BELLEAIR, Fla.—Nelly Korda made such a mess of the 17th hole that missing what amounts to a tap-in barely registered. She made triple bogey and part of her couldn’t help but think she had thrown away her chances in the Pelican Women’s Championship.
“I honestly lost hope,” Korda said. “I was like, ‘OK, just try to make a solid par’—18 is a really tough hole—‘If you have a chance or birdie, then try and go after it.’ My caddie really kept me in the moment and I didn’t give up.
“Thank God I didn’t.”
She birdied the 18th and got a second chance when Lexi Thompson had another late collapse, this time going bogey-bogey, that turned an epic duel between Korda and Thompson into a four-way playoff.
Korda ended it quickly, making a 12-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole at No. 18 to win for the four time this year on the LPGA Tour.
None were this wild.
Korda fell out of the lead on the 17th hole at Pelican Golf Club by chopping her way to a triple bogey to fall two shots behind. She answered with an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 1-under 69 and got into a playoff when Thompson missed another par putt and shot 69.
They were joined at 17-under 263 by defending champion Sei Young Kim (67) and Lydia Ko (66), neither of whom expected to be playing extra holes until Thompson and Korda imploded over the final two holes.
“It was a heated battle. I actually really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun,” Korda said. “She played some solid golf. Unfortunate on 17, 18. Seventeen, there were a lot of spike marks around the hole, so I don’t know if she hit one to three-putt. But that’s how golf is sometimes.
“You’re going to lose these and sometimes you’re going to win them.”
The victory paid off handsomely for the 23-year-old American.
She secured her spot at No. 1 in the women’s world ranking, and moved 12 points ahead of Jin Young Ko for LPGA player of the year going into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship next week in Naples.
Korda now has five wins this year—four on the LPGA Tour to match Jin Young Ko’s total, one a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
She lost a two-shot lead on the par-3 12th hole when Korda made bogey and Thompson made birdie, and they matched par for the next four holes in a two-player race.
And then it was four players.
Kim birdied the 18th and figured she had tied for third with Jin Young Ko, who played bogey-free. It was a matter of whether Korda or Thompson would win the tournament.
And then it changed so quickly. Korda pulled her second shot to the 17th, dumped a wedge into a bunker and missed what appeared to be a tap-in. It added to a triple bogey with one hole left.
Instead, Thompson added to the reputation of struggling to close out tournaments. She bogeyed the 17th, but still had a one-shot lead until making another bogey on the 18th.
Korda made good on her second chance.
Thompson took only one question, and spoke about an “amazing week” with hospitality “like no other.” It wasn’t clear if she was talking about her own hospitality.
Thompson now has gone 38 tournaments since her last LPGA Tour victory. At the U.S. Women’s Open this year at Olympic Club, she lost a five-shot lead on the back nine and finished with two bogeys to miss the playoff by one shot.
Korda wasn’t the only winner.
Yu Liu closed with a 66 and tied for 16th, enough to move into the top 60 in the Race to CME Globe and qualify for the season-ending tournament next week. All 60 players—from Jin Young Ko at No. 1 to Wichanee Meechai at No. 60—only has to win the tournament to claim the $1.5 million prize and the Race to CME Globe title.
Lauren Coughlin, who earned a spot in the field through Monday qualifying, closed with a 70 and tied for 16th. She moved from No. 106 to No. 97 to keep a full LPGA card for next season. Stephanie Meadow moved up one spot to No. 100, the cutoff for full status.
Korda and Jin Young Ko take their show down the coast to Tiburon Golf Club for the final event.