Lederer, have been on-site at nearly every event this season, Korda noted on Tuesday, and have been on property for each of her six victories. It’s influenced Korda’s ability to troubleshoot more often – and more quickly – than in the past.

“The only week that I haven’t had someone out was during Cognizant, and I just didn’t really hit it that well that week,” Korda said about the Founders Cup, where her five-event winning streak ended in a T-7. “So, making sure that my team is taking time for me as well and coming out and making sure that we’re all dedicated to each other has kind of really been the thing that has changed this year.”

The team was back together the following week for the Mizuho Americas Open, where Korda returned to the winner’s circle – but not into winning form, saying afterwards she felt like she won with her “C” or even “D” game. What was the problem?

“I start to over rotate my hands a little too much. Playing in wind and playing with a lot of layers on like I have this year, I tend to do that a little bit more and more,” Korda explained. “So, making sure that I’m hitting my positions is really, really key for me because, if I start to over rotate on the way back, it’s hard for me to get back into that position on the way down. It may look on the same plane, but even if you’re like half-a-degree off, your face is half-a-degree open, that thing’s going to go sideways.”

Korda has her bubble back in place for the second major championship of the season. Monday, she arrived on site at Lancaster Country Club to get her first look at the golf course where she played the back nine during the early morning hours. Korda tested the front nine for the first time on Tuesday, playing a practice round alongside close friend Megan Khang.

Tuesday afternoon, the gallery ropes were lined with fans as Korda waited to tee off. One of them, a young girl, was brought to tears when the world’s No. 1 signed an autograph for her. It was a position Korda was in just a decade ago. She was 9 years old when her older sister, Jessica, snuck her into the U.S. Women’s Open locker room. It was the first of many experiences that Nelly can remember having that week, and in the four years that followed, as she watched from the sidelines while her older sister competed for a national championship.

“I was like the biggest cheerleader,” Nelly said about her childhood golf adventures with Jessica. “She snuck me into the locker room a couple of times, and it was just like the coolest experience.”

In 2013, Korda made her major championship debut in the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club. It became a life-altering experience which inspired her to pursue a career in professional golf.

“I got to play practice rounds with Michelle Wie, Na Yeon Choi; got to hit balls next to Lydia [Ko], got to hit balls next to Inbee Park, and getting to do this with my sister,” Korda said about competing that week in New York. “I mean, that was, for me, the best of all.”

Now, after nine USWO starts and only two top-10s, she enters the most meaningful championship in the game as the best player in the game.

Making this win No. 7, however, won’t be just because of Nelly Korda.

“I go into every week wanting to win, but there is a sense that sometimes that’s not realistic,” she said. “For me, I need to give 100 percent of myself every single day to, not just my golf, [but to] my family, my workouts, life outside of golf. For me, that’s the number one thing for me.”

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