5 things to know about world No. 1 Nelly Korda ahead of the LPGA season finale, including why she kept her gold medal in a sock

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The Year of the Kordas just keeps getting better. On the same weekend Sebastian Korda advanced to the finals of the Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, Nelly Korda came back from a devastating triple-bogey on the 71st hole to win the Pelican Women’s Championship in a playoff against three of the world’s best players in Lydia Ko, Sei Young Kim and Lexi Thompson.

At this week’s CME Group Tour Championship, where the winner takes a season-high $1.5 million prize, Nelly has the chance to put a bow on the most dominant season by an American in nearly a decade. She’s the first American player to amass four LPGA titles in a single season since Stacy Lewis in 2012. The last time an American woman won five times in a single season was Juli Inkster in 1999.

Here are five things to note about the World No. 1:

1. She has a new swing coach

Nelly Korda tees of at the Pelican Women’s Championship. (Ben Solomon/Pelican)

Two weeks ago Korda began working with swing instructor Jamie Mulligan, who has coached Patrick Cantlay for more than 20 years. Cantlay, of course, was recently voted PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Korda began working with David Whelan at age 15 and parted ways with him for some time. They still work together on short game.

Her work with Mulligan thus far, she said, has mostly been focused on maintenance since she’s still in-season, with a few tweaks to her wedges. When asked why she picked Mulligan, Korda noted that big sister Jessica is really good friends with Cantlay.

“I’ve kind of surfed around,” she said. “I thought about a couple coaches here and will and I liked his demeanor, I like the way he’s super positive.”

2. A missed cut kickstarted this incredible run

Nelly Korda kisses the trophy after winning the Pelican Women’s Championship. (Ben Solomon/Pelican)

Although the Nelly won the second event of the season on the LPGA, she said a missed cut at the U.S. Women’s Open (78-75) is what really kickstarted her breakout season.

“I think that was kind of my turning point, where I just kind of changed my demeanor a little out there,” she said. “I was really disappointed after that missed cut.”

That’s also when her father, Petr, put her through what she called a boot camp of sorts back home in Bradenton, Florida. The biggest takeaway from that multi-day session, she said, was structure.

Nelly won her next two events, including the KPMG Women’s PGA, and rose to No. 1 in the world for the first time.

3. She once kept her gold medal in a sock

Olympics: Golf-Women
Olympics: Golf-Women

Nelly Korda (USA) celebrates with her gold medal on the podium after the final round of the women’s individual stroke play of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club. Photo by Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Nelly keeps her trophies in the office area of her Florida condo. It is, she admitted, unorganized at the moment but she plans to make that an offseason project. While she has yet to receive the KPMG Women’s PGA trophy, the Olympic gold medal has had quite the journey.

“It’s been honestly all over the world,” said Nelly, who kept the medal tucked away in her backpack inside a sock. After all, she didn’t want it to get scratched.

“Once I got to the States,” she said, “every single time I went through security I got stopped and I was like, ‘Okay, just be really careful with it when you pull it out. Don’t scratch it.”

4. Her scoring average is eye-popping

KPMG Women's PGA Championship
KPMG Women's PGA Championship

Scorekeepers adjust the score for Nelly Korda after her eagle putt on the 13th green during the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship golf tournament at the Atlanta Athletic Club. (Photo: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)

After her victory at the Pelican, where she shot 65-66-63-69, Nelly moved to No. 1 in scoring on tour with a 68.845 average. But because she won’t meet the minimum number of required rounds (70), she is ineligible to win the Vare Trophy and the LPGA Hall of Fame point that goes with it. She’ll have a total of 62 rounds after the CME.

“Think I’ve kind of come to terms with it, said Nelly. “It’s fine. Honestly, I have not even thought of that as one of my goals in all honesty going into this year.”

Annika Sorenstam still holds the record for lowest scoring average in a season (among those who reached 70 rounds) at 68.6974 in 2002.

Sorenstam failed to reach 70 rounds in 2004 (68.6970, 66 rounds) and 2003 (69.0167, 60 rounds). Sei Young Kim is the only other player in tour history to break 69 in scoring average. But she too was ineligible last year because that 68.6857 average came after only 35 rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. She's a force in Florida

Nelly Korda
Nelly Korda

Nelly Korda poses with her family and the trophy following the final round of the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Two of Nelly’s wins this season took place in her native Florida. At the CME Group Tour Championship, she has finished second (2018) and tied for third (2019). Her worst finish at Tiburon Golf Club came last year when she tied for 19th.

“I love this event,” said Nelly. “I love this golf course. I love any type of Florida event I can drive to. I always feel so much more at home and have family and friends come out.

“I’ve played well at this golf course. I mean, I grew up in Florida on Bermuda grass, so it’s kind of easier for me to adapt to this.”

Of course her biggest competition will be rival Jin Young Ko, who has also four times this season and trails her by 10 points in the LPGA Player of the Year Race. Ko won the CME last year in only her fourth start to the season.

Player of the Year points are given to those who finish in the top 10. A victory is worth 30 points, a second is worth 12 and a 10th is worth one point.

It’s possible that Ko could overtake Korda without winning.

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