U.S. Women’s Open pits Nelly Korda versus LPGA field at historic Lancaster Country Club

Nelly Korda arrives in Central Pennsylvania with a massive spotlight shining brightly on her.

She has won six of her last seven events, and a win at the U.S. Women’s Open this week would mark her third career major title and second of the season.

“I’ve definitely played some really solid golf,” Korda admitted.

Indeed, she has.

But another victory would send shockwaves across the golf world, given that this tournament stands above all the others in women’s golf.

Korda knows that.

She is also well aware that this golf course presents a different challenge, unlike many other courses LPGA Tour players have seen.

“This golf course is a beast,” Korda added.

Nelly Korda, U.S. Women’s Open

Nelly Korda plays a shot on the 12th tee during a Wednesday practice round ahead of the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

“Off the tee, if you don’t hit it into the fairways, it sinks down into the rough. These greens are small and very, very undulated.”

Everyone has called Lancaster Country Club a ‘true major championship test,’ a sentiment that Korda echoed.

“It’s going to test every aspect of your golf game and even your mental game because it’s a major championship,” Korda explained.

“You can’t get ahead of yourself; get lost in the moment. If you make a couple of mistakes here and there, sometimes it can get away from you, but it will test every aspect of your game out there this week.”

The course itself requires length, something Korda has.

It also forces the player to work the ball in both directions, as no two holes run in the same direction. Korda can do that, too.

No two holes have the same shape and route, either—a fundamental attribute of a William Flynn design. Plus, this picturesque layout features drastic elevation changes and spectacular vistas. Flynn used the natural landscape of the Central Pennsylvania hills and the Conestoga River for the routing, barely moving any dirt to paint the masterpiece that is Lancaster Country Club.

Nelly Korda, USGA, LPGA

Nelly Korda walks to the 3rd tee at Lancaster Country Club ahead of the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open.
Jeff Marsh/USGA

As such, elevation changes create uneven lies, meaning a player must have the ability to hit all sorts of iron shots.

Yes, Korda can do that, too, as evidenced by her leading the LPGA in greens in regulation this season.

But the top-ranked female player in the world is not perfect. Nobody is. And if she is going to win at Lancaster this week, she will need to keep the ball in play, something she has struggled with at times this season.

Korda ranks 71st on the LPGA in driving accuracy at a 74.2% clip.

Still, at Liberty National, the site of her last victory, Korda had trouble off the tee at times during her final round. Yet, she prevailed by one stroke over Hannah Green, despite admitting afterward that she had her “C and D game” that day.

Speaking of Green, Green arrives in Lancaster as the only other LPGA player to win multiple times this season.

“I think this is actually the most confident I’ve come into a major,” Green admitted.

“It feels like I don’t have to work on too much coming into a major, which is nice. I don’t know what it is. I wish I could have this type of feeling every week that I tee it up, but it just feels really relaxing out here at Lancaster.”

Relaxing is not a word many would use to describe this golf course, but if that is how Green feels, good for her. Perhaps that easy-going attitude will help her win her second career major championship.

Nevertheless, plenty of others can take home the most prestigious trophy in women’s golf.

Rose Zhang recently won the Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey but then withdrew from the Mizuho Americas Open because of an illness. Despite that, she believes her game is trending in the right direction, and one would be foolish to dismiss the young 20-year-old this week.

Atthaya Thitikul, Brooke Henderson, and Ayaka Furue have all played well this season, too, as all three of these players have seen their names circulate near the top of leaderboards. None of these three players have broken through, but a win this week would surprise nobody.

Brooke Henderson, U.S. Women’s Open

Brooke Henderson hits a pitch shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open.
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

But Henderson is a name to watch out for, considering she finished in the top five at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2015, the first time Lancaster Country Club hosted this event.

“I like it when it’s tough. I feel like I’ve always played generally well at major championships because it is really tough, and you have to be able to grind it out,” Henderson explained.

“Realize that pars are good; pars are your friends. When you get birdies, you can better capitalize. And just trying to make the most out of each day.”

Like Korda, Henderson has two major championships to her name, with her most recent triumph coming at the 2022 Evian Championship.

Another player with two career majors is Lydia Ko, who claimed her 20th LPGA title this past January at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

Minjee Lee, another two-time major champion, stands out as well and has proven herself on the biggest stages. Lee won the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in North Carolina.

But a bevy of European Solheim Cup stars have arrived in Lancaster ready to steal Korda’s thunder. England’s Charley Hull and Celine Boutier of France can win. So, too, can Madelene Sagstrom and Linn Grant of Sweden.

This championship is loaded with talent, although Lilia Vu, who won two majors last season, had to withdraw due to a back injury.

Nevertheless, despite this championship’s deep field, the biggest storyline entering the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open is defined by one question: Nelly Korda or the field?

It’s a tricky question.

But I will take the biggest star in women’s golf to win the biggest tournament on one big, beautiful golf course.

Give me Korda in a thriller.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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