Tony Finau calls partner Nelly Korda ‘clutch’ as they lead early at Grant Thornton Invitational

NAPLES, Fla. – Tony Finau and Nelly Korda parred only three holes in an opening 16-under 56 to lead the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational. The 16-team field played a scramble format on opening day in front of crowds so generous that it caught a number of players off-guard.

It was a mutual-admiration fest at Tiburon, with players raving about what they saw up close from their partners for the first time.

“That squeezer 9 you hit on No. 17,” Korda said to Finau during their post-round press conference, “was absolutely incredible.”

Finau called his partner “clutch”, noting that Korda chose to play second all day to be the team’s closer. They came together as a team because both are Grant Thornton ambassadors.

Nelly Korda of the United States plays his shot from the first tee during the first round of the Grant Thornton Invitational at Tiburon Golf Club on December 08, 2023 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

“When Nelly is following me around the course, it makes the game feel pretty simple,” he said. “She was able to make the putts and clutch up when we really needed to make putts.”

The marquee pairing of Korda and Finau hold a one-shot lead over Leona Maguire/Lucas Glover and Megan Khang/Denny McCarthy, who shot 27 on the back nine. Maguire and Glover birdied the first 10 holes.

The format changes to alternate shot for Saturday’s second round.

This marks the first time the PGA Tour and LPGA have hosted a mixed event since the 1999 JCPenney Classic at Innisbrook and for many in the field, this was their first time competing alongside an LPGA professional.

Finau, however, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour, partnered with Lexi Thompson at the QBE Shootout several years ago and told Korda about a time he was in between clubs on the ninth hole into the wind at Tiburon.

“Lexi pulls a 9-iron and gets it to the hole,” said Finau. “I was between 8 and 9. I was like, she hit a 9, I can’t hit an 8. So, they obviously hit the ball very solid, very flush. I would say they hit it a lot straighter than the men, than we do on our tour. They’re just so solid. I don’t know how else to describe it.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek