Nelly Korda moves up in class as a new primetime player this week.
Back in action off her breakthrough victory Sunday at the Swinging Skirts Taiwan Championship, Korda will tee it up in a marquee grouping in Friday’s start of the Toto Japan Classic. For the second week in a row, Korda will play alongside a home favorite, joining Nasa Hataoka, who has succeeded Ai Miyazato as the most popular Japanese LPGA pro in the game today.
Korda, Hataoka and Rolex world No. 3 So Yeon Ryu will go off at 9:25 a.m. local time (that’s Thursday at 10:25 p.m. ET) in the 54-hole event. Golf Channel’s live coverage begins at 11 p.m. ET Thursday with live streaming beginning at 10 p.m. on GolfChannel.com.
Korda, 20, played alongside Wei-Ling Hsu in the final two rounds in Taiwan, with massive galleries rooting for Hsu. Under pressure as co-leader in the final group on Sunday, Korda put on a ball-striking clinic, closing with a bogey-free 68. She hit all but three fairways and all but two greens in regulation.
“She is probably the best driver of the ball I’ve ever taught,” said David Whelan, her swing coach and the former director of golf at IMG Academy.
Full-field scores from the Toto Japan Classic
Korda ranks 10th in total driving in the LPGA, a stat combining length and accuracy. She averaged 274 yards per drive in Sunday’s finale in Taiwan, routinely hammering drives 30 yards past Jin Young Ko, the 10th-ranked player in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
Whelan said he liked the composure Korda showed in Taiwan.
“Nelly is able to stay calm under pressure,” Whelan said. “She doesn’t really have too many emotional swings. She is evenly tempered, doesn’t get too high or too low.
“I know she can afterward, but during a round, she is able to stay on an even keel. I like that.”
Whelan has been working with Nelly for five years. She helped steer her older sister, Jessica, to Whelan two years ago. Whelan is the former director of golf at IMG Academy and previously was a long-time coach to Paula Creamer.
With Sunday’s victory, Korda moved up to No 32 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, making her the eighth highest ranked American in the world.