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Korda still alive for 4th straight title as LPGA Match Play cut to 8

Nelly Korda’s quest for four consecutive wins on the LPGA Tour remains full steam ahead.

The world’s No. 1-ranked golfer had one of the low rounds of the day Friday, a 3-under 69, to slip into the top eight and earn a place in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the T-Mobile Match Play at Shadow Creek.

She’ll be joined in the final eight by Leona Maguire, who finished on top of the leaderboard after three days of stroke play, Americans Rose Zhang and Angel Yin, Minami Katsu, Sei Young Kim, Narin An and Moriya Jutanugarn, who won a four-way playoff for the final spot in the field.

Korda, who last week became the first American woman in 46 years to win three straight starts, made a statement early Friday with four birdies on the front nine, including three in a row, to vault into the top eight. She did so while most of the field was headed the other direction on another day of blustery winds and chilly temperatures.

“I was hitting it really good. I gave myself a lot of opportunities,” Korda said. “It got really cold toward the end, but there is something fun about golf when you get to play in these conditions. The creativity of golf comes out, and I really enjoy it.”

Maguire, who made it to the semifinals last year when the tournament was strictly match play, said it’s no surprise to see Korda in the final eight.

“Nelly is the best player in the world right now,” Maguire said. “She’s playing great golf, so no surprise she’s in the match play. I’m sure Nelly is going to be a tough match for whoever she plays. She’s been on quite a roll and very impressive to watch.”

Yin draws the unenviable task of facing her Solheim Cup teammate in the quarterfinals, but she is taking the approach that the course is her real opponent.

“This course is so challenging. In the past few years I’ve been playing it, I’ve understood that it doesn’t really matter how good you can play,” Yin said. “When you get into this golf course, the situations you face can make anyone go sideways.”

While the attention will be on Korda, Maguire has played the most consistent golf over the first three days in treacherous conditions.

“I love this golf course. I think it’s one of the best, if not the best, golf course we play all year,” Maguire said. “It’s an unbelievable test. It’s really a major championship golf course. You get punished if you hit bad shots and get rewarded if you hit good shots, and that’s exactly how golf should be.”

Maguire left the course before knowing whom her opponent would be as the playoff carried on.

“Absolutely not. I’m out of here,” she said when asked if she would watch. “Going to get some food really quick and get to bed. I think there is so much energy and mental energy expended today.”

Jutanugarn was the one player to make a giant move Friday, starting the final round in 53rd place and reaching the top eight with a 67, the low round of the day. Her 18-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole eliminated Brooke Henderson and Yuka Saso. Hae Ran Ryu went out on the first hole.

Saturday will be another trying day for the players, who face the quarterfinals in the morning and the semifinals in the afternoon with strong winds again in the forecast.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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