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Korda nails 3rd straight Tour start; Saso ties for 13th

MANILA, Philippines – Playoff winner twice over to start her season, Nelly Korda looked poised for another sudden death finish but a solid backside 32 and a brilliant 65 — coupled with her rivals’ faltering finishes — paved the way for a two-stroke win over rookie Hira Naveed in the Ford Championship in Gilbert, Arizona Sunday (Monday Manila time).

Like in her come-from-behind victories at the LPGA Drive On Championship at home last January and at the Se Ri Pak Championship in California last month, Korda showcased her remarkable ability to rally and conquer under pressure, leading to a third consecutive triumph, a feat not seen on the LPGA Tour in eight years.

“It’s very hard mentally to be 100% especially after a win, especially playing in tough conditions,” said Korda, one of the only three players in the Top 12 who posted a bogey-free card in soggy conditions, a testament to her focus and precision.

Her closing 33-32 round netted her a four-day total of 20-under 268 worth $337,500.

“So as boring as it sounds, I was just taking it shot by shot and seeing where I was going to end up. To get three-in-a-row, that’s just a dream come true,” said Korda, who skipped the Asian swing of the world's premier ladies circuit early last month.

Despite the inclement weather, the final round was a nail-biter with four players, including Korda, tied for the lead in one stretch and 11 others within striking distance early on at the backnine. But it was Korda’s clutch birdies down the stretch that sealed her victory as her closest challengers stumbled at the finish.

Naveed mounted a valiant challenge and had a clear crack at a playoff in a flight ahead. But her chip shot on the par-5 18th fell short and she had to settle for par and a 66.

But the Australia snared solo second place with a 270 total while Lexi Thompson, Mi Hyang Lee and Frida Kinhult, who matched 68s, Maja Stark, who carded a. 69, and Carlota Ciganda, who shot a 70, assembled 271s for a share of third.

Thompson briefly tied Korda at the top with a bogey-free five-under card after 14 holes. But she drove into the water on No. 16 and failed to get up-and-down on the next for bogeys. She birdied the last to salvage