Brilliant Nelly Korda takes control as USA eye Olympic golf sweep

Sports Tokyo 2020

USA's Nelly Korda on the 16th tee during Thursday's second round at the Kasumigaseki Country Club. AFP
USA’s Nelly Korda on the 16th tee during Thursday’s second round at the Kasumigaseki Country Club. AFP

Kawagoe, Japan | AFP | Thursday 8/5/2021 - 16:52 UTC+9 | 536 words

by Daniel HICKS

World number one Nelly Korda put herself in prime position Thursday to add Olympic golf gold to her first major this year after firing a brilliant second round of nine-under 62 at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Korda stood at 11-under for her round on the 18th tee at the par-71 layout, meaning a birdie would have given her only the second 59 in women’s professional golf history.

Korda found the rough off the tee at 18, the only mistake in an otherwise flawless round, and ended up with a double-bogey when a birdie would have matched Swedish great Annika Sorenstam’s unique feat of 20 years ago.

“I wasn’t thinking about it (59) at all I was like, oh, cool, I have a pretty good lead going into 18,” said Korda. 

“But unfortunately that double on 18, that’s golf and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

Korda has a four-shot cushion on the chasing pack with two rounds to play, though the threat of an approaching tropical storm system could shorten the event to 54 holes, organisers said.

That means Korda could be just one round from completing a golden sweep for America after Xander Schauffele won the men’s equivalent.

Korda’s round included a five-hole front-nine stretch of an eagle and four birdies to get to 10-under par overall at the turn.

She then rattled in a 30-foot putt for a birdie at the 12th. Birdies at the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th followed before the aberration at the 18th.

“Honestly, if I have to think about it, that was the only fairway I missed today,” said the 23-year-old, who won her first major at the US PGA Championship in June to sit top of the world rankings for the first time.  

The battle for silver is headed by India’s Aditi Ashok and the Danish pair of Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Emily Kristine Pedersen, who set the early clubhouse target at nine-under-par 133 but then all found themselves four adrift of Korda by the end of the day.

‘Make something happen’

Ashok, who had a sublime 66 to follow her opening 67, and Koerstz Madsen (64), were both in the first group out and seemed to spur each other along.

Ashok put women’s golf on the map in India five years ago when, at the age of 18 and fresh out of school, she opened with two 68s at the Rio Olympics to threaten the lead.

As for Danish pair Koerstz Madsen and Pedersen, they know each other well.

“We played junior golf together so we’re from the same golf club, actually,” said Pedersen. “Our parents live 500 metres from each other.”

The overnight leader, Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom, had a three-under 68 but fell five shots behind the leader after a day of low scoring in roasting temperatures.

Gold medallist from Rio, Park In-bee of South Korea, has work to do to get in the medal hunt after a one-under 70 left her 10 behind Korda.

Defending silver medallist Lydia Ko is two shots better off than Park in a share of ninth place after a 67.

Feng Shanshan of China, who took bronze five years ago, played herself back into contention with a superb round of 64, seven-under par, to be a shot behind Ko.

“I knew that I would have to make something happen,” said Feng, who like every player is aware the tournament could be shortened. “So that was what I was focusing on. My ball striking today was much better.”

India's Aditi Ashok (left) and Denmark's Nanna Koerstz Madsen spurred each other to rounds of 66 and 64 respectively at Kasumigaseki Country Club on Thursday. AFP
India’s Aditi Ashok (left) and Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen spurred each other to rounds of 66 and 64 respectively at Kasumigaseki Country Club on Thursday. AFP

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