Bellaire, Fla. — A year Nellie Korda wants to forget is one that the American star ended in a familiar position as the No. 1 player in women’s golf.
Locked in a battle with Lexi Thompson on the back nine, Korda came forward with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to shoot a 6-under 64 to win the Pelican Women’s Championship on Sunday.
Korda won for the second year in a row at Pelican Golf Club, edging past Thai teenager Ataya Titikul to take the No. 1 spot.
Korda started the year at No. 1, but missed four months with a blood clot in her left arm and has been struggling to get back into shape ever since. Her only win was on the Women’s European Tour in the Aramco Team Series in Spain.
It was her first LPGA Tour title of the year, and her tears at the end were a testament to how much it meant to her after all her struggles.
“Honestly, amazing,” she said of her return to No. 1. “It’s been a tough year. I missed two cuts in Arkansas and Dallas, but I kept my head up and worked hard. It feels great to be on top.”
Thompson rattled off four straight birdies on the front nine to take the lead and Korda stayed with her.
In the group ahead of Thompson, Korda was tied for 16th. Korda then hit a driver on the short 17th to set up a 10-foot birdie putt. Thompson was no match. The shuttlecock was badly misplaced due to spin, and it rolled off the green, leaving Thompson scrambling for freedom.
It was the second straight year for Thompson, who had not won on the LPGA Tour in more than three years, that a win at Pelican Golf Club eluded her.
A year ago, Korda birdied the 18th and Thompson bogeyed, in a two-shot swing that ended with Korda winning with a birdie.
This time, Korda’s approach to the 18th floated over the green and she had to two-putt from 30 feet to escape bogey and post a 14-under 196.
That gave Thompson a chance to swing by two shots as he made birdie in the playoff. But she stuck the tee ball in the easy rough and 187 yards into the wind.
Thompson’s pitch stopped at 2 feet. A tie for 66 gave her second place.
LPGA Tour rookie Allison Corpuz started the final round with a one-shot lead, birdying two of the last four holes for a 69 to finish alone in third place.
In the lead-up to the CME Globe, 60 players have advanced to next week’s Tour Championship in Naples.
Mexico’s Maria Fassi will not join them. The 24-year-old, who opened the tournament with a 62 in search of her first LPGA win, was on the verge of advancing to the CME Team Tour Championship with two holes to play.
But from the 17th tee, she 3-wooded into a boulder, caught it hard and missed the save 30 yards from the green. Looking for par on the tricky 18th, Facey left herself 60 feet on two pars. She missed the second par and a three-putt bogey gave her a 71 for the seventh and a three-way tie.
Fasil, who entered the week at number 72, finished 65th in points. The 63 are in Naples because three players are not going.
The final spot for next week’s $7 million purse — the winner will earn $2 million, a women’s golf record — went to Aria Jutanugarn, who made the cut at Pelican.