HOUSTON – Two months after a freak accident sidelined her at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Nelly Korda returns to action this week at another major championship – the U.S. Women’s Open. It’s her first start since withdrawing from the season’s third major due to a back injury.
“I just did something stupid,” Korda said Tuesday at Champions Golf Club, site of the season’s final major championship. “I tried cracking my back and my back went into spasm.”
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was staged in October at Aronimink Golf Club, just outside Philadelphia. Overnight temperatures dipped into the 50s and the cold conditions took a toll on the 22-year-old Floridian. As her body tightened in the chilly playing conditions, she tried cracking her back on the 13th hole during the first round. The spasms that followed led to her withdrawal.
“My body does not do well in cold weather,” Korda said. “It gets really tight and I just made a little oopsie, which turned into a little bit longer of an oopsie.”
Korda says she is now pain-free.
“I wanted to take it slow until I was 100 percent,” Korda explained. “This year it’s a funky year, too, so I didn’t want to come back too early and kind of aggravate it again.”
On Nov. 3, nearly one month after her injury, she posted on her Instagram account that she was taking “baby steps” in her return and working her way up to hitting an 8-iron again. Korda says she began preparing for this week’s championship about a week and a half ago, but she is still shaking off the rust from her hiatus.
“Feel is not 100 percent there. Like yesterday, when I was putting, I was hitting them like 10 feet by,” Korda said. “But I think as I play more rounds under pressure, obviously, it’ll get better.”
At No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings, Korda is not only the top-ranked American, but she is also the top-ranked player in the world having not yet won a major championship. She looked poised to cross off that title as the favorite heading to Aronimink Golf Club. In August, Korda finished T-14 at the AIG Women’s British Open. In September, she suffered a disappointing playoff loss at the ANA Inspiration, where she held the lead throughout the week. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship looked ripe for the taking, but then came the injury.
“I’ve had a really good year. I played well in ANA and I played well at the British and I had some really good finishes,” Korda said about her season. “I’m very happy with how my year has gone.”
U.S. Women’s Open: Full-field tee times | Full coverage
That positivity stems from her father, Petr Korda, a former Australian Open champion who will be by his daughter’s side this week in Houston, Texas. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Nelly recalls her father saying. It was the same advice she applied to her recovery and her return to competitive golf.
“I’m just really grateful to be out here, and I’m just going to take it step by step.”