Saso leads US Women's Open after Korda meltdown

golf31 May 2024 03:13| © AFP
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Nelly Korda © Getty Images

World No 1 Nelly Korda's hopes of a third major title imploded with a spectacular first-round meltdown at the US Women's Open on Thursday as former champion Yuka Saso overcame brutal conditions to take a one-shot lead.

Korda arrived at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania as a heavy favourite after winning six of her past seven starts, including the year's first major tournament at the Chevron Championship in April.

But the 25-year-old American now faces an uphill struggle to even make the cut after carding a 10-over-par 80 – the highest score of her LPGA Tour career – during a hellish opening 18 holes.

Teeing off on the back nine, Korda's round went up in smoke after a nightmare 10 on the par-3 12th hole. With six more bogeys and three birdies, Korda finished the day tied for 139th place, 12 strokes off the lead.

"I just didn't really want to shoot 80 and I just kept making bogeys," Korda said. "I'm human. I'm going to have bad days. I played some really solid golf up to this point. Today was just a bad day. That's all I can say."

Korda opened her round with a bogey on her first hole at the 10th followed by a par 11. She was then forced to endure a lengthy wait before her horror 10 on the 12th.

After seeing one rival find water off the tee and another land short of the green, Korda's turn came and she knocked her tee shot at the 161-yard 12th over the green and into a bunker 53 feet beyond the hole.

Korda pitched onto the green but her second shot rolled off the far edge and into a creek fronting the green.

After dropping into the penalty area, Korda sent her next two shots into the water as well, leaving her back in the penalty area attempting her eighth shot.

From there, she landed the ball just outside eight feet from the hole and two-putted for 10.

She added bogeys at the par-4 15th and par-3 17th, making the turn at 10-over 45, before playing the front side – her second nine of the day – at level par.


With Korda out of the picture, Japan's 2021 champion Saso finished the day on top of the leaderboard, with back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes helping her post a two-under-par 68.

The 22-year-old Philippines-born Saso's round might have been better had it not been for a final bogey on 18. Until that last dropped shot, Saso had been the only player to reach three under at any stage during a punishing opening round.

Saso is keeping her feet firmly on the ground despite her solid start.

"There's so much golf left," she said. "I'll just stay focused and trust the process that I've been doing and just have fun out there."

Saso is one stroke clear of three players tied for second – Andrea Lee of the United States, Thailand's Wichanee Meechai and French amateur Adela Cernousek – who all shot one-under-par 69s.

That trio are one clear of a logjam featuring 10 players tied for fifth on level par which includes two more amateurs, 15-year-old Asterisk Talley of the United States and compatriot Catherine Park.

Teenager Talley was improbably tied for the lead at one stage before dropping into the chasing pack.

"I feel like I could have done a lot better today, but I'm not mad at all about my round," said Talley, whose round included four birdies, a triple-bogey and a bogey.

"Coming into the round I was hearing everybody say 'Even par is a good round today'," Talley added. "With that triple I could have played a lot better but I'm happy with where I stand."