Leave it to Carnoustie to remind the world that Nelly Korda is human after all.
Korda’s run of seemingly perfection came to an end Friday as she proved to be a mere mortal in carding a 1-over 73. The first-round co-leader of the AIG Women’s Open, Korda recorded one of the few over-par rounds of the day in what were benign weather conditions that made for ample low scores.
For the 23-year old, who is ranked No. 1 in the world and making her first start since capturing gold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the round came as no surprise.
“Everyone keeps talking about how I'm playing so well, but I'm going to shoot bad scores,” Korda said. “I'm human. So just a little punch of reality that I'm human, and I'm going to continue working these next two days and see how it goes.”
Korda’s 73 is only her second over-par round since June. Since then, Korda has been on an incredible run of form in which she won back-to-back events, including her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, ascended to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings and flirted with a 59 en route to finishing atop the podium at the Olympics.
“I wasn't putting well,” Korda said about Friday’s round. “The putts weren't dropping. The afternoon the greens got bumpy, and I got on the wrong side of those bumps. So they were constantly missing, but that's golf.”
Given Korda’s success over the last year, it’s easy to forget that she’s still relatively new to professional golf – and links-style courses such as Carnoustie can serve up lessons for a lifetime. This week, Korda is making just her fifth start at the Women’s Open, where she’s once cracked the top 10.
“You definitely have to play with your game a little. I'm still trying to figure out links,” said Korda. “I know on one hole, I think No. 10, I tried to hit this punch shot. The pin was all the way back right, and I just tried to hit this punch shot on the beginning of the green to run it up. Still not super comfortable doing that, so I'm still learning.”
Maintaining that patience within herself is something Korda has worked on in the latter half of the season. It was following a missed cut at the season’s second major, the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club, that put Korda to work on not just her swing but her mindset. Since then, she’s focused on having more fun on the course.
Korda isn’t the first – and certainly won't be the last – to be brought to their knees by Carnoustie. It will be how she responds over the final two rounds – she's still just three shots off the lead – that determines how history will remember the world No. 1’s trip to the famed links.
Will she rebound with the steely resolve we saw from her in the final round in Tokyo?
Or, will this be the moment that Korda returns to earth with the rest of the golf mortals?
Korda’s weekend at Carnoustie will tell the tale.