Nelly Korda's disastrous round on the US Women's Open was shockingly comprehensible

LANCASTER, Pa. — Shortly after sinking her final putt of the day, Nelly Korda stood on the sting of the ninth green at Lancaster Country Club, opened her purple scorecard cover, looked down and sighed so deeply that the expansion of her chest may very well be seen from several feet away.

Her shoulders rose. Then they dropped again. A giant, fat 80 from the primary round of the US Women's Open stared back at her, and the sight of her seven-bogey 10 earlier within the round probably sent one other shiver down her spine.

The world No. 1 was not her usual self on Thursday. She has won six tournaments in seven starts on the LPGA Tour this season, including her first major, the Chevron Championship. Her B game has managed to win trophies. But Korda still crumbled within the face of this US Open challenge. She didn't have it in her. She needs a completely difficult second round to even take into consideration making the cut.

“I'm only human,” Korda said after signing off her rating of 10 over par. “I'm going to have bad days. Up until now, I've played really solid golf. Today was just a bad day. That's all I can say.”

That was all there was to it. Korda lost her game on a golf course that demands precision and control. It began after her third tee shot of the day on the 150-yard par-3 twelfth hole, which one player described as a hole where “you can't miss a shot.” Korda learned that the hard way.

After waiting on the tee for greater than 25 minutes, Korda's group had seen all of it. Ingrid Lindblad, the world's top amateur, hit a ball into the creek in front of the green. Gaby Lopez was caught in a gust of wind so strong that her ball landed in front of the identical hazard. When the green was finally clear, Korda decided to make use of the knowledge she had gathered through the agonizingly long wait. She hit her club higher, even ensuring to hit her ball a club length behind the markers to be secure, and smashed a 6-iron into the back bunker. The ball was secure. But not for long.

With a leaf inconveniently lodged within the sand beneath her ball, Korda's shot had no likelihood of coming to rest on the sleek, back-to-front slanting putting surface. Her ball crashed into the water. She landed on the other side of the meandering creek. One penalty. She chipped, and her ball rolled back into the water – again. Two penalty strokes. Another drop. Another chip within the creek. Three penalty strokes. Her third chip finally missed the opening by an extended shot.

Two putts. A ten on the scorecard.

Korda struggled for air the remaining of the day. The pars felt like small victories. The sloppy mistakes continued to harm and her pace of play was noticeably faster.

“I just didn't want to shoot 80 and I kept making bogeys,” Korda said, suddenly remembering her recent history at this championship. “My last two rounds at the U.S. Women's Open were not good. I think I shot 81 on Sunday at Pebble and today I shot 80.”

Korda's total on the primary nine holes rose so high that the flag bearer, who was walking together with her group, struggled to seek out the right number cards representing her rating next to her name, leaving the course temporarily empty, to the confusion of many spectators. She finished her first nine holes with a rating of 10-over 45.

Though they were bewildered by Korda's play – and at times silent as she dropped her driver after mishit tee shots – those spectators never left. They turned out in droves Thursday morning to observe the world No. 1 walk the narrow fairways at Lancaster, a crowd befitting her latest status in the sport but not all the time because of the venue or other outside aspects. After a neighborhood mother and daughter caught wind of her seven-bogey, they rushed to the course, hoping to catch a glimpse of Korda before she potentially missed the weekend.

Korda's robust gallery was by far the biggest of the morning wave, and its members clapped in awe at her brilliance and offered her words of encouragement as she someway salvaged a three-birdie 35 on the back nine.

Nelly Korda's 80-point first-round rating knocks her out of contention for the US Women's Open. (John Jones / USA Today Sports)

The battle between the world number ones on Thursday in Lancaster was as relatable because it gets. This game is fickle. It's maddening. Sometimes it doesn't make sense. Sometimes it could feel like child's play. And nobody has understood the latter higher than Korda, who has been at the highest of the rankings for nearly three months. But she also knows that feeling doesn't last ceaselessly on this sport – not even for the most effective player on this planet.

On Tuesday, Korda spoke in regards to the phenomenon, almost foreshadowing the carnage that will happen two days later. “I think that's what makes this game so great. You can be on top of the world for the first two days, and then you wake up and think, 'What am I doing? Why am I hitting the ball sideways?' And you have no idea what's going on,” Korda said. “It's funny, golf is such a tough game.”

After signing her scorecard, answering exactly three questions on her round within the interview room, and gathering together with her team behind the clubhouse, Korda headed back to the practice range. When she reached her spot on the left fringe of the teeing area, she didn't quickly grab a club or pause to examine missed messages on her phone. She sat cross-legged on the grass. Korda remained silent and alone for a number of moments.

It only took her a second.

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