Nelly Korda thriving at home, leads Drive On Championship

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Hometown hero Nelly Korda took a two-shot lead in the second round of the LPGA Drive On Championship on Friday in Bradenton, Fla.

Korda birdied three of her final four holes at Bradenton Country Club to card a 4-under-par 67 and enter the weekend at 10-under 132, passing second-place So Mi Lee of South Korea (second-round 65).

Korda started her day on the back nine, overcoming an early bogey with birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 17. Then, she shrugged off a bogey at No. 5 with a birdie at the par-5 sixth, and closed things out with birdies at the par-5 eighth and par-3 ninth holes.

“I just knew that I could probably take advantage of the two par-5s,” Korda said of her finish. “I knew I had two par-5s coming up, and if I had good drives, they’re both reachable.”

Korda did not win on the LPGA Tour in 2023. She’s in search of her first LPGA victory in 14 months.

“It’s been great to see the support,” the former World No. 1 said. “I haven’t played a tournament in Bradenton in a really, really long time. … It’s been cool to see the big crowds come out and support and the hometown feel.”

Lee, 25, is making just her seventh career start on the LPGA Tour. She piled up seven birdies against a single bogey, including four birdies on her back nine.

Now she’ll play in the final group Saturday alongside one of the game’s biggest stars in Korda.

“I guess you can say I’m not thinking much,” Lee said. “I’ll look forward to playing in the final group. I watched the LPGA when I was in Korea, and I’m thankful I get to play with the players I watched in the final.”

New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who won last week’s season opener in Orlando, Fla., co-led with Korda after 18 holes but settled for a 1-under 70 on Friday. She’s tied for third at 7 under with China’s Xiyu Lin (66) and Japan’s Ayaka Furue (67).

Lucy Li and South Koreans Minji Kang and Sei Young Kim each shot 69 and are tied for sixth at 6 under. Lexi Thompson posted a 67 to move to 5 under, tied for ninth with Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh (68) and Thailand’s Jasmine Suwannapura (68).

Among those missing the cut line of even par include Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn (1 over), Paula Creamer (2 over) and South Korea’s Jeongeun Lee5 (4 over).