Korda tops crowd for Airbus LPGA Classic win
Dream weeks on the LPGA have become standard in 2014. The competition has been so good so often this season that we’re starting to expect an all-star shootout every week.
What started in the Bahamas with a Jessica Korda/Stacy Lewis showdown is still playing out five months later, with Korda winning for a second time in Mobile with heavy-hitters Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson giving chase. Also in the mix down South: the delightful Charley Hull, super-mom Catriona Matthew and another two-time winner this season, Anna Nordqvist.
Korda punctuated her one-shot victory at the Airbus LPGA Classic with a 15-foot, big-breaking, birdie putt on the 18th to shoot 65, the day’s lowest round. The 6-foot blonde birdied four of the last five holes to post 30 and finish at 20-under 268. Korda tied for second last year on the RTJ Golf Trail at 20 under, one shot behind winner Jennifer Johnson.
“My confidence was just rising every single day,” said Korda. “I just love it here.”
Korda, now a three-time winner on the LPGA at age 21, is projected to jump from 26th to 16th in the Rolex Rankings.
The eldest child of former tennis champion Petr Korda, is one of three two-time winners on the LPGA this season, joining Nordqvist and Karrie Webb.
Korda’s victory in the Bahamas came two weeks after she began working with instructor Grant Price. While success came quickly and easily, it didn’t linger.
“I have not been playing well since I basically won in the Bahamas,” she said.
In addition to her work with Price, Korda also sought the help of Paul Azinger, who also lives in Bradenton, Fla.
“With his input and Grant's input, it just takes a while for it to click,” she said. “And (I) put my old driver back into play, and I just felt really comfortable.”
This mark’s Korda’s first title on U.S. soil, with her others coming in Australia and the Bahamas. She only wished her family could’ve been there to celebrate.
“My brother's playing a tennis tournament right now and my sister's trying for a U.S. Open qualifier, so we're kind of scattered all over the place,” she said, “but I can't wait to go home and share this with them.”
Americans have now won three consecutive tournaments and seven of the 12 staged in 2014.
Golf Channel reporter Juli Inkster wrapped up her post-round interview with Korda by asking where she planned on taking her Solheim Cup captain to dinner.
“Outback?” Korda replied.
Inkster, the captain in 2015, wasn’t impressed.
Wie birdied four of the first seven holes and held the lead as she made the turn but had a few loose shots on the back side and didn’t make as many putts. She closed with a 5-under 67 and tied for third, her fifth consecutive top-10 finish.
“I knew I needed a low score,” Wie said. “I got hot starting on and just didn't quite get it together on the back nine.”
Hull, the young English player who captured hearts at last year’s Solheim Cup, also tied for third and earned $70,089.
She’s playing the LPGA on sponsor exemptions this season and hopes to earn enough money to avoid this winter’s LPGA Q-School. Hull, 18, currently leads the LET’s Order of Merit.
Stacy Lewis, seeking to unseat Inbee Park for the No. 1 ranking, only managed a 1-under 71 and tied for 10th.