Bradenton’s Nelly Korda thriving on hometown support, leads at LPGA Tour midway point

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Recently, Bradenton’s Nelly Korda has gone back and forth between a conventional putting grip and using a left-hand low style.

But rather than complicating things, Korda has put the flatstick, a Squareback Scotty Cameron, that she had tons of success using in 2020 and 2021, back in the bag.

At the midway point of the 2024 LPGA Drive On Championship, Korda has averaged 31 putts per round while missing only three greens in regulation en route to a two-shot lead.

“I just went back to what worked back in the day,” said Korda, who is 10-under par after a second-round 67. “Sometimes you try to over complicate things, and I’m just trying to simplify things right now.”

Korda tallied six birdies against two bogeys at Bradenton Country Club. She birdied her final two holes, which included the par-3 ninth hole where she left herself a 6-foot putt after pinpointing a 6-iron.

And when the birdie fell, the large hometown crowd let out a large roar.

Nelly Korda holds Bradenton LPGA lead

“It’s honestly such a cool feeling,” Korda said of the fan support. “Today when we teed off, we had a really big crowd going down (No.) 1 too. I’ve definitely felt a lot of support. Hopefully I can bring out more family and friends this weekend, too, to become louder.”

Korda is aiming to win her first LPGA Tour title since 2022.

One of her supporters this week is World Golf Hall of Famer Hollis Stacy, who has lived in Bradenton and been a Bradenton Country Club member, since 2010.

“It’s a thrill for us to see her up there,” Stacy said.

Korda, who plays a lot at The Concession when she’s in town, recalls seeing Stacy on the putting green there before she won her first LPGA Tour tournament.

“We were just talking about ... how I haven’t won out here yet,” Korda said. “It was like the end of my second season. She just said something to me, and she’s like, when the time is right, it will happen.”

“I put it actually in my yardage book, and I went out to play in Asia, and I won in Taiwan. And I had it in my yardage book. Whenever I get to see her, she’s such a positive energy, and she’s so nice. She’s very vibrant. Always love seeing her around.”

Korda holds a two-shot lead over rookie So Mi Lee, who fired a second-round 65.

Lee, who will be paired with Korda in the final group in Saturday’s third round, blitzed the Donald Ross-designed track with seven birdies.

“I changed my routine a little bit,” Lee said of her second-round putting. “I think I kind of lost my timing of the routine when I took a long break during the offseason. So I’m trying to get my good routine back and I think putting emphasis on that today led to a different result.”

Lydia Ko, who shared the first-round lead after a 65 on Thursday, is in a three-way tie at 7-under par. Ko is tied with Xiyu Lin and Ayaka Furue.

The New Zealand native can gain entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame with a win this week.

The minimum qualifying criteria is the following:

  • Win either an LPGA major, Rolex Player of the Year or the Vare Trophy, which is given to the player with the lowest scoring average for the season.

  • Earn at least 27 points, where one point is earned per tournament victory, two points for a major title and one point for each Olympic gold medal, Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year award.

Ko has 26 points after winning the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at her home course in Orlando. It was her first victory since 2022.

And with two rounds remaining in Bradenton, Ko is in contention to secure a spot in the LPGA Hall of Fame and pick up her second consecutive tournament win.

“I’m just trying to enjoy it obviously,” said Ko, who carded a 1-under 70. “A little bit of weight being lifted off my shoulders, being able to win last week. Even though I was leading, I felt kind of comfortable.”

Sixty-eight players made the cut after shooting even or better for the first two rounds. The tournament, with a $1.75 million purse and $262,500 first-place prize, continues Saturday.

Tickets are available on Parking is $5, cash only, at G.T. Bray Park for spectators. The tournament is also streaming on Peacock from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and airs on The Golf Channel from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.