Nelly Korda leads LPGA as Sorenstam falls to bottom of pack

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Nelly Korda plays a tee shot on the fifth hole during the third round of the Gainbridge LPGA golf tournament Thursday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Stan Badz)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nelly Korda surged into the lead Saturday in the Gainbridge LPGA with a 4-under 68 that left her in position to make it consecutive wins for the Korda family to start the season.

Annika Sorenstam sank to the bottom.

Korda, whose older sister Jessica won the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions last month to start the new LPGA Tour season, dropped only one shot on a breezy day at Lake Nona to lead by one over Patty Tavatanakit.

Sorenstam, playing for the first time in more than 12 years after retiring, had no expectations and no excuses. She kept leaving herself in bad spots around the green and finished with a 79. That put her in last place by four shots, 22 shots behind Korda.

The 50-year-old Swede was making a one-time appearance because the tournament was brought to her home course, and she was happy enough to make the cut on the number.

“We put every effort into every single shot,” she said. “Just wasn't meant to be today. Another day tomorrow. I got two bonus days this week, so that's a good thing.”

Korda was at 13-under 203, one shot ahead of Tavatanakit, the blossoming Thai star who needed only a half-dozen starts on the Symetra Tour to earn her LPGA card when she left UCLA.

Tavatanakit closed with four birdies over her last five holes, including the last three, for a 66. She will be in the final group Sunday with Korda and Angel Yin, who had a 65 and was three shots behind.

Lydia Ko, the 36-hole leader trying to win for the first time in nearly three years, also was three shots behind. Ko fell back with a double bogey on the 12th hole, and then a bogey on the 18th.

Also at 10-under 203 was Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 player in women's golf, who shot a 66 to get in position.

All of them will be chasing Korda.

“Any time you can get ahead of the pack going into Sunday is a positive,” Korda said. “There are some good players there, so it'll take good golf to win.”

Tavatanakit said she didn't spend a lot of time looking at the leaderboard. When she did, she wasn't sure where she stood because she kept missing the front page of leaders.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’m probably still up there.' So I didn't think too much about it until 15. I saw that I am two back,” Tavatanakit said. “I was like, ‘OK, let's see what I can do here.' Not going to lie, coming down the stretch, those putts were a little shaky.”

But she made them, and she's in great position going for her first LPGA Tour victory.

For Sorenstam, it will be a ceremonial stroll before family and friends on a home course where her neighbors for years were more likely to see her at Easter brunch or the pickleball courts than on the golf course.

Her troubles began with a bogey on the par-5 15th, the start of five bogeys in an eight-hole stretch.

“Normally, I hit the ball straight, and today was everything but straight,” Sorenstam said. “Maybe I have to tweak my swing a little bit — not really sure what to tweak at the moment. We have to figure that out. But I need to hit it straight to have a chance at all to shoot under par again. Because that would be fun to leave it on a high note.”