[PHOTO: Sarah Stier]

Hannah Green is the fifth-ranked player in the world and last won a month ago at the JM Eagle Championship. A month before that, she remembers playing with Nelly Korda at the Fir Hills Se Ri Pak Championship in Los Angeles and thinking over the first two days that the world No.1 looked almost mortal. A 72 on Thursday, a 67 on Friday, and though she was in the mix, nothing about it seemed spectacular. Which, she said at the US Women’s Open on Wednesday, might have been the most jaw-dropping part.

“I don’t really know if she was in contention,” Green said. “She didn’t make it look like she was a robot. She was hitting some shots that we all hit every once in a while, but she was just making up-and-downs and not making too big of numbers. So she made it look really easy but not also like she played really well, which is the scarier thing.”

You already know the postscript: Korda, as she does so often, won that event.

At Lancaster Country Club, in the run-up to this week’s US Women’s Open, we’re running out of superlatives for Nelly Korda’s historic run thus far in 2024. She has won an astounding six of her past seven starts, including her second major at the Chevron Championship, and – aside from Lexi Thompson’s surprise retirement announcement – has soaked up the lion’s share of attention all week, even if that’s not always her fervent wish. When it comes to her competitors, the press conferences have been reminiscent of Tiger’s prime, when other players were often asked more about him than themselves, and here at Golf Digest we’re just as guilty of pursuing that line – it’s hard not to, when someone is this good.

Photo: Elsa

A year ago, Rose Zhang might have been the most hyped player in the women’s game, and she’s already won twice on the LPGA, including at this month’s Cognizant Founders Cup, where she became the only other player to win a tournament with Nelly Korda in the field since mid-January. Even with that success, she remains astounded by Korda’s run.

“I don’t know how to explain it or how to phrase it right,” she began, “but what Nelly is doing is not something that anyone can do, and history tells itself. It’s so hard to win one tournament out here… being able to really grind mentally, physically, having the game and having that trust in yourself and other people around you that supported you, getting to that point and winning is already so difficult, and for her to do it, oh, my gosh, six times, it’s honestly almost unheard of. I’m witnessing some crazy history… she’s almost looking unfazed, and I think because she’s so solidified in her prep work, she’s so solidified with the people around her, and she loves the game.”

Brooke Henderson echoed Green’s thoughts, saving her highest regard for how well Korda has finished even the closest events.

“I feel like I’ve been very close all year,” she said, “and she’s been able to turn it over on all these weeks. She hasn’t necessarily been out front at the start of the week on all those victories. She just kind of found a way to get it done, which is really very impressive… it’s definitely something to look up to and try to learn from.”

Allisen Corpuz, the defending US Women’s Open champion, was not quite so outspoken on the matter, but her words were equally emphatic.

“Right now,” she said, “I think Nelly is just in a league of her own.”

Photo: Sam Greenwood

Even Lexi Thompson, who spoke mostly about her impending retirement, was not immune from the Nelly line of questioning. Nor was she reserved with her praise.

“It’s incredible,” she gushed. “I think we all know what Nelly was capable of before this stretch of events that she’s played in. She’s super talented. I think it just goes to show in all the tournaments she’s won this year and how well she’s played ever since turning professional. It’s amazing. It’s great for women’s golf, especially having an American golfer. But to see anybody have that stretch of golf is truly remarkable.”

Remarkable, amazing, inspiring, historic. Those are the words her fellow competitors reserve for Korda, and starting tonight (Australian time), she’ll have a chance to add a new chapter to her best year as a professional. And though every other player in the field will be dreaming of her own triumph, it’s clear that there’s something special about having a front row seat to history… even when that history comes at their expense.