Nelly Korda rides streak of four wins into LPGA’s first major, but where can she take the tour?

Early on in Beth Daniel’s career, Mickey Wright said in a press conference that if you think Nancy Lopez is great, wait until you see Beth Daniel. Wright’s words, though flattering, weighed heavily on Daniel, who joined the LPGA in 1979, one year after Lopez won nine times as a rookie and was immediately hailed as a rival. It’s the reason Daniel is careful with her words about current LPGA players.

Now that Nelly Korda is in the midst of a dominating streak, Daniel is comfortable saying that this is what everyone expected of her all along.

“But you hate to put that on somebody,” she quickly added.

Korda, 25, comes into the LPGA’s first major of the season, this week’s Chevron Championship, on a streak of four consecutive titles. She took a seven-week break after winning her first title of the season, the LPGA Drive On, in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, and then won three titles in the span of three weeks. The LPGA was off last week during the Masters.

2024 T-Mobile Match Play

Nelly Korda holds up four fingers for her fourth win in a row after winning the 2024 T-Mobile Match Play at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. (Photo: Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

The women’s game hasn’t seen a player win four consecutive starts since Lorena Ochoa won four in four weeks in 2008. Korda is the first player to enter a major coming off four wins in consecutive starts since Annika Sorenstam did so between the end of the 2004 season and the start of 2005.

“Gosh, I can’t even wrap my head around it honestly,” said Korda in the aftermath of her 12th career LPGA title at the T-Mobile Match Play at Shadow Creek, where the weather was so brutal the cut for the stroke-play portion fell at 9 over.

Major champion Karen Stupples has covered Korda’s streak as part of the broadcast crew for Golf Channel and marvels at the adversity the young American has overcome, winning two of those titles in a playoff (forcing one with an eagle-birdie finish) with challenging weather and match play thrown in.

“What we’re seeing now,” said Stupples, “is there’s a lot more self-belief. She trusts that she’s going to win.”

When Lopez won five consecutive starts during that magical rookie season in 1978, she thrived off the attention. Lopez felt like she was riding on a cloud.

“Every player is different,” said Lopez, “but, for me, it was a blessing for me to be comfortable like that.”

Lopez’s experience in the spotlight stands in stark contrast to what Daniel felt when she’d get on a hot streak. As Lopez pushed harder, Daniel backed off, overwhelmed by the attention.

It was in a way, Daniel admitted, a form of self-sabotage. When her game got too far down, she’d convince herself to fight back.

“I went out on tour basically to see how good I could be and to play golf,” said Daniel, who won 33 times on the LPGA. “I didn’t want to do all the other stuff, and people never understood that. I’m not here to promote myself.”

1992 Solheim Cup

Beth Daniel of the United States drives off the tee during the 1992 Solheim Cup at the Dalmahoy Country Club in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo: David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images)

Looking back, Daniel believes that kind of thinking was wrong. While she did what the tour asked of her, she could’ve done more to promote her personal brand.

Daniel saw a photo of Korda at the beach last week and thought that’s exactly where she would’ve gone to escape after such a tear.

“She reminds me a lot of me, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not,” said Daniel, laughing.

Korda appears to be a reluctant star. After winning a major and an Olympic gold medal in the summer of 2021, Korda turned down a pre-tournament press conference at the AIG Women’s British Open, her first start after Tokyo. Press tours aren’t her thing, though she’s more than capable in front of a mic.

Early on in her Solheim Cup career, Korda was part of Lopez’s player pod under captain Juli Inkster’s system. Lopez saw a lot of similarities between their games, particularly on the greens.

“To give Nelly any kind of advice is to enjoy this time,” said Lopez. “Try and be a little bit more open. There’s a shyness about her that she has.

“Just really, really go for it, and really enjoy what’s happening to her. Because, as for me, before you know it’s gone, and you’re old and retired. I think it’s just important to really take every moment and live it to the max.”

Nice form: Nancy Lopez-Melton takes a practice swing at St. George’s yesterday preparing for Peter Jackson Classic. (Photo by Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Ochoa’s four-win streak in 2008 included titles at the Kraft Nabisco (now Chevron) and back home in Mexico. In Morelia, Ochoa didn’t make it to the range after any of her rounds because the autograph line practically stretched to the U.S. border.

Ochoa’s team estimated she signed roughly 3,000 autographs each day at the Corona Championship. Energy-wise, one event in Mexico was the equivalent of two in the States for Ochoa. She still won by 11 strokes.

 Sorenstam went into the 2005 Kraft Nabisco on a streak of four wins that stretched over two seasons. She played bogey-free over the weekend at Mission Hills to win by eight and join Lopez as the only two players in LPGA history to win five consecutive starts.

Only four players in LPGA history have won four consecutive scheduled events, and they’re all among the greatest to ever play: Wright (1962, 1963); Kathy Whitworth (1969); Annika Sorenstam (2001); and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Incredibly, both of Wright’s four-win streaks came in the span of four consecutive weeks.

“We’ve needed an American to really rise up and get all the interest back in,” said Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner of Korda’s fine play.

2024 LPGA Drive On Championship

Nelly Korda of the United States plays her shot from the 11th tee during the second round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Bradenton Country Club on January 26, 2024 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Like Wright, Korda’s swing is considered by many the best on the LPGA if not all of golf. Daniel said part of that is the blessing of long limbs. There’s an elegance to Korda’s swing that makes people stop and stare.

At 5 feet, 11 inches, Daniel’s long, rhythmic swing was said to be the best on the LPGA since Wright’s.

“Position-wise, Nelly is in better positions than I ever was,” said Daniel.

Korda skipped the entire spring Asian swing, heading first to Prague to spend time with her grandparents. Throughout the break, she worked on her fitness, as health setbacks have kept her from reaching her potential in recent years.

“I don’t want to train like a golfer,” said Korda, “I want to train like an athlete.”

Korda’s athletic genes – every member of her immediate family is a world-class athlete – add fuel to the idea that she can become the first dominant American superstar to transcend women’s golf in decades. People are attracted to power.

“You can tell by looking at her that she has the confidence that she thinks she should win,” said Daniel.

“As a player, you always want to get to that point where you feel like you can win every tournament you tee it up in. That’s kind of the ultimate as a player. But there aren’t many players who have the talent to do that. Nelly does.”

So far, four consecutive victories on the LPGA hasn’t done much to break into the mainstream, even at a time when women’s sports are experiencing a phenomenon in Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark.

Korda has lost to 15 players in total all season, and every one of those losses came in her first start at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in January, where she took a share of 16th.

Her rise this season runs parallel with Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who has three wins in his last four starts.

“How do you turn (Nelly) into a Caitlin Clark?” asked Stupples. “If she’s even willing to be a Caitlin Clark.”

The first step is to keep winning.

Powered by Live Score & Live Score App