At just 23 years of age, Nelly Korda is making history as the longest-tenured American to hold the No.1 spot in the Rolex Rankings. Korda has now held the No.1 spot for 29 weeks, surpassing Stacy Lewis, who owned it for 21 weeks in 2014.
Korda’s career highlights include seven LPGA wins with one major win at the KPGM Women’s PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2021. It was there that the American star rose to world No.1 with her first major championship victory. Competing at the highest level is second nature to the top female golfer, who comes from a renowned sporting family with two ex-professional tennis players as parents, an older sister, Jessica, who has multiple LPGA wins under her belt, and a top-100 professional tennis playing brother, Sebastian.
Korda’s pro career launched in 2016 on the developmental Epson Tour. She later won that same year at the Sioux Falls Greatlife Challenge and finished ninth on the money list, thereby securing her LPGA tour card for 2017. She is the face of the “Road to the LPGA,” a marque example of what can be accomplished after a year or two growing and developing in the Epson ranks.
Between 2017 and 2021 her career began its upward trend, marking a milestone with each passing year. In 2017, she had five top-10 finishes for her rookie year. In 2018 at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship, she became a Rolex First-Time Winner. The year 2019 held her career-best with 12 top-10 finishes and a spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup team. In 2020 she matched her career-low round of 63 during the second round at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Her career skyrocketed in 2021 with four LPGA titles and her first major. She represented the United States in the Olympics, winning the coveted Olympic gold medal and for her encore played a key role in the U.S. Solheim Cup Team. Her stellar 2021 resume included 17 events with 16 cuts made and ten top-10 finishes, including wins at the Gainbridge LPGA, Meijer LPGA Classic and the Pelican Women’s Championship. She is the first golfer, male or female, to win a major and gold medal in the same year.
Korda joins an historic list of players including Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and Inbee Park who have occupied the No. 1 Rolex World Ranking. Since the Rolex Rankings were introduced in 2006, Korda is only the third American, and the first since Lewis, to occupy the top spot. Currently Jin Young Ko trails Korda in the rankings, followed by Lydia Jo and Inbee Park. Ko briefly knocked Korda from the no.1 slot last year, but Korda reclaimed it in November entering the Pelican Women’s Championship.
“Obviously it’s a huge honor. Hopefully I’m inspiring the next generation and I’m just doing a small part of the game of golf moving forward,” Korda said this past weekend at the Hilton Grand Vacation Tournament of Champions.
Making its grand debut in February 2006, The Rolex World Rankings carry significant weight in the golf world. The rankings are based on tournament performance over a two-year (104 week) rolling schedule with the players earning points toward their ranking based on their finish in a Rolex-sanctioned event. The Rolex Ranking system underscores the global impact of women’s golf as it encompasses eight separate women’s golf tours. Rolex has been a key partner of the LPGA since the rankings were introduced.
Despite the chilly downpour this past weekend at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, Korda heated up the Lake Nona course for three days and held a one-shot lead after 54 holes. While she closed with a disappointing 75 and a fourth-place finish, Korda managed to secure her 11th consecutive round in the 60’s, falling just short of Annika Sorenstam’s record of 14 straight rounds in the 60’s. More importantly, she narrowly maintained her No. 1 Rolex ranking by 1/10 of a percentage point over Jin Young Ko. After finishing at 10-under, Korda focused on the positive, stating, “It’s my first round this year, or first tournament this year and I finished in the Top 5, so at least I can take that away.”
Korda has two more tournaments in Florida coming up, followed by a planned 6-week break from tournament golf. As for her goals in 2022, Korda acknowledges that each tournament is a building block toward her bigger goal of winning major championships:
“I mean, there is always so much that you can strive for. There are different little goals and then big goals. But I tend to be the type of person that likes to set little goals that eventually go into my big goals. There are still four of the majors that I haven't won and so much that I would like to accomplish in my career, so it's kind of easy in a sense to set goals,” Korda said.
Korda will compete at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio Golf Club, January 27-30.