Nelly Korda, Brooke Henderson and Inbee Park paired up

BETHESDA, Md. — There’s something about parking in a former champion’s parking spot at the Congressional Country Club that makes for a great start to the day. Brooke Henderson reminisces about that life-changing day at Sahalee – when she beat world No. 1 Lydia Ko in the playoffs – as she arrives at her locker, stamped ‘former champion’.

Henderson’s only major victory came six years ago at the KPMG Women’s PGA, and she enters this year’s championship thanks to a recent triumph at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

“Every time I come back to this event,” she said, “I just try to recreate what I did back then and hopefully get a quick start on Thursday.”

Canada’s winningest golfer of all time will be joined in the first round by 2021 KPMG champion Nelly Korda and three-time winner Inbee Park, who won this event from 2013-2015. They will start at 7:33 a.m. Thursday on Congressional’s Blue Race, recently renovated, which hosts for the first time a women’s professional event.

The field of 156 will compete for $9 million, doubling last year’s purse.

Brooke Henderson hits the 13th tee during the final round of the 2022 ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, New Jersey. (Photo: Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Park, a seven-time major winner, skipped the US Women’s Open earlier this month to return to top form. This week, she’s staying with her best friend, who lives 30 minutes away in Fairfax, Virginia.

“I don’t know how I did it,” Park said of sweeping this event three years in a row. “Yeah, if you ask me if I can do it now, I think it’s going to be next to impossible to do it. At the time, I – my game and everything was in great shape, and I was probably putting in a lot better than this who I am today.

As Henderson and Park try to end major championship droughts (Park’s last big win was in 2015), Korda tries to extend his streak to two straight years.

Last year at the Atlanta Athletic Club, Korda rose to No. 1 in the world when she picked up her first major. So much life has passed since then for the young American, from winning Olympic gold to battling surgery on a blood clot in a subclavian vein in her left arm.

After recording a top 10 in her first event in four months at the Pine Needles Women’s Open, Korda lost in the playoffs last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic, where she also won in 2021.

“Since I started hitting, I’ve been on full throttle,” Korda said of her return to golf.

“I haven’t taken more than two or three days off since. I’m just happy to be here to play competitive golf. I gave myself a chance last week. If you had told me that when I was lying in the emergency room, I would certainly have been very happy.

When asked what she attributed her strong game to from the start, Korda said it was as much mental as hard work on her game and body.

“I think it’s also about the attitude you have on the golf course,” she said. “I feel like the more you enjoy it, the better you play, the less you get ticked off, the less things go wrong, I guess, in a way.

“Since I’ve been back I’ve made sure I have a good attitude and enjoy every second, and I think that’s contributed to my good game.”

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