LPGA: Nelly Korda tied for lead as sister Jessica rallies late to get back into contention in Florida

Nelly Korda earned first-day bragging rights over sister Jessica as she fired a 67 to earn a share of the lead at the LPGA Drive On Championship in Ocala.

Nelly Korda kept a bogey off her five-birdie card to top the leaderboard with Jennifer Kupcho and Austin Ernst, while Jessica Korda staged a brilliant late rally to recover from a difficult spell either side of the turn to card a commendable 69.

The Korda sisters are attempting to complete a clean sweep of Florida victories for the family, with Jessica’s triumph at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in January followed by Nelly’s three-shot triumph last week at the LPGA Gainbridge.

Leaderboard

LPGA Drive On Championship

And it was the younger Korda who enjoyed the better start in cool, early conditions at Golden Ocala, with her five birdies including an audacious chip-in from greenside rough below the putting surface at the 10th when saving par would have been an achievement.

But she also revealed she was still feeling the fatigue from her winning efforts last week, and she hopes to have more energy and a more consistent swing over the remainder of the tournament.

“I was actually really tired, I just tried to keep it pretty simple and easy,” said the joint-leader. “I worked on my swing a little yesterday just because I wasn’t hitting it good. I think just being tired your swing is all over the place, so I tried to tighten up my swing. I hit it pretty solid today, so hopefully I can keep improving on that the next couple days.

“I know there are going to be bad rounds and you can’t play perfect every single round, but the more you minimise your mistakes and more consistent you get with your swing and figuring out what works for you, I think the better.”

Jessica Korda got off to a bright start but then dropped a shot at nine and double-bogeyed the short 11th to slip to one over par, but she responded with four birdies over the last seven holes to get back to within two shots of her sister.

But it was a rare off-day for the third member of the marquee threeball, world No 1 Jin Young Ko making six bogeys in a disappointing three-over 75 that leaves her needing to go low on Friday to avoid an early exit.

There were no such worries for Kupcho and Ernst, who the former reeling off four consecutive birdies early in her bogey-free opener while Ernst hit back from two early mistakes with a sparkling burst of scoring on the back-nine, with five birdies over the last seven holes getting her into the tie at the top.

Ireland’s Leona Maguire enjoyed a birdie-birdie finish to match the 69 of Jessica Korda and Lydia Ko, while Solheim Cup star Bronte Law fired a 70 featuring two birdies and 16 pars.

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Mel Reid’s two-under round was more adventurous, offsetting five birdies with three bogeys, while Stephanie Meadow was also two under for the day until making a late mistake at the par-five seventh – her 16th.

Charley Hull and Georgia Hall have their work cut out to make the halfway cut after carding two-over 74s along with Lexi Thompson.

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