Korda rallies to win Pelican Women’s Championship and returns to No. 1

A year that Nelly Korda would like to forget ends with the American star in a familiar position as the No. 1 player in women’s golf.

Locked in a battle with Lexi Thompson along the back nine, Korda took the lead with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes and held on for a 6-under 64 for a one-shot win Sunday in the Women’s Championship Pelican in Belleair, Florida.

Hamilton’s Alena Sharp (69) finished 12 shots back.

Korda won at Pelican Golf Club for the second year in a row, this one lifting her former Thai teenager Atthaya Thitikul to retake the No. 1 ranking.

Korda started the year at No. 1, but then missed four months with a blood clot in her left arm and has struggled to regain her form ever since. His only victory was in the Aramco Team Series in Spain on the Ladies European Tour.

“It really feels good to be on top”

It was her first LPGA Tour title, and the tears at the end were evident 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 held my head up and I worked really hard. It’s really good to be on Haut. »

Thompson birdied four straight from the front nine to take the lead, and Korda stuck with her.

Korda plays his approach to the 14th hole in the final round on Sunday. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

They were tied when Korda, in the group ahead of Thompson, birdied the 16th. Then Korda hit the driver on the short 17th who set up a 10-foot birdie putt. Thompson couldn’t match it. His corner was misjudged because of spin, and he rolled all the way to the green and let Thompson rush for par.

It was the second year in a row that Thompson, who hadn’t won on the LPGA Tour in more than three years, was missing out on a chance to win at Pelican Golf Club.

A year ago, Korda birdied the 18th and Thompson bogeyed, a two-shot swing that led to a playoff that Korda won with a birdie.

This time, Korda’s approach to the 18 sailed the green and she had to make two putts from around 30 feet to get away with bogey and post a 14-under 196.

It gave Thompson a chance for a two-shot swing by birdie to force the playoffs. But she hooked her tee shot in a slight rough, and her approach of about 187 yards into the wind went straight and long, narrowly avoiding the water.

Thompson’s pitch settled at 2 feet. The par gave him a 66 and a second place finish.

Allisen Corpuz, an LPGA Tour rookie who started the final round with a one-shot lead, birdied two of his final four holes for a 69 to finish alone in third.

The top 60 players from the Race to the CME Globe will qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship next week in Naples.

Maria Fassi from Mexico will not join them. The 24-year-old Mexican, who started the tournament with a 62 in search of her first LPGA win, was poised to qualify for the CME Group Tour Championship with two holes to play.

But she hit 3 wood from the 17th tee into a bunker, caught it heavy and failed to save par about 30 yards from the green. Needing the par on the difficult 18, Fassi left himself a 60-foot putt on two ridges. She didn’t get past the second ridge and the three-putt bogey gave her a 71 and a three-putt tie for seventh.

Maude-Aimée Leblanc (72) of Sherbrooke, Que., finished 2 over.

Fassi, who entered the week at No. 72, finished at No. 65 in the points race. The first 63 enter Napoli because three players will not go there.

The final spot for next week’s $7 million purse – the winner gets $2 million, a record for women’s golf – went to Ariya Jutanugarn, who missed the cut at Pelican.

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