After slow start, Nelly Korda wakes up with birdie run, eagle at TOC

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ORLANDO, Fla. – That didn’t take long.

Nelly Korda, who delivered one of the best shots of last season when she nearly jarred a 7-wood for albatross at the KPMG Women’s PGA, needed only 11 holes to record her first eagle of the new year on Thursday. From 222 yards out at Lake Nona’s par-5 11th hole, Korda flushed a hybrid to 4 feet.

The shot highlighted an opening 4-under 68 that has the world No. 1 a shot off Gaby Lopez’s lead at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. But it arguably wasn’t the most crucial of the day.

Korda bogeyed two of her first four holes before rattling off three straight birdies, at Nos. 5-7. The first of the run, after a stuffed 58-degree wedge on the par-4 fifth, kickstarted Korda’s opening round.

“I was just kind of spraying it everywhere, left, right, you name it,” Korda said. “I was just like, OK, so this is going to be a grind today, which it was. … That first birdie kind of gave me a little bit of confidence, a boost going into the next couple holes.”

Korda added birdies at Nos. 10 and 15 to get in the clubhouse in a share of second. She opened in 67 at last year’s Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona, which she ended up winning for her first of four LPGA victories last year.

Following a successful but busy season, Korda notes that she’s yet to have an offseason. She played the PNC Championship with her dad, Petr, in December and estimates she took one week off from golf in the past two months. She is planning on a six-week break following the LPGA’s three-event Florida Swing. The tour takes a month off in February before heading to Asia for back-to-back tournaments. Korda will skip both of those.

“That's going to be my offseason,” she said.

Highlights: Hilton Grand Vacations TOC, Round 1

Full-field scores from the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions

Korda is also looking to conserve some energy this week. Her younger brother, Sebastian, one of the top tennis players in the U.S., is currently playing in the Australian Open. He is scheduled to face off against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round. The match is slated for 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday night.

“I stayed up for his past two matches, and today I was like, yeah, I'm just going to be a little selfish and prepare for my round tomorrow,” Nelly said Thursday afternoon.

“I'll keep my fingers crossed in my sleep.”