Nelly Korda birdied her last six holes to shoot a nine-under par 63 and seize a one-stroke lead over fellow American Lizette Salas after Friday’s second round of the Women’s PGA Championship.
Korda, the 22-year-old daughter of retired Czech tennis star Petr Korda, stood on 11-under 133 after 36 holes at Atlanta Athletic Club in quest of her first major title.
“I guess I just blacked out out there,” Korda said of her run, which she said was helped by having spectators for the event.
“It helps to have a crowd here,” she said. “I feel like when the crowd is here, they get behind you, they kind of give you a lot of energy, as well.”
Salas fired a second straight 67 to stand on 134 with France’s Celine Boutier, Canada’s Alena Sharp and American Cydney Clanton sharing a distant third on 137.
Korda, who began on the 10th hole with her lone bogey of the day, followed with a birdie at 11 and two more at the 14th and par-3 17th, then made another at the par-5 second before her amazing closing run.
Korda sank a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fourth, lipped out for eagle at the fifth, tapped in for birdie at six and sank a five-foot downhill putt at the par-3 seventh. After a long birdie putt on eight, she pitched eight feet past the cup and curled in a downhill birdie putt.
“The one on number eight was the highlight of my round,” Korda said. “I pushed my drive out right and I was near a root, so I wasn’t even sure if I could hit it. Thankfully I hit just the top of it. It’s so scary when you have those types of shots. To drain a long putt was nice, too.”
Salas, the 18-hole leader, birdied the par-5 second and par-4 third holes, then reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the par-4 eighth in a bogey-free round.
Korda has three top-three finishes in majors, including a share of third at this year’s ANA Inspiration after a runner-up effort last year. Her best Women’s PGA result was a share of third in 2019.
Last week, Korda won her fifth career LPGA title at the Meijer Classic. She also won in February at Boca Rio.
Salas won her only LPGA title in 2014 at Kingsmill. Her best major showing was a runner-up effort at the 2019 Women’s British Open.
Boutier, another back-nine starer, shot 64 to leap into contention. She birdied the 11th and par-5 12th, made another at the 16th and took full advantage of the par-5 holes with birdies at 18, two and five.
Boutier followed with an eagle at the par-4 sixth, driving the ball eight feet from the cup and sinking the putt, then birdied the par-3 seventh before taking her lone bogey at the eighth.
“I was able to hit my irons a lot closer today, so I had a lot of closer putts. Obviously, made a lot of them,” Boutier said.
Meanwhile, Dottie Ardina of the Philippines carded a second straight two-under-par 70 to maintain her tied for 10th to 18th places for a two-day total of 140 at four-under, seven strokes behind the leader Korda.
Ardina, who mixed her rounds with birdies on 6,10, 17and 18 and bogeys on 3 and 7, is now tied with Mina Harigae, Ryann O’Toole, Austin Ernst and Danielle Kang of the US, Italy’s Giulia Molinaro, China’s Xiyu Lin, Wichanee Meechai of Thailand, and South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim.
On the other hand, reigning US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso also of the Philippines bounced back from a first round one-over performance to a two-under 70 in this second round of the $4.8 million event.
The 20-year-old Filipino-Japanese now has a total of 143 and is tied for 28th to 42nd places. Meanwhile, Bianca Pagdanganan – another Filipina in the tournament – improved her performance from a first round 76 to 74 but was not enough as she missed the cut with her total of 150.