ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Lee Trevino was holding court on the practice range at the PNC Championship as only he can, mixing swing advice with Merry Mex humor. He stopped to watch one player swing.
It was Nelly Korda, and he joined a growing fan club.
“These boys better be happy you’re on the LPGA,” Trevino called out to her.
Korda has played the PNC Championship twice with her father and has done plenty to raise her profile. She was giddy upon meeting Tiger Woods last year and playing with Trevino. This time, all eyes were on her sweet swing.
Jordan Spieth’s advice to his father before the first round was to “swing like Nelly.” On Sunday, Spieth was still raving about her, comparing the efficiency of her swing with Adam Scott.
“I think she only hit three shots that didn’t go exactly where she was aiming,” Spieth said of their pairing the first round.
It capped a big two weeks for Korda, a happy ending to a year in which she missed four months because of a blood clot in her arm. The previous week was the QBE Shootout, where she played with Denny McCarthy.
Max Homa wondered how she ever lost on the LPGA Tour and said it was a testament to the other players on the women’s tour “that anyone can even sniff beating her.”
Kevin Kisner took it a step further: “I think I called her the Tiger Woods of the LPGA Tour at one point. She’s hit every shot just like she wants to for eight holes.
“Like does she hit a bad shot? I have no idea, I’ve never seen her hit a bad shot.”
Korda deflected the attention and shared it with her tourmates.
“It’s been really cool to see the kind of feedback that I’ve gotten from the guys,” she said. “They should come out to an LPGA event and watch all the girls play out there because they’ll be equally impressed with everyone out there.”
Louis Oosthuizen had a fourth straight year without winning anywhere in the world. A tie for seventh two weeks ago in the Alfred Dunhill Championship might end up feeling like a win.
That result will land him at No. 50 in the world ranking at the end of the year. Augusta National typically invites the top 50 to the Masters, though there is some uncertainty about the criteria because of all the defections to LIV Golf.
Dean Burmester could have bumped Oosthuizen with a win in Mauritius last week, but he missed the cut.
Oosthuizen bumped Daniel Berger, who has been out with a back injury and has not played since the U.S. Open. Berger, who played in the last Ryder Cup, was No. 25 in the world when he stopped playing.
Also falling out was Harris English, who had hip surgery and went from January to June without playing. English was at No. 16 when he stopped playing and No. 26 when he returned at the Memorial. He has managed only one top 10 since then.
Oosthuizen would be among 16 out of 78 players who are with Saudi-funded LIV Golf and have qualified for the Masters under the previous standard. Six of them are past champions. Six are from the top 50 in the world. The other four have recently won majors that typically come with a five-year exemption to the majors, or made it to East Lake for the Tour Championship.
BEWARE THE INJURED GOLFER
Part of Mark O’Meara was surprised Tiger Woods didn’t win the PNC Championship, not in spite of his injury but because of it.
O’Meara was like a big brother to Woods when he turned pro in 1996, and he has seen Woods’ nagging health issues not get in the way. There was that time at Bay Hill in 2003 when Woods had food poisoning, had the dry heaves throughout the final round and won by 11 shots.
“We’re playing Augusta National in a practice round on a Tuesday,” O’Meara said. “We’re walking up the fifth fairway and he said, ‘Hey, M.O., did I tell you latest. I think I have a slight tear in my left Achilles tendon.’ That’s what he comes up with. I stop and said, ‘Tiger, really? I’m not a doctor but I really believe if you had a slight tear of your Achilles tendon, you would not be walking up this fairway.’
“So I’m not a betting man but I told him, ‘Because you said that, I’m going to bet you’re going to win.’ And you know what? He won the Masters.”
KORN FERRY BOOST
One difficult decision for Korn Ferry Tour players was giving up a week on the schedule to play in the U.S. Open if they qualified. The Wichita Open is the same week as the U.S. Open next year.
Now that won’t be a problem.
The PGA Tour board has approved a policy that awards FedEx Cup points from the U.S. Open to Korn Ferry Tour players. Those receiving points must be active Korn Ferry members.
Twenty players on the Korn Ferry Tour played at Brookline last year, and nine of them made the cut.
“It’s going to be a huge change for Korn Ferry Tour players, just not having to decide whether they should play on the Korn Ferry Tour or in the U.S. Open,” said Taylor Montgomery, who speaks from experience.
Montgomery tied for 57th in the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He wound up 26th on the final Korn Ferry Tour points list, missing a PGA Tour card by one spot.
SLUMAN FOR PRICE
The USGA showed it wanted more perspective from players when Nick Price became the first player to join the executive committee. Price is ready to step down after five years, and that role is being passed to former PGA champion Jeff Sluman.
“They want input and it’s not window dressing,” Sluman said. “They want to know what an ex-player thinks and what they current players are thinking. Nick had the ultimate in credibility.”
Sluman won the first of his six PGA Tour titles in the 1988 PGA Championship at Oak Tree. He still plays a full PGA Tour Champions schedule at age 65.
Price served mainly on the competition and equipment standards committee. He leaves mostly proud of the direction the U.S. Open is going by various anchor sites, such as Oakmont, Pinehurst No. 2, Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills.
“I’d like to feel I was part of that,” Price said. “I stressed to them it’s really important to all of us where we win our majors.”
The Sentry Tournament of Champions is the first of the elevated events on the PGA Tour schedule for 2023, and NBC is treating it as such. Lead announcer Dan Hicks and analyst Paul Azinger will be spending the first two weeks of the year in Hawaii. … The American Express in the California desert is compiling a strong field with Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris giving it five of the top seven players in the world ranking. … The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is returning to Sahalee outside Seattle in 2024. Brooke Henderson won the Women’s PGA there in 2016 for her first major. … The PGA Tour and European tour have widened global reach by including the Korean PGA and the Professional Golf Tour of India to their alliance. The leading player will have access to a European tour card the following season. In a change previously announced, the leading 10 European tour players not already exempt can get PGA Tour cards.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods tied for eighth in the PNC Championship and made $45,166, his largest check from a golf tournament this year.
“You can’t get a ticket to this thing. And that tells you that Tiger Woods is playing.” — Stewart Cink on the impact of Woods at the PNC Championship.
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