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Lizette Salas, Nelly Korda separate from pack, ready to battle again for major title

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – All eyes were on Nelly Korda and Lizette Salas, who battled for birdies back and forth on Saturday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Salas opened with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and Korda drained her 8-footer in response. On the par-5 second, Korda two-putted for birdie and Salas stiffed her wedge close and knocked in the 3-footer to match.

“Lizette was rolling in some nice ones today, and I told myself, I've got to hit it close to even keep up with her,” said Korda, following her round. 

“I got off to a really hot start,” said Salas, who opened with six birdies on the front nine. “I didn't realize I shot 30 until I signed my scorecard. Obviously, it's fun when you play like that. I think it's good momentum going into tomorrow.”

Opening up has freeing effect on Salas, N. Korda

It seems no coincidence that unburdening themselves has had a positive effect on Lizette Salas and Nelly Korda.

Their round felt like a match-play battle, but neither Korda or Salas let it get to their heads. 

“You just stick to your game plan and don't sway from it, because it's very easy to do that when you're draining putts on top of each other,” said Korda, who birdied her first two holes on Saturday after making birdie on her final six holes on Friday.

“You can't win on a Saturday, but you can definitely lose it. I risked it on No. 15 and I swear to God I gave myself a heart attack,” she said referring to the par 3 where her 6-iron just cleared the water. 

KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

“I'm not thinking about it as a match-play setting,” said Salas. “I'm more of, let's just play boring golf and let's give ourselves good looks at birdie. My hybrid game is pretty good at the moment, but I'm just sticking to my game plan and it's been resulting quite well.”

Salas hadn’t made a bogey in the championship, until her 46th hole, the par-4 10th, and that’s still her only dropped shot in 54 holes. Despite averaging 30 yards less than Korda off the tee this season – Salas (245 yards) is 144th on tour is driving distance; Korda (274 yards) is 10th – that doesn’t intimidate Salas. “I think I have a reputation of not being the longest player, and instead of being a burden or something annoying, I say, well, I'll just meet you on the green.”

Salas is calm and patient after Round 3

Salas is calm and patient after Round 3

Korda has won five times on tour and Salas once, but neither player is a major champion. Korda came close at the 2020 Ana Inspiration, where she and Brooke Henderson lost in a three-way playoff to Mirim Lee. Salas finished runner-up at the 2019 Women’s Open to Hinako Shibuno. Last week, Korda shot 25 under par to win the Meijer LPGA Classic. Salas’ first and only LPGA win was seven years ago in Kingsmill.

Will Korda win back-to-back tournaments? Can Salas finally breakthrough after seven years? Or, against the odds, will somebody come from at least five strokes behind and take it all?