[PHOTO: Icon Sportswire]

The Met Gala may be one of the few places where Nelly Korda can slip into being just a background character. On Monday, the No.1 player in the world was the first golfer to go to the famed fundraiser since Tiger Woods in 2013 and the first LPGA player ever to attend an event that is among the most star-studded social gatherings each year. Korda said she recognised Shakira and had Jaden Smith approach her and introduce himself. Otherwise, the 25-year-old spent most of the time people-watching.

“I think I’m just a grain of sand in such a big, big room,” Korda said in a press conference on Wednesday, US time. “I thought it was incredible that you get all these people in one room. I was just in awe the entire night.”

Nelly Korda was the first LPGA player to ever attend the Met Gala. [Photo: Dia Dipasupil]
All eyes in the golf world now focus on Korda as she goes for her sixth straight victory on the LPGA in the Cognizant Founders Cup this week, a feat never accomplished in the tour’s 74-year history. The five-in-a-row run dates back to January, when she won in her hometown of Bradenton in Florida, at the Drive On Championship. The 13-time winner matched the longest win streak in LPGA history set by Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam (2004-2005) and Nancy Lopez (1978) with her fifth straight victory at the Chevron Championship two weeks ago, when she captured her second major title.

Initially, Korda was planning to play the JM Eagle LA Championship, the event after the Chevron. But she then announced that Monday that she decided to withdraw from the Wilshire Country Club tournament, noting in a statement that she needed to rest from the mental toll that contending week after week placed on her.

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She explained ahead of the Chevron that she felt about 70 percent at the start of the tournament. Then the rush of that victory kept her awake for most of the night.

“First night, Sunday, I really didn’t sleep much at all,” Korda said. “The adrenaline, you actually feel really sick. You can’t sleep. The adrenaline wears off and the body starts to ache a little bit.”

Now, Korda is going for her sixth straight title at Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey, where she missed the cut last year. She struggled in America’s Garden State in 2023, missing the weekend at both the Founders Cup and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol the next week. She opened her press conference on Wednesday by pointing that fact out.

“My track record isn’t great in New Jersey, so I’m hoping to change that this year,” Korda said.

In the past two weeks, Korda focused on rest ahead of this event. She went back home after her major triumph and spent plenty of time on her couch, getting the needed nine to 10 hours of sleep a night to recuperate. Along with training and practising, Korda hosted her new AJGA event, the Nelly Invitational in Bradenton, over the past weekend before attending the Met Gala on Monday. The busy schedule kept her mind away from the historic chance in front of her this week.

“If I’m being honest, I have not thought about it at all because I’ve had so much going on those two weeks,” Korda said. “Then, obviously, Monday I had the Met, so haven’t had too much time to think about it.”

Korda trusts her new, simplified approach in trying to shake off her struggles in New Jersey. In the past, she arrived at a venue where she played poorly before and believed she needed to do extra work on top of practice rounds to perform better. Now, Korda trusts that her practice at home is enough and focuses on developing a game plan for the course ahead of the start of the tournament, which she has been working on since her first practice round last Sunday.

“I’m really just trying to keep it one shot at time, see how it goes,” Korda said. “This golf course is tough. It’s very, very narrow off the tee. The rough is very penalising. And it’s wet this year, so it’s even worse. So just not getting too ahead of myself and taking it a shot at a time.

“As boring as it sounds, or as many times as you’re going to hear me say it, that’s the motto and I’m going to stick to it.”