RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Jessica Korda sits seven strokes off the lead with 18 holes to play at the Chevron Championship. But if her dozen starts at Mission Hills Country Club have taught her anything, it’s that she still has a chance to win.
“I'm never out of it,” Korda said after a third-round, 67. “I was 3 over through seven on the first day. I'm never out of it.”
Korda has made a rapid return to form given the challenges she’s faced the past two months. In February, the 29-year-old withdrew from the LPGA Drive on Championship with a rib and intercostal muscle strain. She spent the next three weeks undergoing rehab and says she didn’t play a full 18 holes again until she won the Seminole Pro-Member, in early March.
“Definitely lots of rehab and taking it really slow,” Korda said about her time away from the tour. “I was kind of playing golf every other day, just really pacing myself and not trying to push it. There is no reason to. It's the beginning of the year. We've got a long season ahead of us.”
Two weeks after the event at Seminole, Jessica’s sister, Nelly, suffered a blood clot in her arm during a promotional event at The Players Championship. Nelly withdrew from last week’s JTBC Classic as well as the season’s first major.
“It's definitely different,” Jessica said about not having her sister with her this week. “Not the same, but I got Dad here, so it's great. I got [her dog] Charlie with me, too, so I can never complain.”
Korda soared up the leaderboard on Moving Day, climbing from a tie for 16th to solo third – but, again, still seven shots back. Sunday, she’ll be chasing Jennifer Kupcho, who sits at a record 16 under par. That’s a sizable margin for Korda to have to clear, but Mission Hills has produced some surprising outcomes in recent years.
Take Ariya Jutanugarn, for example. In 2016, she held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play and lost by two. The following year, Lexi Thompson incurred a four-stroke penalty on the back nine in the final round after a viewer called in an infraction from Round 3. Thompson lost in a playoff. And in 2020, Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson shared the 54-hole lead, but it was Mirim Lee who defeated the duo in a playoff after chipping in three times on the final day. As they say, it isn’t over until it’s over, and that’s certainly the case at Mission Hills.
“Stay aggressive and make birdies where I can,” Korda said when asked about her plan for the final round. “And just see what happens. It's a major.”