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Chasing Nelly: Players draw inspiration in trying to beat the game's best

Chasing Nelly: Players draw inspiration in trying to beat the game's best

LANCASTER, Pa. – Nelly Korda is the player everyone will be chasing in the U.S. Women’s Open. Korda heads into the season’s second major championship having emerged as the commanding world No. 1 after winning six times in the first five months of the LPGA Tour season.

“Before this year, she was obviously a very dominant player and she always has been,” Hannah Green said Wednesday about Korda. “She's making the game look very easy.”

Green is the only other multiple winner this season, besides Korda, with victories at the HSBC Women’s World Championship and with a successful title defense at the JM Eagle LA Championship. Korda wasn’t in the field for either of Green’s victories, but the duo ultimately went head-to-head at the Mizuho Americas Open.

Korda got the win that Sunday and she’s had the spotlight all year. While Green would have preferred the former, she’s just fine without the latter.

“She's making history this year. I'm kind of happy to be outside the limelight,” Green said about coming into the major championship under the radar. “I just want to keep trying to get trophies in my hands and play as good as I can.”

Brooke Henderson made a charge for a third career major earlier this year at the Chevron Championship. Korda, however, claimed major No. 2 in Texas. Henderson has been on tour for nearly a decade and seen several player eras while competing against the likes of Lydia Ko, Jin Young Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn. The Canadian seems, not deflated, but inspired by the Korda era in which the tour is currently living.

“I've been very close all year, and she's been able to turn it over on all these weeks. She hasn't necessarily been out front at the start of the week on all those victories. She just kind of found a way to get it done, which is really very impressive,” Henderson said, having racked up five top-10s of her own this year. “For Nelly, it's been an amazing run and definitely inspiring and definitely something to look up to and try to learn from as well.”

That sense of inspiration is one shared by her closest competitors in recent weeks. Madelene Sagstrom, who nearly went wire-to-wire to win at the Cognizant Founders Cup, has drawn on the influence of Korda’s recent success. The same goes for rookie Gabi Ruffels, who finished third to Korda at the Mizuho.

The motivation to beat Korda is enough to work a little harder and push a little further. If one can finish in front of Korda this week, there’s a good chance it’s going to be a very good result.

“Trying to beat Nelly is almost what we are trying to aim for,” Green said on the eve of the U.S. Women’s Open. “Because if you beat her, you're probably going to have the trophy in your hands.”