Still red-hot and rolling, Nelly Korda starts AIG Women's Open with 67

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As the world No. 1, a major champion and the Olympic gold medalist, there isn’t much Nelly Korda can do now to avoid the spotlight.

That doesn’t mean she won’t try.

After an exhausting trip to Tokyo, Korda eschewed a pre-tournament news conference this week in favor of more preparation and recovery for the AIG Women’s Open. That turned out to be a wise choice.

Taking advantage of her scoring clubs on a calm day at Carnoustie, Korda carded eight birdies – including on each of the last two holes – to share the clubhouse lead at 5-under 67. On the run of a lifetime, she is now 87 under par in her last 21 rounds.

“It’s obviously no surprise that Nelly is playing really well,” said Lydia Ko (72), who recently battled with Korda at the Olympics. “She’s been playing consistently well. Her ball-striking is one of the most consistent out there, and at the same time, she’s got length; she can cover a lot of these bunkers. And her short game speaks for itself. It’s no surprise that she’s around the top of the leaderboard.”

Though many wanted to hear from the biggest women’s star on the eve of the year’s final major, Korda decided instead to answer only three quick questions from a media official after her pro-am round. As she explained Thursday, “I wasn’t really hitting it well, and I just tried to go to the range and prepare for the next four days. Sometimes, you’ve got to give your body a break.”

Full-field scores from AIG Women’s Open

The final day of preparation proved to be beneficial for Korda. During her practice round she bumped into Karen Stupples, the 2004 Women’s Open champion who was gathering intel for her broadcasting role. Stupples reiterated what Korda has learned quickly during her limited links career – that it’s imperative to stay out of the fairway bunkers.

“Over the years that I’ve played links golf, I’ve learned that it’s just better to have longer clubs in, and it’s just a different style of golf,” Korda said. “That’s kind of what she told me, and it’s true.”

With three wins in her last four starts, Korda has been at her best no matter where she’s played recently, whether it’s in Michigan or Georgia or Tokyo. If she’s burdened by the heightened expectations, she isn’t showing it.

“Obviously there’s expectations,” she said, “but you just try to settle down and keep your head down and go with the flow.”