The 10 best LPGA moments from an action-packed 2021 touring season

The LPGA’s “super” season certainly delivered some drama.

The budding rivalry between Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko peaked at the end of the season, where Ko dealt a decisive blow for 2021. Fans are eager to see the pair get it all back in January.

2021 has been a comeback season, with Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and Ariya Jutanugarn all winning for the first time in a long time. Michelle Wie West returned to touring after maternity leave at the Kia Classic, and incredibly Annika Sorenstam made the cut on her first LPGA start since 2008.

For many golf fans, it was their first glimpse of stars like Yuka Saso, Patty Tavatanakit, Leona Maguire and Matilda Castren.

With five major tournaments, a record Solheim Cup and Olympic glory, there is no shortage of great moments.

Here are the top 10.

Nelly Korda poses with the trophy for winning the PGA Women’s KPMG Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Photo by Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

At 22, Nelly Korda entered KPMG’s Women’s PGA, her 26th major start, the undisputed best player in the LPGA without a major. She left the Atlanta Athletic Club as a bona fide star.

As the first American to reach world number 1 since Stacy Lewis in 2014, Korda ended a drought that lasted 2,678 days. She also became the first American to win an LPGA major since 2018, when Angela Stanford won the Evian Championship.

Olympic Games: Golf-Women

Nelly Korda waves her gold medal after winning the women’s competition at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics at Kasumigaseki Country Club. Photo by Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

After flirting with a 59 in the second round in Tokyo and settling for a 62, Korda dug deep in the last lap to overtake Mone Inami and Lydia Ko in one shot for Olympic gold. The victory came just six weeks after Korda won his first major title at KPMG.

Korda became the first American woman to win a medal in golf since 1900 when Margaret Abbott won gold in Paris.

“It’s crazy,” Korda said. “It seems absurd that I’m a gold medal (winner). And I’m an Olympian. I don’t know, it just hasn’t sunk yet.

Lexi Thompson strikes from the 18th hole bunker during the final of the 76th US Women’s Open Championship at the Olympic Club on June 6, 2021 in San Francisco. Photo by Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

The Philippines put Yuka Saso’s face on a postage stamp and skyscraper in downtown Manila as she became a rock star in her homeland over the summer. But as Saso won the first ever Women’s US Open at the Olympic Club, the championship will be forever remembered as the one Lexi Thompson gifted.

Thompson started the final round with a one-stroke cushion and left the eighth green with a five-stroke lead, seemingly set for a career defining moment. Instead, a back-nine 41 that included a 10-foot putt on the 72nd hole that turned out to be incredibly short held her out of the playoffs between Saso and Nasa Hataoka.

“I really didn’t feel like I had hitting bad golf shots,” said an emotional Thompson after the round. “That’s what this golf course can do to you, and that’s what I’ve been saying all week.”

2021 CME Group Circuit Championship

Jin Young Ko and Nelly Korda at the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 21, 2021 in Naples, Florida. Photo by Michael Reaves / Getty Images

Jin Young Ko entered the CME Group Tour championship behind Nelly Korda in the Rolex LPGA Player of the Year race. She needed to make a statement in the season finale, and the boy did she deliver.

Despite a left wrist injury that didn’t let her warm up properly all week, Ko clocked a 63-greens streak in regulation en route to the title. Her career-best 63 final round earned the winner’s paycheck of $ 1.5 million, the biggest in women’s golf, and the title of player of the year. It was his fifth title of the season.

“Honestly, this was definitely the Jin Young Ko Show today,” Korda said. “It was really cool to be a witness.”

Gainbridge LPGA - First round

Annika Sorenstam celebrates a birdie on the first round of the Gainnbridge LPGA at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club on February 25, 2021 in Orlando. Photo by Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images

Playing in her first LPGA event since 2008, Annika Sorenstam made the cut on number at the Gainbride LPGA with rounds of 75-71. The 50-year-old accomplished the remarkable feat on her home course, Lake Nona, despite bad advice from an LPGA rules official on Thursday on the fifth hole, which she tripled.

