Nelly Korda finishes strong, takes 2-shot lead at LPGA Drive On Championship in Florida

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Nelly Korda hits off the ninth tee during the first round of the LPGA Drive On Championship golf tournament at Bradenton Country Club, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

BRADENTON, Fla. – Nelly Korda birdied three of her final four holes on Friday to shoot a 4-under 67 and take a two-shot lead midway through the LPGA Drive On Championship.

Seeking her first LPGA Tour victory since 2022, the former world No. 1 was at 10-under 132 through 36 holes at Bradenton Country Club, a Donald Ross-designed course in her hometown that she hasn't played all that often.

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Korda got a big roar when she closed her round by hitting a 6-iron to about 6 feet for birdie on the par-3 ninth hole.

“It’s honestly such a cool feeling,” Korda said. “Today when we teed off, we had a really big crowd going down 1 too. I’ve definitely felt a lot of support. Hopefully, I can bring out more family and friends this weekend too to become louder.”

So Mi Lee had the second-best round of the day, a 65. She was two shots back. Lydia Ko, who won last week's season opener and shared the first-round lead with Korda, was three shots behind after a 70, alongside Xiyu Lin (66) and Ayaka Furue (67).

“I did feel like I didn’t have my A-game, but still to shoot under par on a day where you don’t feel like it’s as solid is a good place to be,” Ko said.

Korda started on the back nine and bogeyed the par-4 fifth hole to fall to 1 under for the day. She followed with birdies on the par-5 sixth and eighth.

“I just knew that I could probably take advantage of the two par-5s. I knew I had two par-5s coming up, and if I had good drives, they’re both reachable,” Korda said. “Everyone is going to make mistakes. It’s all just about minimizing it.”

Lexi Thompson was five shots back after a 67. Maja Stark had the low round of the day, a 64 that was a 12-shot improvement over her opening-round score, to make the cut with two shots to spare at 2 under.


AP golf:

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