Here is a (incomplete) list of all the stuff the world of golf seems to need from Nelly Korda at any given moment:

She needs to grant interviews and be charming when she does. She needs to appear in commercials, sell products and look fashionable. She needs to inspire more girls (and women) to play golf. She needs to be a spokesperson for the LPGA Tour. She needs to talk about the Olympics, and what it means to have a gold medal. She needs to provide the fuel for an army of social media clout chasers who use slow-motion clips of her beautiful swing to chase engagement. And above all, she needs to rack up wins. To dominate. To etch her name in the history books by capturing majors.

Here is what Korda often needs in return: To be alone. To be given the space to disappear into her own quiet world, often driving by herself from one tournament to the next. Sometimes there are celebratory In-and-Out burgers, sometimes there are early-morning almond croissants, but what’s most important to her is the freedom to hit the road, to see parts of the country she hasn’t seen, to have the opportunity to decompress and think.

“I've always said that staying in my own little bubble really, really helps me,” Korda said. “Not getting too distracted or lost in something that isn't really what I want to be lost in.”

Korda has never loved the idea that she has a responsibility to be the face of women’s golf. She is a private person who prefers time with her family and a small circle of friends rather than time in the spotlight. But she has learned, particularly this year, the spotlight — and the burden that comes with it — is difficult to escape for someone as talented as she is. And so when Korda tees off today in the LPGA Chevron Championship, the first major of the year, she will do so not only riding a historic hot streak of four consecutive wins, but also in the right headspace to potentially allow it to continue.

“I think obviously I'm so grateful and happy to be in this position that I could pull off four wins in a row,” Korda said. “I feel like in sports you're always looking ahead, what's next, instead of reminiscing on what has happened. I'm so grateful for my team that we all kind of live in our own bubble that we take it a shot at a time. That's what I'm going to be thinking about. I think added pressure isn't always a good thing.”

Korda, 25, has matured on the course this year, rounding out her game by improving her putting and her touch around the greens. She has become more of a pitcher instead of a thrower with her irons as well, hitting half shots and lowering her trajectory when the weather demands it. According to Justin Ray, the lead data analyst for KPMG Performance Insights, in the 2023 season, Korda gained .2 strokes per round on approach play, which put her 56th on the LPGA Tour. In 2024, she is gaining nearly a full stroke per round, putting her in the Top 15. She is the only player ranked in the Top 15 in Strokes Gained off the Tee and Strokes Gained Approach.

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She has also matured away from the course. She has been traveling this year for the first time in her career without her sister Jess, who stepped away from pro golf when she became a mom. (The sisters still talk every day by phone.) A development that could have unmoored Korda has instead sparked one of the most special stretches in the game’s history. Since 2000, only Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam (twice) have won four tournaments in a row.

“She’s kind of our Caitlin Clark out here,” said Lilia Vu, the Chevron’s defending champion. “She is bringing so much to the table — just win after win, just having it, having everything together. She’s done such a good job. So well-liked and loved out here. She brings a big following. She’s a great person.”

Korda understands that, despite what’s happened so far this year, the true accounting of her stature within the game is going to be measured in majors. It felt like she had truly arrived in 2021 when she won her first, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and became the No. 1-ranked player in the world for the first time. But a blood clot in her arm, and a back injury the following year, torpedoed that ascent.

“In 2021 I went on a run, and then in 2022 and 2023 golf really humbled me,” she said. “I think in sports, there are ups and downs. Every athlete goes through the rollercoaster, and that is what makes the sport so great. You mature and grow so much and learn more about yourself.”

The LPGA is still figuring out how to market its occasionally reluctant superstar. When commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan spoke with the media this week, she pointed out that it wasn’t that long ago the LPGA didn’t even have a marketing department. Now they have four or five employees working every week to try and get players like Korda in front of bigger audiences. The league has partnered with the creative branding firm Hana Kuma, co-founded by tennis star Naomi Osaka, to help better tell the athletes' stories.

“Listen, people follow people,” said Marcoux Samaan. “People love to follow a star. So I think we all know that and we all recognize that. We want to make sure Nelly Korda can reach her peak performance also. It's a lot of pressure on an athlete, but she's handled it extremely well. She's on SportsCenter this afternoon. She's got some great interviews with Golf Channel. I think they recognize that responsibility and they also recognize that she's a premier athlete that needs to be able to hone her craft too and make sure that she can reach peak performance and be at her best when she hits the first tee. So it's always a balance, but she's doing a great job with it.”

There is still pressure on Korda to do more than she’s comfortable with, but that’s also a necessary evil, according to Stacy Lewis, current United States Solheim Cup captain.

“I think Nelly does have a responsibility, and she probably doesn't always want it, just knowing her,” Lewis said. “But it's saying, yes. Continuing to play great golf though is No. 1. That's what helps our tour the most is her playing great golf. I would tell her to remember that. I would tell her to do as much extra stuff as you can for us. Every week she needs to be in here talking about it and how good she's playing. I've been in her shoes. I've been the No. 1 in the world and top American, and you're asked to do a lot of things. But give the media a couple hours every week. That's what she's going to have to start doing.”

Deep down, Korda is a golf junkie. She loves practicing and thinking her way through shots and competing. The ancillary stuff is always going to be a bit of a struggle for her. And she is adamant that she needs to do it on her own terms. The LPGA may not have loved it that she chose to skip the Asian Swing this year, opting for seven weeks off and time with her parents and grandparents in Prague, but that time away from golf has also spurred the best stretch of her career and garnered more media attention than playing tournaments in Asia ever could.

“I think everything comes with results,” Korda said. “If you don't have results you're not going to get opportunities. At the end of the day, everything is about results. I feel like for me, the way that I promote the game is just the way I am. I'm very true to myself. I'm never going to do something I'm not really comfortable with.”

Korda knows what a fifth win in a row would mean for both herself and for the game. In 1978, Nancy Lopez won five tournaments in a row, including a major, and ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the front page of the New York Times. Duplicating that feat would be huge for the modern LPGA. Lexi Thompson’s career once offered similar promise, but it didn’t translate into bigger buzz because she simply didn’t win often enough. Korda’s reluctance to jump in front of cameras away from the course may not matter if she continues to dominate. The more she dominates, the more curiosity and demand there will be for viewers to tune in.

“I feel like we just need a stage,” Korda said. “We need to be put on TV. I feel like when it's tape delay or anything like that, that hurts our game. Women's sports just needs a stage. If we have a stage we can show up and perform and show people what we're all about.”

For years, Korda has tried to hold onto a mantra that Hollis Stacy — a three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner — gave her in 2018 on the putting green when she was doing drills a day prior to a tournament. Korda was frustrated that she hadn’t yet broken through and gotten a win, and the frustration was noticeable.

“[Stacy] just said: “When The Time Is Right.” Korda said. “I just put that in my yardage book that week that I won in Taiwan at Swinging Skirts. I said, when the time is right it'll happen.”

The mantra remains written in her yardage book, even today.

Will the time be right for Korda this week to capture her 2nd major and fifth straight victory? Like it or not, the whole sport is watching her, hungry for more.

Kevin Van Valkenburg is the Editorial Director of No Laying Up

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