The 72-time winner has had her family by her side all week, with her son Will scouring every hole before every round, offering advice.

“I was planning on taking Ava to volleyball tomorrow, but maybe I should get someone else to take her,” Sorenstam joked after making the cut.

She would go on to win the US Senior Women’s Open in August.

Team Europe’s Leona Maguire reacts to her putt on the 14th green during the Foursomes matchday two of the Solheim Cup at Inverness Club on September 5, 2021 in Toledo, Ohio. Photo by Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Solheim rookie Leona Maguire led Team Europe to their second straight victory, crushing Jennifer Kupcho in the singles Sunday to cap the week with 4½ points. It was a defining moment for the intrepid Irish player, who spent 135 weeks as the world’s highest ranked amateur.

“She’s the one we’re going to have to fear,” said US captain Pat Hurst, “for a long time.”

Catriona Matthew’s team regrouped and caused a surprise with just a few dozen European fans in Inverness due to the strict restrictions on international travel still in place.

Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson during the 2021 Pelican Women’s Championship Final at Pelican Golf Club on November 14, 2021 in Belleair, Florida. Photo by Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

It was a ranking for ages in Belleair, Florida. The stars lined up on Sunday at the Pelican Women’s Championship where drama oozed out.

After a back-and-forth battle that saw Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson tied for the lead at 19 under with two holes to play, a lousy golf session erupted on the 17th par-4 court, with Korda making a triple from the fairway and Thompson miss a 4-footer for par.

Things only got worse for Thompson, who missed two more short putts on 18 in regulation and overtime. An elite four-way playoff that included defending champion Sei Young Kim, Lydia Ko, Thompson and Korda saw the gold medalist emerge victorious for the fourth time on the LPGA in 2021. Korda birdied the difficult 18th for end the star-studded affair.

“Even though I say I think I have given up hope,” Korda said, “I will never give up. I will fight every time.

Lydie Ko

Lydia Koposes with the trophy after winning the LPGA Lotte Championship at Kapolei Golf Club on April 17, 2021 in Kapolei, Hawaii. Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Inspired by the recent victories of Jordan Spieth (1,351 days) and Hideki Matsuyama (1,344 days), Lydia Ko ended her own 1,084-day title drought with a delicious dart show at the Lotte Championship.

Ko won Lotte by seven strokes to win his 16th LPGA title. She would go on to win the LET in Saudi Arabia in November and take home the LPGA Vare Trophy for a low points average at the end of the year.

Patty tavatanakit

Patty Tavatanakit takes a sip of champagne after winning the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. On April 4, 2021. Photo by Jay Calderon / The Desert Sun

Sunday at the ANA Inspiration was a couch-bordering genre of thriller as Lydia Ko pulled the lowest final round in LPGA Major Championship history, a 10-under-62, to almost catch the hot recruit, Patty Tavatanakit.

Ko started the round birdie-eagle, then landed four more birdies to post the top 29 in ANA history. She was 9 under on 11 holes and two strokes from the head after starting the day eight strokes behind Tavatanakit.

Another birdie on the 15th marked all kinds of stories within Ko’s grasp – even a 59.

In the end, the mighty Tavatanakit went from one string to the next to make her first LPGA title a major one. Ko left the wilderness with the confidence to win his first LPGA title in three years on his very next start.

Jessica Korda reacts to a birdie putt on the first hole of the playoffs to win the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Tranquilo Golf Course on January 24, 2021 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Photo by Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

Jessica Korda became only the fifth player in LPGA history to score a 60 in the season opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. It was a scintillating prelude to a Sunday where Korda performed alongside his sister Nelly and fellow American Danielle Kang in the final group.

Jessica Korda and Kang ultimately met in the playoffs, where Korda drained a 25-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to win his sixth career title.

For the Korda family, this was just the start of a sensational year.

About Walter J. Leslie

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