Looks to Capture her Second Major Title – Nelly Korda & Sei Young Kim in the chase at Amundi Évian Championship
Whatever they are serving up at the KPMG, it seems to be paying off at Évian-les-Bains, France as past KPMG champions Brooke Henderson (2016), Nelly Korda (2021), and Sei Young Kim (2020) find themselves occupying the top three spots at the Amundi Evian Championship. Sei Young Kim shares third place with two-time major winner, So Yeon Ryu (2011 US Women’s Open, and 2017 ANA/Chevron Championship). Henderson, Korda, and Kim are all chasing a second career major victory.
For the criticism that the Amundi Evian Championship has taken as the fifth major in women’s professional golf, this week’s leaderboard is one that any of golf’s majors would be proud to have. Not only are the Top – 4 spots occupied by major winners, but there are a total of 7 major winners within the Top 15 after two rounds. A total of 7– strokes separate the leader from 15th place – a gap that is not insurmountable with two rounds remaining, even if the odds are bit long.
Nelly Korda, -11 under / 2nd place
After her score of 64 yesterday, Korda was tied with Henderson, but she couldn’t quite replicate another 64 today, settling with a 67 (-4 under) to take her two day score to -11 under. With two rounds remaining, Korda is well within reach of her second major victory. Starting on the 1st tee today, Korda’s first ten holes were a model of consistency, racking up ten straight stress free pars. Her first birdie of the day came on the par-4, 11th kickstarting her back nine. While a bogey on the 13th negated her birdie on eleven, she managed birdies on the par-3, 14th, and on the par-4, 17th before an eagle 3 on the par-5, 18th took her to a 32 for the back nine and a score of 67 for the round.
Regarding the front nine, Korda described it as “hitting solid shots. I wasn’t hitting it as good as yesterday, maybe hitting it as close, but I was still hitting solid putts. Honestly, they were kind of stress-free pars.” As for kickstarting her round on the back nine, Korda said the birdie on eleven was the catalyst for her. “On number 11, I finally got one in. I hit it good too. Gave myself a pretty good look. I . . . had just like a left to righter that barely broke, and committed to my line and rolled it in. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way I’m playing. I hope to capitalize more on the par-5s going into the weekend.”
Sei Young Kim, -9 under / tied for 3rd
The 2021 KPMG champion sits at -9 under for the tournament, tied with So Yeon Ryu. Her score of 65 (-6 under) tied her with Andrea Lee and Sophia Schubert for the second lowest score today, behind only Henderson’s 64. Kim, playing in a group with Henderson, was able to take advantage of the two par-5s on the front nine with birdies on the 7th and 9th holes heading into the back nine. An uneventful stretch of pars from the 10th hole to the 14th hole, finally gave way to a superb finish as Kim recorded consecutive birdies on the final stretch of four holes. That included another pair of par-5s, meaning that Kim played the par-5s in -4 under. Through 2-rounds, she has played them in -7 under, with only 1-par against 7-birdies.
For Sei Young Kim, staying relaxed and calm on the course has been a challenge for her, especially as she is a player known for being aggressive, but she seems to be learning where and when to be aggressive and when to relax. “My mindset, I always push myself, but sometimes its poison (to) myself, so it’s kind of tough to balance. I have to push, but relax. It’s tough.”
Given the potential for inclement weather on Saturday morning, organizers will have groups going out in threes again. For Kim, that means she will have played all three rounds with Henderson, having been grouped with her for the first two rounds along with Jess Korda. Incidentally, Saturday’s round will see a grouping of Henderson, Kim, and Korda playing again, but with sister Nelly instead of Jessica.
Brooke Henderson, -14 under / 1st place
Brooke Henderson, tied for second entering today’s round, managed another round of 64, equalling her best score achieved at the Evian from the day before. Her back to back 64’s put her into the lead at -14 under with a 3-stroke advantage over second place at the halfway point and 1-stroke off of the Tournament record of low score for 36-holes.
Henderson came out of the starting gate quickly, with a birdie on the first hole, despite putting her opening tee shot into the rough. She followed it up with another birdie on the second hole, before a bogey on the par-4, 3rd hole. She managed another birdie on the par-5, 9th hole to finish her front nine at 33 (-2 under). The second nine was even better. Birdies on the 11th and 12th holes got her score down to -4 under before she closed out with consecutive birdies on the last three holes. She finished the second nine with a 31 (-5 under).
For Henderson, who has already won this season, her back to back 64s propelled her into the lead at the halfway point, helping her achieve the quick start that she wants in a major.
“It feels really nice to get off to a fast start in a major championship. Feels like it’s been a while. To get this far under par is really awesome. And I feel like I’m hitting the ball really well, which is nice. (I’m) making some putts. So, two solid days and I’m just looking forward to the weekend.”
Having struggled for parts of last season and early this season with her putting, Henderson has been putting extra time in with the flat stick. It seems to have paid off as she has adopted the left-hand low grip to improve her stroke. With the greens at Evian being known as difficult greens to read, Henderson believes the key to her scoring has been getting the ball to land in good places on the green.
“The greens can be very challenging, but I feel like for the most part I’m hitting the ball in good places and been luck enough to make a few putts. (I will) continue to try to do what I’ve been doing the last two days and see what happens.”
Being a hockey player means that Brooke Henderson has adopted some of the superstitions of the game, bringing them from the ice to the golf course. One of those trends is if something is working, don’t change it and that seems to include Henderson’s fondness for crepes. “Yeah, I have been having a lot of crepes here in France, so I think maybe to keep the momentum going I better have some more.”
As to whether she will keep approaching the weekend the same way she has the first two rounds of 64s, or whether she will look to improve on some areas, she responded with the line of the day. “Yeah, I think I better (keep everything the same).”
Stormy weather is expected in the area so it could disrupt play, but Henderson, Korda and Kim will be in the final group on Saturday, scheduled to tee off at 11:55 a.m. local time.