[PHOTO: Ezra Shaw]

Nelly Korda’s first round has not treated her kindly in her past two starts. The six-time winner in 2024 carded a 10 on her third hole in the US Women’s Open for an opening 10-over 80 and went out in four-over through three holes in the Meijer LPGA Classic last week on her way to a four-over 76. She couldn’t recover enough to make either cut.

Ahead of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Korda and long-time caddie Jason McDede subtly changed their club-selection process to give the 25-year-old more responsibility on her club choices at Sahalee Country Club.

“Some weeks I get a little too reliant on him, let’s say, where it comes to the decision that I want to make going into the greens,” Korda explained. “This week we decided that he was just going to give me the number, he was going to tell me how far I should land it, and then I’m going to make my decision based off that so I’m a little bit more confident with it. He’s going to disagree or agree, but for the majority it was a lot of agreeing today, so it was good.”

The change turned into a three-under 69, putting Korda near the top of the leaderboard in Sammamish, Washington. Korda started her round with sister Jessica and nephew Greyson watching on the 10th tee. The 4-month-old wore a turtle outfit Aunt Nelly picked out for him. With her family watching, Korda blasted her first tee shot 299 metres then parked her 75-metre second to inside four feet for an opening birdie.

Korda briefly dropped back to even par with a bogey on the 12th before carding three straight birdies on holes 13 to 15. The No.1 player in the world displayed deft touch with her club selection, hitting it to eight feet on the 141-metre par-3 13th, 16 feet on the 341-metre par-4 14th, and four-and-a-half feet on the 371-metre par-4 15th, the second hardest hole on the course in the opening round.

“I just hit the fairways honestly,” Korda said. “That’s the tough part about the golf course here. If you don’t hit the fairway you don’t get to be aggressive. You can’t take your opportunities.”

Korda birdied 44 percent of the holes when she reached the fairway. She didn’t make any from the five times she drove it into the rough. Korda got to four under with a birdie on the third, then double-bogeyed the fourth to drop back to two under. Korda stabilised the rest of the round, birdieing her final hole in her three-under effort.

The steady-handed rebound after the double-bogey came from a lesson learned repeatedly in Korda’s career, most recently after missing the cut in her last two events. Korda shared that she witnessed several athletes, including her brother Sebastian, a professional tennis player, and Jessica deal with up-and-down career moments. The key for Korda, who had won six of seven starts, including five-in-a-row culminating with her second major at the Chevron Championship, was remaining positive and reaffirming the talent inside of her.

“You can’t dwell on the past,” Korda said. “You just have to focus 100 percent on what’s lying right in front of you. That’s just the attitude you have to have. You have to have short-term memory loss out here.”

While the Floridian was happy about her round, she glowed gleefully when talking about her post-round plans. Korda spent most of Wednesday cuddling with Greyson and planned to do the same with him on Thursday afternoon. His laughter, Korda explained, lets her feel pure happiness and provides a different perspective away from the course.

“It’s so nice to have them out here,” Korda said. “I haven’t seen her in a while. She came out early to support me on the first day, and I can’t be more thankful.”