Nelly Korda, Lydia Ko back in the same LPGA field at Ford Championship for the first time since January showdown

Nelly Korda celebrated her second playoff victory of the year with an In-N-Out burger and “animal style” fries as she drove east from Palos Verdes Estates, California, to the suburbs of Phoenix. The World No. 1 split the six-hour drive with fellow tour player Olivia Cowan after draining a 15-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole against Ryann O’Toole at the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship four days ago.

At this week’s inaugural Ford Championship at Seville Golf and Country Club in Gilbert, Arizona, Korda faces a stacked field as she tries to become the first player since Ariya Jutanugarn to win three consecutive starts on the LPGA. Jutanugarn’s hot streak eight years ago included a Ricoh Women’s British Open title.

“First win as an auntie,” beamed Korda, whose older sister Jessica is on maternity leave. “My parents say I try to kill them every single time. I don’t purposely try to, but, yeah.”

Nine out of the top 10 players in the world are in the Ford field and all five winners from 2024. It’s the first time Korda has been in the same tournament as Lydia Ko since the two pals squared off against each other in January in Korda’s hometown of Bradenton, Florida, at the LPGA Drive On Championship in January. Korda beat Ko on the first hole of a playoff, denying her entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame. The celebratory champagne and flowers were left sitting by the 18th green.

2024 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions
2024 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions

Lydia Ko smiles on the 18th green after winning the 2024 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club. (Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Ko needs only one more point to reach the 27 required to enter the LPGA shrine. She went into the final round of the Blue Bay LPGA last month tied for the lead in China, but ultimately took a share of fourth as American Bailey Tardy bulldozed the field with a final-round 65 to win by four and claim her first LPGA title.

“I don’t think I fall asleep or wake up in a day thinking about the Hall of Fame,” said Ko. “I think people around me think about it more than I do. To be honest, last year I thought a lot about it, just because you’re so close.”

Ko went on to say that being in the LPGA Hall of Fame was never a big goal because she didn’t think she was capable of it. Humble words from a player who rewrote LPGA record books before she could legally drive a car.

Korda said she’s been good friends with “Lyds” for years thanks to the friendship that already existed between Ko and her older sister Jessica. Even though Ko’s time on tour predates Nelly, she still had a front-row seat to Ko’s brilliance as she followed Jessica’s career. Korda, 25, is only one year younger than Ko, who first won on the LPGA at age 15.

“I think she’s super resilient,” said Nelly. “I know in golf and sports, there are so many ups and downs, and she’s always bounced back.”

This season, Ko leads the tour in both bogey avoidance and scrambling, two statistical categories that she ranked outside of the top 50 one year ago, her worst season on tour.

The week before Korda won in front of a hometown crowd, Ko won quite literally where she lives and practices at Lake Nona Country Club at the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in Orlando. It was her 20th career LPGA title.

Ko/Korda showdowns are massive for a tour in need of star power.

Four of Korda’s 10 career titles have come in playoffs, and she’s now beaten Ko in two of them. The victory moved Korda ahead of Laura Davies on the all-time career money list to No. 28 with $9,523,989. Ko ranks fifth on that list at $17,438,722. This week’s purse of $2.25 million pays out $337,500 to the winner.

As Ko looks to become only the 35th player to enter the LPGA Hall of Fame and only the 25th to earn 27 HOF points, Korda, who took off seven weeks in between her two wins this year, said she never even thinks about making it in the HOF. She currently has 12 points.

“If I get there, then great,” said Korda, “but that’s not something that I put on my goal sheet.

“As I said, I think small goals then eventually lead to your bigger goals.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek