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World No. 1 faces ‘really tough battle’ in LPGA Match Play final — PHOTOS

Updated April 6, 2024 - 7:02 pm

Narin An faced many challenges in the semifinals of the T-Mobile Match Play.

She’s never won on the LPGA Tour, has played very little match play and faced a daunting layout at Shadow Creek.

And she also drew Nelly Korda as her opponent.

The world’s best player blitzed An on Saturday afternoon, winning the first three holes and five of the first seven while coasting to a 4-and-3 victory.

All that’s standing between Korda and her fourth consecutive victory on the LPGA Tour is Leona Maguire, who was in control from the start during a 3-and-2 win over Sei Young Kim in the other semifinal.

“I played really solid at the start,” Korda said. “I was just making a lot of pars and then gave myself two good looks at birdie, so I capitalized on that.”

And that was enough to overwhelm An, who found her game around the turn but by then had too much ground to make up.

Maguire also jumped out to an early lead, going 2 up after three holes and staying out front the rest of the way.

It sets up a fascinating championship match between two of the best match play golfers in the world. While Korda is the hottest player on the planet, Maguire actually owns a 3-1 record against her in the Solheim Cup, although all of those matches came in four-balls or foursomes.

That history doesn’t matter to Korda.

“I think it’s a brand new day,” she said. “I know she’s going to be fiery. That’s just how Leona is. She’s a great competitor. I think it’ll be great to share the stage with her, and hopefully it’ll be a good show.”

Maguire is equally aware of the challenge ahead.

“It’s going to be a really tough battle tomorrow,” Maguire said. “I’m excited. I mean, that’s why you practice. You want to play the best players in the world, and that’s what Nelly is.”

Nobody has played Shadow Creek better than Maguire over the past four days. She led the stroke play competition at 6 under and has kept her mistakes to a minimum.

“I think you have to be incredibly patient,” she said of the course. “For me, my game, I just plot my way around the golf course. It’s changed every round to be honest. Different holes have played differently depending on the wind, and the wind was slightly different again this afternoon.”

Korda, meanwhile, is trying to keep her chase at history out of her thoughts. A win on Sunday would give her four in a row, something not done on tour since Lorena Ochoa pulled it off in 2008. No American has completed the trick since Nancy Lopez won five straight in 1978.

“I’m just really excited about tomorrow honestly,” the 25-year-old Korda said. “I’m excited to see my family, excited to go home, and I’m excited to go out and play a really good match tomorrow. That’s really what I’m thinking about.”

Regardless of the outcome, Maguire is thrilled to be playing so well heading into the year’s first major, The Chevron Championship, in two weeks.

“This entire week has been all about embracing the challenge,” she said. “Early in the week that was the golf course, it was the weather. Tomorrow it will be whatever Nelly brings.”

Korda, Kim and Maguire never trailed in winning their morning quarterfinal matches. Kim won five of the first six holes in steamrolling Rose Zhang 6 and 5, while Maguire handled Moriya Jutanugarn 4 and 3. Korda beat Solheim Cup teammate Angel Yin 3 and 2, In the only back-and-forth match, An beat Minami Katsu 1 up.

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

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