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Will Korda bounce back? Can Vu win again? What to watch at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

By admin Jun27,2024

  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior WriterJun 19, 2024, 01:24 PM ET

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    • Senior college football writer
    • Author of seven books on college football
    • Graduate of the University of Georgia

The stars are aligning on the LPGA Tour, as two-time major championship winner Lilia Vu captured last week’s Meijer LPGA Classic in her first start back after missing 11 weeks with a back injury.

World No. 1 golfer Nelly Korda and Vu will be back on the course together again at this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the third major of the season, which tees off Thursday at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington.

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Vu, who was named LPGA Player of the Year after winning four times last season, including two majors at the Chevron Championship and AIG Women’s Open, has her sights set on returning to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Of course, that spot belongs to Korda, who has already won six times on tour this season, including the first major at the Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas, on April 21.

Korda won six times in seven starts — and an LPGA record-tying five times in a row — before cooling off in her past two starts with missed cuts at the U.S. Women’s Open and the Meijer LPGA Classic. She’s looking to bounce back after those two disappointments.

“I’m going to go through these situations so many times where I feel like I’m playing really well, and I’ll go through a little lull where golf is the hardest thing in my life right now,” Korda said Tuesday during a news conference at the Women’s PGA Championship.

“So that’s I feel like what grows myself as a person and what makes me appreciate the sport so much and makes me appreciate the wins and the highs and good shots, the crowds out there as well.”

Korda, 25, was asked Tuesday whether she’d watched tennis star Roger Federer‘s commencement speech at Dartmouth College on June 9. The 20-time Grand Slam champion noted that while he won 80% of his matches in his career, he won only 54% of the points he played.

“That’s the same thing with golf,” Korda said. “They get second serves. If we mess up and make a big number on a hole, it’s a little bit more penalizing than if they double fault, let’s say, depending on where they are in the match. It’s true. You’re going to fail more than you win, and I think that’s what fuels a player as well more in sports.”

Korda can relate. On May 30, she carded a 10 on the par-3 12th hole in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She posted 80-70 and missed the cut by 2 strokes at 10-over 150.

Last week, she started with double bogey-bogey-bogey en route to a 4-over 76 in windy conditions in the first round of the Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She bounced back with a 5-under 67 in the second round but missed the cut by one.

Like Federer on the tennis courts, there’s an expectation that Korda will win each time she tees it up in a tournament.

“I feel like pressure is [a] privilege, and that’s something that you’re the only one that can kind of control that,” Korda said. “You can listen to the outside voices, but at the end of the day, when you have pressure you can take it in a positive way that you are doing good and playing well. But, yeah, I’m just going to stay in my bubble this week and go out and try to execute my shots, be confident in what I have.”

Nelly Korda and Lilia Vu are set to face off at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week. Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images

Korda and Vu will also compete in the upcoming Olympic women’s golf tournament, scheduled for Aug. 7-10 at Le Golf National outside Paris. They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the women’s Olympic Golf Rankings and will make the 60-woman field.

“I have never been to Paris, and the one thing I’m really looking forward to is the croissants probably on every corner,” Korda said. “I love bakeries and baked goods, so that’s one thing I’m really looking forward to. And obviously representing my country and getting to compete in the Olympics is such an incredible opportunity.

“I’m just super excited to get there and even just to play that golf course. I got to watch it in [the 2018] Ryder Cup. To be able to play such amazing golf courses like we do nowadays will be such a treat.”

A country can have up to four players in the field if they’re ranked in the top 15 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Along with Korda and Vu, Rose Zhang is No. 9 and will probably make the team, while Megan Khang (No. 16), Alison Lee (No. 18), Ally Ewing (No. 19) and Allisen Corpuz (No. 23) have work to do this week.

The Olympics field will be finalized after Sunday’s final round at Sahalee Country Club.

Korda has already clinched a spot on the U.S. team for the Solheim Cup, which will be played Sept. 13-15 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. It will be her fourth Solheim Cup appearance.

Vu is second in Solheim Cup points — 911½ behind Korda — and is all but a lock to make the squad. The top seven golfers on the points list when the qualifying period ends after the AIG Women’s British Open at St. Andrews in Scotland on Aug. 22-25 will automatically qualify for the U.S. team. The next two highest players in the world rankings will also make the team, and Stacy Lewis will make three captain’s picks.

Lewis is happy Vu, a Solheim Cup rookie at last year’s event in Andalusia, Spain, is healthy again.

“The most impressive [thing] was the amount of time that she took off and then just comes back and wins,” Lewis said. “That is really hard to do, because [when] you come back, your short game might be rusty. I was most impressed with that.”

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