WASHINGTON: World No. 2 Nelly Korda says she will be looking no further than the first tee at the US Women’s Open on Thursday as she returns for her first tournament in four months following a blood clot scare.
The 23-year-old reigning Olympic champion put her season on hold in February after the discovery of a clot in her left arm.
Korda enjoyed a dazzling 2021 that saw her climb to world No. 1 as she netted four LPGA titles — including her maiden major — as well an Olympic gold medal.
But while the American says she is now 100 percent fit after completing post-surgery rehab, she has reduced expectations of what this week’s major at Pine Needles Golf Club in North Carolina may bring.
“To tee up and hit my first tee shot on Thursday — that is as far as I’m looking right now,” Korda replied on Tuesday when asked what her goals for the week were.
“I’ve been out of competition since early February. I’m honestly just grateful to be out here playing. I’m going to take it one step at a time. I’m not expecting too much. The girls are already in the midst of their seasons and have a bunch of rounds under their belts.”
After her lengthy layoff, Korda has a packed schedule on the horizon, with this week’s Women’s Open followed by the Meijer LPGA Classic and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where she is the defending champion.
“I have a few big events coming up,” Korda said. “I’m trying not to think about it too much. I’m just grateful to be back out here.”
Korda said the blood clot in her arm was discovered after she began to “feel funny” in February.
“I just felt funny so I called my family doctor and he advised me to go to the ER (emergency room),” she said.
“I went to the ER, found out I had a blood clot and went home and searched for a specialist, then obviously had my procedure.”
Lengthy rehab in California with her coach followed.
“A lot of shoulder and back exercises,” Korda said. “I just made sure I was ready and 100 percent going into my comeback.
“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have any issues,” added Korda, who will play with a compression sleeve on her left arm this week.
Watching the LPGA Tour from afar was a frustrating experience, Korda added, notably the final Chevron Championship held at Rancho Mirage before the tournament moves to Texas in 2023.
“That one hurt a lot because it was the last time there,” Korda said.
“Yeah, I’ve missed it so much. As I got closer to this week I started hitting it a little harder and longer.
“The juices started flowing again. I’ve missed everyone, I’m so happy and grateful to be back out here again.”
Returning this week has given Korda a renewed sense of appreciation for her craft.
“It’s like when you’re sick and your nose is stuffy you are so grateful to be able to breathe properly again,” she said.
“I feel it’s kind of the same way. When it’s taken away from you, you kind of sit back and realize what an amazing sport golf is. I missed it.”
This week’s tournament meanwhile sees last year’s US Women’s Open winner Yuka Saso adjusting to her status as defending champion.
The Philippine-born Japanese professional admitted on Tuesday she was uncertain as to whether she felt pressure as champion.
“I just want to enjoy and have fun you know,” Saso said. “I don’t know if I’m nervous or not.”