No 23-year-old understands what it's like to be the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, except for Nelly Korda. Though few may be able to relate to Korda's notoriety, and vice versa.
Korda has had a year that most people can only imagine, winning three times on the LPGA Tour, including her first major at the Women's PGA Championship, while also taking home gold for the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics en route to notching the sport's No. 1 throne.
However, with great success comes great pressure, and on the Fairgame podcast with 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott, Korda said 24-year-old four-time Grand Slam singles champion, Naomi Osaka, is a model on how to handle worldwide fame at a young age.
"I mean you also learn from like, other people, I mean, like Naomi Osaka," said Korda. "You don’t even know what is gonna happen with the girl that just won the U.S. Open (18-year-old Emma Raducanu). She has all this fame and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you know, a prime example is Osaka. Has she just shot up into stardom, and it’s super hard for her."
Osaka became a household name overnight at age 20 after beating Serena Williams amid controversy in the 2018 U.S. Open finals. This past year, Osaka withdrew from the French Open and did not play Wimbledon to preserve her mental health. Though Osaka returned for the U.S. Open in September, where she lost in the third-round to 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez, she's taking another break from tennis and Korda understands what Osaka is dealing with.
"It’s tough," Korda said. "It honestly has its pros and cons. Everything does in life. I mean, I enjoy it. I love it and inspiring the next generation, and I love being out there, and you know, that’s what I work for. But, you know, it’s hard too."
Korda experienced some of those cons after June's U.S. Open, where she missed the cut.
"I was really distraught over that week," Korda said. "I just kind of had to get my mind back into it. You know, golf was affecting me even off the golf course and I was like, OK, I can't have this happen, this is not how this needs to go because you're going to play really bad golf some days and you're going to play really great golf for a stretch and I can not have this affect me this much."
Korda then had a boot camp after the U.S. Open with her father, Petr, a former professional tennis player who won the 1998 Australian Open, which helped her ease up. She went on to win the Meijer LPGA Classic and then followed that victory by winning her first major, beginning her projection to world No. 1.
Yet Korda doesn't feel like she holds the No. 1 title sometimes because she doesn't dwell on her achievements and hardships. She just tries to "take it easy."
"People get so sucked into, I think, the fame sometimes, that they lose themselves," she said. "And I think a good thing is you never know what's gonna happen. I'm still 23 and that's still pretty young for the tour. I just try to enjoy every single moment of this ranking and this experience, because, you know, it can be taken away so fast."