Nelly Korda defeats Leona Maguire to win T-Mobile Match Play

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Nelly Korda is on a roll not seen on the LPGA Tour in 16 years.

She won four of the first seven holes, largely making the rest of the final Sunday in the T-Mobile Match Play a formality in beating Leona Maguire 4 and 3 at Shadow Creek.

Lorena Ochoa in 2008 was the last player to win four consecutive starts. Korda, the world’s top-ranked player, will try to tie the record of five — set by Nancy Lopez in 1978 and matched by Annika Sorenstam in 2004-05 — in two weeks at the season’s first major, the Chevron Championship outside Houston.

Because Korda took seven weeks off after winning in January in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, this victory was her third straight in a scheduled event. Four players share the record of four in a row, with Mickey Wright doing it twice.

Korda also became the first American since Kathy Whitworth in 1969 to win four of her first five starts in a season.

“I can’t even wrap my head around it,” Korda said “Such a whirlwind of the last three weeks. I just feel like I was just in go-mode constantly.”

This was the first head-to-head match-play singles event between Korda and Maguire, but they have experience against each other in similar settings at the Solheim Cup. The Irish player is 3-1 while representing Europe in team match-play events against Korda.

Korda birdied Nos. 5-7 for a 4-up lead. She was 5 up after 12, saw Maguire take 13 and 14 with pars, and ended the match with a par win on the par-4 15th.

“It’s always nice to get a lead, kind of like a cushion,” Korda said. “But it’s Leona. She’s such a fiery competitor. I knew when I lost those two holes in a row, 13 and 14, that I really needed to put my foot down to finish the match off.”

Korda earned $300,000 for her 12th career victory.

“You know you’re going to have to make birdies if you want to beat her,” Maguire said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make enough today. Hats off to her. She is an incredible player and she is playing some great golf right now. All I could do is play my own game, and that wasn’t good enough today.”

This tournament was entirely match play the first three years and played in late May when temperatures often are in the high 90s. Many of the top players opted not to compete.

The format changed this year to three days of stroke play, with the top eight advancing to match play on the weekend. The event also moved back to early April, when temperatures are much more moderate, which helped attract its strongest field.

It’s a field that Maguire dominated during stroke play, ending the first three rounds at 6-under par, three strokes better than anyone else.

“It almost felt like two separate tournaments this week, the stroke-play event and the match-play event,” Maguire said. “To lead the stroke play around this golf course by three at the end of the three days was something I can take a lot of positives from and be very proud of.”

Korda had to fight just to get into the match play. She shot 73 each of the first two rounds, but then came through with a 69 on Wednesday to advance to the weekend.

Then she didn’t let the opportunity go to waste at one of the more demanding courses on the tour.

“It’s absolutely breathtaking, such an amazing, amazing golf course,” Korda said. “It is brutal, though. It has tested every part of my game. I think golf courses like that are so much fun play. They’re so frustrating where you’re just like you walk off the hole and you’re just so frustrated there are a couple swear words going through your head.”

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