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Eyeing sixth win of season, Nelly Korda fires 65 to lead Mizuho Americas Open by two

Eyeing sixth win of season, Nelly Korda fires 65 to lead Mizuho Americas Open by two

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — It didn’t take Nelly Korda long to put another tournament within her grasp.

Korda shot a 7-under 65 Saturday and will take a two-stroke lead over Hannah Green into the final round of the Mizuho Americas Open in a bid to win for the sixth time in her last seven events on the LPGA Tour.

“Yeah, I think I’ve always had this mentality,” Korda said of putting the pedal to metal every time she plays. “I’ve always given it a 100%. I’ve looked up to great athletes like (Rafa) Nadal and Roger Federer, which the blend of the two I hope I have. The grace that Federer has and the fight that Nadal has.

“So just having people that I’ve looked up to and I’ve seen and I’ve admired, I hope that’s something I carry on to the golf course,” the world’s No. 1-ranked player added.

After seeing Rose Zhang snap her tour record-tying five tournament winning streak in the Cognizant Founders Cup last week, Korda has gotten better every round in posting a three-round 13-under 203 total at scenic Liberty National. She started with a 70 and followed that with a 68 and now the 65.

Green, whose two wins make her the only other multiple winner on tour this year, took advantage of the calm and dry morning conditions and made a major move, shooting an event-record 63. It was one shot better than the best round last year, the first year of the event.

“Right now, Nelly is very much out of reach of getting world No. 1,” Green said. “I still want to get into the top 5 in the world now that I got into the top 10. Yeah, just want to keep pushing, not get too ahead of myself.”

Korda and Green, who are ranked 1-2 in the Rolex Player of the Year standings, will be in the final grouping Sunday on the course that has the New York City skyline, the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty for a backdrop.

Neither player had a bogey Saturday, but they did combine for 16 birdies. Korda played in the afternoon when the weather got a little chillier and windier and there was a light rain for the final nine holes. She took the lead with a birdie on 15, just missed an eagle on the driveable 16th and then missed two birdie putts on the final two holes.

She walked off the course shaking her head.

“The first nine the wind was down, it was sunny, it was warm,” Korda said. “By the time we got near to the water on the back nine the wind started picking up and it started drizzling. It was the weather we kind of played in the first day, so made sure to stay warm and to take it a shot at a time.”

They won’t have to worry about Zhang. The defending champion had to withdraw early in the first round with an illness. Overall, seven players withdrew with various illnesses in the first two days.

Rookie Gabriela Ruffels of Australia, who finished third last week, was tied for third at 10 under with Ayaka Furue of Japan, who birdied the final hole.

Jennifer Kupcho, who lost this event last year in a playoff with Zhang, was at 9 under along with Sophia Popov of Germany and Pajaree Anannarukarn of the Phillipines. Kupcho and Popov had 67s, one more than Anannarukarn.

There was a large group at 8 under, including first-round leader So Mi Lee, the South Korean alternate who got into the event an hour before her tee time.

Third-round leader Atthaya Thitikul, who recently returned from a thumb injury, struggled and had a 74 and was in a group at 7 under, six shots behind Korda.

Green hit 17 greens despite missing a couple of fairways.

“Actually hit it really close, so it was really nice to actually not have to stress about trying to make pars today,” the 27-year old said. “But it did feel like autopilot for a little bit there, which is very nice. So, yeah, now I put myself hopefully in contention for Sunday.”