In front of the USA team Nelly Korda Tee off in the women’s finals Olympic Golf competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club, gold medalist and member of Team USA Xander Schauffele tweeted her a special message: “Bring the gold @NellyKorda home! I’ll dig for you tonight.”
The player’s number 1 proved her dominance on the course for 54 holes. On the way to the final round, she led with three shots and maintained a calm that no other player seemed to be able to match. Before the final round began there were a number of unknowns including whether the 60-player field would be able to finish 72 holes due to an impending tropical storm. But it felt like among all the unknowns one thing was clear: Korda came to mine gold.
Even as player after player tried to find her way around the leaderboard alongside Korda, she held her own. She played her game. She did what she did best. She stayed calm.
When she started slipping, with a double bogey on the seventh, she quickly recovered and rolled in three consecutive birdies. All week long, Korda didn’t shy away from feeling safe out there. She didn’t shrink from the fact that even though she was an Olympian for the first time, she didn’t really feel the nerves.
“I’ve actually been very calm for the last three days,” she said after the third lap. “I didn’t get really nervous.”
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72 holes spoke her game for her: I am number 1 for a reason. When Korda sank her last par-putt on the 18th hole, she said everything again without saying anything. She deserves to be there. She deserves it. This gold medal was hers.
“It feels amazing,” said Korda. “Lydia [Ko, who took bronze for New Zealand] played really well, so did Mone [Inami;, who won silver for Japan]. They both played super well, so we were all gathered up there. It was very stressful, but I kept it together, I fought pretty hard.
“I’ve had a pretty good series of events but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will play well so try to put expectations aside and just go out and have a happy new week, enjoy the Olympic experience because it is so unique and fun to do it for the first time now. And like Lydia said, you play for more than just yourself, you play for your country too. So I can safely say I really enjoyed my first one Olympic experience. “
It’s only been a few months since Korda hit number 1 in the world rankings. After winning her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in late June, Korda rose to # 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. This made Korda only the third American to take first place since the ranking was introduced in 2006. Stacy Lewis was the last American to prove number 1 for four weeks in 2013 and 21 weeks in 2014, with Cristie Kerr holding the spot for five weeks in 2010.
With over 60 countries represented, the LPGA remains one of the most diverse sports leagues. This season players from 10 different countries have won events. And in Tokyo, 35 countries were represented, with three countries on the podium (USA, Japan and New Zealand).
Since her 2017 rookie season, Korda has taken six wins, including a major. While it came as no surprise that Korda succeeded, this year she is demonstrating a new kind of dominance.
A dominance that we haven’t seen in any American player.
A dominance, that of South Korea Jin Young Ko‘s 100-week run at the top of the leaderboard.
A dominance that won gold on its first appearance at the Olympics.
A dominance that Team USA won the first medal in women’s golf since 1900 (golf returned to the Olympic Games in 2016 after a 112-year absence; in 2016 there was no American on the podium).
A dominance of being the first player (male or female) to win a major and the Olympic gold medal in the same year.
Korda’s victory in these games earned the United States a gold medal in golf. Overall, the US had four men and four women in the top 15 in each of the golf competitions.
AP Photo / Matt York
“For me this is the absolute GOAT status,” said Jessica about her sister’s year.
Even with a gold medal around her neck and her recent successes on the tour, Korda is still looking ahead, trying to figure out how to move forward and keep her number 1.
“It’s so different in sport because you’re always looking ahead,” said Korda. “It never really starts to go down. I think I’ll look back on the season when the season is over, but there are still a lot of big events to come right now. When I look back, it’s just insane.”
“My parents always say that I’m a Leo because, from a young age, I’ve always been very determined and super-focused on what I want.”
At the moment, Korda leads the field in both American and women’s golf. And she doesn’t look back.