BRADENTON, Fla. ― Nella Korda had no idea her homecoming would involve a ride on a rollercoaster.
Up by four strokes when play began in Sunday’s final round of the LPGA Drive On Championship, the Bradenton resident lost the lead on the back nine, then pulled back even on her final two holes to force a sudden-death playoff with Lydia Ko. From there, the golfer winless on the tour since 2022 made sure 2024 would be different by winning on the second playoff hole to claim the tournament win at the Bradenton Country Club.
For the victory, Korda’s ninth LPGA triumph and first since capturing the Pelican Women’s Championship in November 2022, she earned a first-place prize of $262,500 and 500 points in the Race to the CME Globe. She finished Sunday’s round at 2-over 73, and 11 under for the tournament, identical to Ko, the winner of last week’s opening event of the LPGA season.
“Gosh, I thought that the tournament was over going into 17,” Korda said. “I just kind of gave myself a chance. I knew that if I rolled that eagle in, I had to birdie the last hole. Yeah, I seem to always make it very dramatic and interesting, so there is no better feeling than to do it in front of a home crowd. What a day.
“It was such a grind out there, so back and forth. I felt like I never really got anything going. But, I mean, I just can’t even believe it right now.”
For her efforts, the 26-year-old Ko took home a second-place prize of $163,689. Her win in last week’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions left her one point shy of reaching the 27 required to enter the LPGA Hall of Fame. Under the current criteria to gain enshrinement at 26 years, nine months and four days, Ko would become the youngest player to be inducted.
Behind Korda and Ko at 8 under 8 was Megan Khang, who earned $118,745. Lucy Li and Ayaka Furue finished tied for fourth, each earning $82,897. Auston Kim and Xiyu Lin tied for sixth at 6 under. They each took home $55,564.
A homecoming that followed the script for the first three days of the tournament flipped horribly for Korda. Her four-shot lead entering the day evaporated as the world’s No. 4 player submitted two bogeys and one double bogey on the back nine. The fade allowed Ko to take advantage.
Ko carded two birdies and an eagle on her back nine to vault ahead of Korda with two holes to play.
Korda needed to pick up three strokes over those final two holes, and the 25-year-old did just that. She eagled the No. 17…