No.1 Korda carries LPGA fight with Ko into final events

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American Nelly Korda takes her fight with South Korean Ko Jin-young for LPGA Player of the Year honors into this week's LPGA Pelican Championship (AFP/Sarah Stier)
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Tokyo Olympic champion Nelly Korda, who surprised herself this week with a return to world number one, resumes her Player of the Year fight Thursday at the LPGA Pelican Championship.

The tournament at the par-70 Pelican Club in suburban Tampa is the penultimate event of the LPGA season, which ends at next week's Tour Championship.

Because of points dropping off in what was an idle week, Korda moved ahead of South Korean Ko Jin-Young, who won the past two LPGA events at the Founders Cup and in South Korea and next week defends the Tour Championship crown.

"I was super shocked," Korda said. "I had someone come up to me when I was finishing up my practice round and told me I'm back at world number one. I was like, 'No, you're joking. How is that possible?'"

Ko carries a slim lead over the 23-year-old American in the Player of the Year points fight, but Korda isn't keeping track of where she needs to finish to seize the lead.

"Good golf solves it all in a sense," Korda said. "I'm not going to worry about anything, no trophies, nothing, until I tee up that first shot and hopefully sink that last putt on the 72nd hole."

Korda has won three LPGA titles this year, including a major at the Women's PGA Championship in June, as well as Olympic gold. But she has played only twice since Tokyo.

"I've had kind of a weird schedule the past two months when I haven't been playing a lot," Korda said. "Just trying to get back into competitive golf."

Ko has won four times in the past four months and impressed Korda with her dominating performances.

"It has honestly been really super exciting to watch," Korda said. "It has been super cool to see how dominant and well she's been playing.

"If you're out here and you're playing week in and week out, you appreciate how good she's playing. She has been on a run and it's going to take some really, really good golf to catch her.

"She just knows how to get the ball in the hole and doesn't make mistakes. Her putting is pretty amazing. I think she's just all around a really solid player."

One trophy neither Ko nor Korda can win is the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. While they would be fighting for that as well, neither will be able to play the minimum number of rounds needed to qualify.

Korda said she never considered adding something to her schedule to qualify.

"My schedule was crazy enough," she said. "I had to pull out last minute from Portland because I just wasn't feeling well and same with Walmart.

"So, no, I don't think I could have played more events because my body was just so tired. It kind of sucks that that's just how it is."

js/rcw