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Nelly Korda rallies to win 3rd straight LPGA Tour start at Ford Championship

GILBERT, Ariz. (AP) — Nelly Korda won her hometown event in a playoff after closing eagle-birdie. She withstood brutal wind in Southern California to win in another playoff last week.

The world No. 1 made it three straight by staying steady through a soggy Sunday in the desert.

Korda became the first LPGA Tour player in eight years to win three straight starts, shooting a 7-under 65 to rally for for a two-stroke victory in the Ford Championship.

“It’s very hard mentally to be 100% especially after a win, especially playing in tough conditions,” Korda said. “So as boring as it sounds I was just taking it shot by shot and seeing where I was going to end up. To get three in a row, that’s just a dream come true.”

Korda won the Drive On Championship in late January in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, before sitting out all of the LPGA Tour’s Asian swing. She was still sharp after a seven-week break, winning the Fir Hill Seri Pak Championship in a playoff last week outside Los Angeles to move back atop the world ranking.

Korda stayed steady through four days in the desert, entering the final round two shots back through weather that got progressively worse at Seville Golf and Country Club.

Korda nearly holed out her second shot on the short par-4 16th to take the lead and birdied No. 18 to finish at 20-under 268 for her 11th career LPGA victory. She's the first LPGA Tour player to win three straight starts since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016 and first American since Nancy Lopez won five straight 1978.

“(It) just honestly feels like a blur,” Korda said. “Taking it day by day, really trying to stay very present and just played really good golf, solid golf in tough conditions today, which I’m very happy about.”

Australian rookie Hira Naveed was in position to tie Korda after hitting her second shot just right of the par-5 18th, but an indifferent chip led to a par. The former Pepperdine player shot 66 to finish second at 18 under in her second career start.

Lexi Thompson briefly shared the lead and was within a shot through 15 holes in her bid to win for the first time since 2019. She hit driver on the 16th and sent it way right into the water, leading to a bogey.

Thompson also missed a short par putt on No. 17 before closing with a two-putt birdie on 18 to shoot 68. She finished in a five-way tie for fourth at 17 under.

“It was crazy conditions, but it was almost just like it gets to where it’s mental when it comes to these kind of conditions,” Thompson said. “You just have to stay positive with it and know that pars are a good score. If you have a good number, take advantage of it; try to shoot for the pin and make some birdies.”

Temperatures dropped dramatically and steady rain fell most of the final round, adding a layer of difficulty at a tournament that started with two days of record-setting scores.

The inclement weather did little to slow the leaders down, with four players tied for the lead and 11 within two shots early on the back nine.

Korda had consecutive birdies starting on No. 4 to kick off her final round and added another on the par-4 ninth to turn in 3-under 33. She tied for the lead with a birdie on the par-5 12th and took it outright at 18 under by making a 6-foot birdie putt on 13.

Thompson and Haveed tied her, but Korda went back up with her near holeout on 16, setting up a birdie that gave her a one-shot lead. Korda hit a massive drive on No. 18 and chipped to three feet for a closing birdie.

“Just tried to stay really aggressive and I knew I had to shoot a low one to be in contention,” Korda said “Just played really smart golf out there today."

Naveed made the record-low cut of 5 under on the number and raced up the leaderboard with a third-round 65 before the winds picked up. She pulled into a tie for the lead at 18 under with a birdie on the island par-3 17th, but left her chip on 18 about 20 feet short and missed the putt.

“It’s just breathing a sigh of relief really and just saying, ‘All right, put your head down, there is scoring opportunities out there,’” Naveed said. “Just go out there and try to do the best you can, commit to every shot, and try and hole some putts. So happy to do that on the weekend.”

So is Korda after putting herself in position to make it four straight at the T-Mobile Match Play next week in Las Vegas.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf