Korda's closing birdie wins in Bahamas

Jessica Korda birdies the 72nd hole to win the LPGA's 2014 Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Jessica Korda birdies the 72nd hole to win the LPGA's 2014 Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Jessica Korda’s second career victory was a close shave, as she held off a hard-charging Stacy Lewis to win the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic by one stroke. Katherine Hull-Kirk and Brittany Lincicome showered her with shaving cream, and rookie Lydia Ko came in the scoring tent afterwards with a cold bottle of water that sent Korda squealing.

The leaderboard here in paradise looked as picture-perfect as the views, with the game’s biggest stars throwing darts at the flagsticks and trading the lead back and forth. By late Sunday, it was an All-American shootout between Solheim Cup teammates Stacy Lewis and Jessica Korda.

Both players hit their second shots into the par-5 18th over the green, and after Lewis flubbed her chip shot and missed an 18-foot birdie attempt, she left the stage to Korda, playing in the group behind.

Korda, 20, struck a 4-iron from 213 yards and watched her ball scoot over the green, coming to rest in a bundle of TV cables just in front of the grandstands. Her new caddie for the week, Kyle Bradley, suggested they lift the cables and have Korda putt underneath.

“I just really wanted her to putt it,” said Bradley, a PGA Tour hopeful who caddied at Augusta National. Korda, of course, famously parted ways with her veteran caddie mid-round during last summer’s U.S. Women’s Open and pulled her boyfriend from outside the ropes to carry the bag.

To find a caddie for the 2014 season, Korda conducted several phone interviews with caddies her agent had lined up. It should be noted that Korda really dug Bradley’s thick Southern accent and hired him sight-unseen.

There must be something to the Augusta caddie connection as Lexi Thompson and her Augusta caddie, Benji Thompson (no relation) also won their first week together in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Back to the 18th, where Golf Channel reporter Phil Parkin and an LPGA rules official were holding up cables as she putted up the hill, Korda left herself 6 feet for the win.

“It was kind of a nice distraction to be honest,” said Korda, who thought the situation reminded her of double dutch (jump rope). “It made me laugh.”

This marks the second time Korda has won a season-opening event. Before she won the Australian Women’s Open in 2012, she played a round of golf with Jack Nicklaus at the Bear’s Club. A piece of advice Korda received two years ago from Nicklaus came in handy for victory No. 2.

“He always told me a bad putt is still better than a bad chip,” Korda said.

Korda’s closing 7-under 66 included birdies on three of the last four holes. She finished at 19-under 273 and is projected to move from No. 40 to No. 24 on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking.

Bradley wasn’t the only new face on Korda’s team. Two weeks ago she changed swing instructors, going back to Grant Price (a nephew of Nick Price), who convinced Korda years ago to stay with the game when she grew frustrated as a junior player.

This time around Korda felt she needed to make immediate changes to her swing to take the pressure off her shoulder and wrist, which have both ailed her for quite some time. She called Price and asked if he was feeling up to giving her swing a look.

They changed everything from grip to posture to swing plane in short order, and while there were times she clearly didn’t get it right (that cold shank out of bounds on Saturday, for example), she went to the range after every round and worked out the details.

Price, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer nine months ago and underwent surgery in December, has been an inspiration to Korda.

“Grant means so much to me,” she said. “He’s so positive. His positivity has given me a lot of confidence this week.”

For Price, Korda’s victory on Sunday surely was the best kind of medicine.

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