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Nelly Korda Triumphs in T-Mobile Match Play Over Leona Maguire

Not seen on the LPGA Tour in sixteen years, Nelly Korda is on a roll.

She defeated Leona Maguire 4 and 3 at Shadow Creek, winning four of the opening seven holes and effectively turning the remainder of the T-Mobile Match Play final Sunday into a formality.

2008 saw Lorena Ochoa become the last player to win four straight starts. As the top-ranked player in the world, Korda will attempt to tie the record of five, which was set by Nancy Lopez in 1978 and matched by Annika Sorenstam in 2004–05, at the first major of the season, the Chevron Championship outside of Houston, in two weeks.

Korda’s victory in this scheduled tournament was her third straight since she took a seven-week break following her triumph in her birthplace of Bradenton, Florida, in January. Mickey Wright holds the record with two of his four consecutive games played.

Additionally, Korda made history by being the first American to win four of her first five starts in a season since Kathy Whitworth in 1969.

“I can’t even wrap my head around it,”  Korda remarked. “Such a whirlwind of the last three weeks. I just feel like I was just in go-mode constantly.”

Although this was Korda and Maguire’s first head-to-head match-play singles event, they had previously faced off against one another in comparable circumstances in the Solheim Cup. In team match-play competitions, the Irish player is 3-1 against Korda when representing Europe.

Korda took a 4-up lead after birdieing Nos. 5-7. After 12 holes, she was 5 up, watched while Maguire won the next two with pars, then closed the match with a par victory on the par-4 15th.

“It’s always nice to get a lead, kind of like a cushion,” remarked Korda. “But it’s Leona. She’s such a fiery competitor. I knew when I lost those two holes in a row, 13 and 14, that I really needed to put my foot down to finish the match off.”

On the LPGA Tour, Nelly Korda has won four straight starts. Lorena Ochoa was the last person to achieve that achievement in 2008. Ramirez Orlando/Getty Images
For her 12th career triumph, Korda received $300,000.

“You know you’re going to have to make birdies if you want to beat her,” Maguire stated. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make enough today. Hats off to her. She is an incredible player and she is playing some great golf right now. All I could do is play my own game, and that wasn’t good enough today.”

The first three years of this competition, which took place in late May when temperatures are frequently in the upper nineties, were all match play. Numerous elite players choose not to participate.

This year’s format was altered to three days of stroke play, with the top eight players moving on to the weekend’s match play. Its strongest field was drawn when the tournament was rescheduled for early April, when the weather is significantly more temperate.

Throughout the stroke play portion of the competition, Maguire led the field by three strokes, finishing the first three rounds at 6-under par.

“It almost felt like two separate tournaments this week, the stroke-play event and the match-play event,” Maguire stated. “To lead the stroke play around this golf course by three at the end of the three days was something I can take a lot of positives from and be very proud of.”

Korda had to engage in combat in order to enter the match. After shooting 73 in the first two rounds, she managed to advance to the weekend on Wednesday with a 69.

She then took advantage of the chance to enroll in one of the tour’s more challenging classes.

“It’s absolutely breathtaking, such an amazing, amazing golf course,” remarked Korda. “It is brutal, though. It has tested every part of my game. I think golf courses like that are so much fun play. They’re so frustrating where you’re just like you walk off the hole and you’re just so frustrated there are a couple swear words going through your head.”

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