When the 2021 LPGA Tour season wrapped up with world No. 1 Nelly Korda and No. 2 Jin Young Ko jockeying over the closing stretch of the season for both titles and awards, fans were left on the edge of their seats clamoring for a rematch in 2022. But when a series of surprises unfolded this season, fans saw a much different outcome.
Here is a closer look at some of the unexpected moments that made headlines this year on the LPGA.
Nelly Korda’s health scare
Two months into the LPGA season, Nelly Korda was attending the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida when her year took an unexpected turn. Feeling unwell during her trip, Korda’s doctor advised her to visit the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a blood clot in her left arm that required surgery to be removed.
Korda underwent surgery in April and was sidelined until June when she made her return to competition at the U.S. Women’s Open. While her demeanor seemed changed as she returned to the course with a renewed sense of gratitude given her health scare, she picked her game right where she left off and finished T-8 in her return. In August, Korda picked up her first worldwide win of the season on the Ladies European Tour and in November, she successfully defended her title at the Pelican Women’s Championship to pick up her first win of the LPGA season. With her victory, she returned to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, which she lost earlier this season.
Jin Young Ko fights ongoing injury
At the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in 2021, Jin Young Ko revealed she had not been hitting any golf balls on the driving range for two weeks. She tried to rest an ongoing left wrist injury but somehow managed to win that week. Ko extended her off-season to further rest her wrist and made her season debut in February at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. Ko won in her first start of the year, showing no indication that she was dealing
with the injury that had plagued her last year, but that win was one of the few highlights we’d see from the former world No. 1, who struggled particularly in the latter half of this season. She went on to miss the cut in three of four starts and withdrew from the other in what is a first for Ko.
Upon capturing the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, Danielle Kang looked poised for a standout season. But between April and May, Kang played a limited number of events and at the U.S Women’s Open, revealed she had been diagnosed with a tumor on her spine. At the time, Kang said she was still undergoing tests to learn more about her condition and didn’t have many details to share other than that she was in pain and had to make changes to her swing in order to be able to play. Following the conclusion of the U.S. Women’s Open in June, she took a two-month break and returned at the CP Women’s Open, but has declined to share additional details about her condition.
Shanshan Feng bids farewell
One of the most colorful personalities in the women’s game, Shanshan Feng announced her retirement from professional golf in August. The news came as a surprise to fans and players alike, who saw the Olympic bronze medalist make a thrilling return to competition after taking more than a year away from competition in 2020. Feng was a trailblazer for women’s golf in China and the first from the country to join the LPGA when she took up membership in 2008. Feng not only became a major champion, but also ascended to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings in addition to racking up 10 victories during her time on tour. Feng’s retirement will take her away from competition but she’ll continue to be involved in the sport as coach for the women’s national team in China.