Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda looking forward to title defense in Paris with 100 days to go

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on lpga.com.

You’ll be relieved to know that Nelly Korda’s gold medal is no longer living in a sock.

That was how the reigning gold medalist traveled with one of the most coveted prizes in all of sports after she first won the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, often begging TSA agents to be as careful as possible not to scratch it when they had to inspect the large metal object in her luggage at airport security.

The 13-time LPGA Tour winner now has it displayed in her office at home, a perfect reminder of all that she accomplished in 2021, arguably her breakout season on the LPGA Tour.

That is until 2024 rolled around.

Three years ago, it felt like Korda was well on her way to superstardom, as she won four times during the 2021 season, one of which was a major championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Add a gold medal and her first-time ascension to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings into the mix, and Korda’s dominance couldn’t be argued, even with Jin Young Ko winning five times in the latter half of the season. And while it was chock full of some of the greatest accomplishments of her career, it’s a year that is now a little fuzzy in Korda’s mental photo album.

“I think I won like five times, including the Olympics, so it was such a blur of a year,” said Korda earlier this season at the FIR HILLS SERI PAK Championship. “There are memories that I created that (will) last a lifetime. One of the best things that year was winning in Florida for the first time and winning in front of my parents, an LPGA event for the first time, too.

“There are so many great things that went on in 2021. Hopefully, I can get some of that good juju in 2024.”

And that wish has definitely been granted this year for Korda, who has now more than established her dominance in professional golf. After a T16 finish at the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, she won the LPGA Drive On Championship in her hometown of Bradenton, Fla., the next week, outlasting Lydia Ko in a two-hole playoff at Bradenton Country Club.

She took seven weeks off, electing to skip the LPGA Tour’s three early-spring events in Asia, and returned to competition at the FIR HILLS SERI PAK Championship, winning that tournament in a playoff over Ryann O’Toole and re-ascending to the top spot in the Rolex Rankings.

Korda then made a quick jaunt over to the Ford Championship presented by KCC in Gilbert, Arizona, collecting her third straight LPGA Tour title after firing a 7-under 65 in the waterlogged final round to win by two shots over Hira Naveed at Seville Golf and Country Club.

At that point, three in a row would’ve been more than enough wins for any other LPGA Tour player, an early-year performance on which one could have easily hung their hat for the rest of the season. But the always-hungry Korda kept on playing.

She teed it up in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Match Play presented by MGM Rewards, adding another tally to her win column when she handily defeated Leona Maguire 4 and 3 in the championship match at Shadow Creek. It was then that Korda really leaned into the history she was making, cutting up and laughing with reporters in her winning press conference as she joked about the celebratory In-N-Out Burger she’d have later with her team.

It felt like Korda could finally let herself think just a little bit about what this kind of performance meant for women’s golf and who her name was now written alongside in the LPGA Tour record books.

“Kathy (Whitworth)'s really good friend actually texted me last week a photo of me being compared to Kathy on social media,” said Korda in her winning press conference in Las Vegas. “I wrote her back that it's an honor to be alongside her. I used to play in her event growing up, The Kathy Whitworth Invitational in Texas, and meeting her, and getting to talk to her was always the highlight of my year. She was always so nice, so getting compared to Kathy Whitworth is a huge honor.”

This past Sunday, Korda followed up with her fifth straight win, capturing The Chevron Championship title for her second career major. She joins Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam as the only other LPGA player since 1978 to win five consecutive titles.

Her recent tear of victories has all but guaranteed Korda a spot on the United States Olympic team, and it shouldn’t matter too much what she does in the next few events before the end of the qualification period in June. She should be competing in France.

But even though she’s playing the best golf of her career right now and is arguably the hottest player in the world, Korda is unwilling to think of winning another medal in August at the Olympics as the bright lights of Paris beckon in the distance.

Just like she has with every single one of her victories this season, Korda is instead focusing on what’s right in front of her and has decided to worry about medals and podiums when that time comes later this year.

“I'll start thinking about that when I'm on the team. Still haven't secured my spot,” said Korda. “Any time I get to represent the Red, White and Blue it's a huge honor. That would be another thing I would be extremely grateful for.”

It’s a here-and-now mentality that’s served her well in recent months. And considering that her 2024 performance is eerily reminiscent of the strength she showed in 2021, it’s not a stretch to think that it could be an Old-Glory-draped Korda who once again has gold around her neck at Le Golf National.

She just might end up needing another sock.