Nelly Korda outlasts Lydia Ko in playoff to win Drive On Championship

Nelly Korda made a downhill par putt on the second playoff hole to defeat Lydia Ko of New Zealand and win the LPGA Drive On Championship on Sunday at Bradenton (Fla.) Country Club.

Korda, a Bradenton native, nabbed her ninth career LPGA victory despite squandering a four-shot lead to start the day.

After both Korda and Ko returned to the par-4 18th hole for the playoff, and made par the first time through, Korda’s approach shot on the second go-round at the hole rolled off the back of the green toward the hospitality tent. Ko landed her shot on the green, but after Korda chipped on, Ko’s long birdie putt stopped several feet short.

Ko then watched her uphill par putt lip out. Korda calmly delivered her 6-footer to the center of the cup before celebrating with the home crowd.

“Even when I was down, they were so, so positive and keeping me in it,” Korda said on the Golf Channel broadcast. “It was just such a grind out there, so back and forth. … I can’t even believe it right now.”

Korda and Ko took much different paths to finish 72 holes in 11-under 273. Ko posted a 2-under 69 Sunday and Korda signed for a 2-over 73.

Korda went 1 over on the front nine, and her hopes took a blow with a bogey-double bogey-bogey stretch at Nos. 14-16.

Ko then made a remarkable eagle at the par-5 17th hole to grab sole possession of the lead. Her second shot narrowly avoided water, bounced up onto the green and rolled to inside a foot of the hole.

Shortly after Ko’s tap-in eagle, Korda made her own eagle putt at No. 17 from nearly off the green. Ko parred No. 18, meaning Korda needed birdie to tie, and she dialed up an approach shot that nestled within inches of the pin, necessitating the playoff.

“I honestly thought that the tournament was over going into 17,” said Korda, 25. “I just kinda gave myself a chance. I knew that if I got that eagle in, I’d have to birdie the last hole. I always seem to make it very dramatic and interesting. There’s no better feeling to do it in front of a home crowd.”

Ko won last week’s season opener and continued her red-hot start to the season. Had she won Sunday, she would have bagged her 20th career LPGA victory — qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame. The second playoff hole did her in.

“I actually hit a good stroke on (the second putt), it just broke a little bit more than I thought,” the 26-year-old Ko said. “The first putt, it’s difficult, I think, when there’s a lot of grain. I honestly didn’t think I hit it that far short but obviously I misjudged the slope and the grain of it. But I played really solid today.”

Megan Khang made three birdies in her first seven holes to 12 under for the event but bogeyed Nos. 9, 14, 15 and 16. She settled for a 1-over 72 and finished alone in third place at 8 under.

Lucy Li (69) and Japan’s Ayaka Furue (73) tied for fifth at 7 under.