Evian Championship: World No 1 Nelly Korda struggles to three-over 74, including an air shot

Nelly Korda made a disappointing start to the Amundi Evian Championship as she ended the opening day nine shots off the pace in France.

Korda’s three-over 74 left her far closer to the bottom of the leaderboard than the top, where Yealimi Noh and Pajaree Anannarukam share the lead after both fired 65s.

Big-hitting Emily Kristine Pedersen carded an entertaining 65 as she looks to nail down her Solheim Cup place with a big performance this week, while former world No 1 Ariya Jutanugarn and 2015 Evian champion Lydia Ko both made encouraging starts.

But Korda needs a vast improvement to avoid an early exit in her first major as world No 1, a position she attained after storming to victory at the KPMG Women’s PGA last month.

She set the tone for her day when she bogeyed two of her opening three holes, and birdies at the 17th and seventh merely sandwiched two further blemishes before she suffered the humiliation of an air shot at her final hole.

Korda blocked her second to the par-five into a greenside bunker, her ball coming to rest close to the back lip, and her bold first escape attempt was a shocker as she clipped the bank on her downswing and missed her ball completely.

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She then pitched out sideways, chipped long and holed a good putt from the fringe to limit the damage to a six and a round of 74, one less than older sister Jessica in a bad start for the drawcard siblings.

But there were far fewer issues for Anannarukam, who birdied three of the last five holes to cap a bogey-free 65, and Noh, who provided one of the highlights of the first day when she pitched in for an eagle-two at the first.

Pedersen’s ended both nines with eagles, although it was her improved putting rather than her length that was more advantageous throughout the day, as proved when the Dane nailed a 25-foot putt for a three at the long last to install herself as the leading European challenger.

“It’s obviously a great start to the tournament, and I holed a lot of good putts and a chip today,” she said. “I’ve been struggling with my putting, so it’s really, really positive to see that I’ve found something, and it’s something that’s good going forward, as well.

“At the beginning of the year I changed grip. I was doing left below right, then I changed to right below left, and last week I changed to left to below right, so I’m thinking that’s the key.

“I hit like 11 fairways, 17 greens, and then I holed a lot of good putts. I would still like to hit somewhat a bit closer, have some shorter putts for birdie, but it was just a really solid round, and then it always helps when you hole long putts.”

Jutanugarn was just one under with three to play before she followed a birdie at the seventh with a chip-in for eagle at the ninth to complete a 67 as the Thai powerhouse chases her first major title since the 2018 US Women’s Open.

“I love this place so much, especially the views, everything, the golf course,” said Jutanugarn, who partnered sister Moriya to victory at last week’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.

“I never played good here because I feel like the course is so tough. Maybe the course doesn’t like me. But I really like this course. I like it out here so much. I would say I feel much better after last week, but I still have so much things to work on.

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“I have really great memories of last week because it’s very special to be able to win with your sister, and when you get out here you kind of understand some days you’re going to have bad days or you have good commitment and you’re the player you want to be. I kind of understand that, and of course from last week, always in my heart.”

Moriya Jutanugarn is just one shot behind her sister, while 2018 Women’s Open champion Georgia Hall needed two late birdies to shoot 69 along with Ireland’s Leona Maguire, with Charley Hull and Bronte Law both handing in 70s.

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