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Stats and Stuff: After morale boosts, Korda thrives in season openers

Jessica Korda
Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Jessica Korda of the USA (R) celebrates with second place finisher Stacy Lewis (L) after winning the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic at the Ocean Club course on January 26, 2014 in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

January 28 2014, Ward Clayton

After morale boosts, Korda thrives in season openers
Jessica Korda knows how to prepare for season openers. Two years ago, she met with Jack Nicklaus and then went to Australia and won her first LPGA title at age 18. To begin 2014, she changed instructors and revamped her swing in time to win the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

On both occasions, she also made a clutch putt on the final green to win the title – taking a six-player playoff at the ISPS Women’s Australian Open with a 25-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole in February 2012 and birdieing the last two holes, including a six-footer on the final green, to win in The Bahamas on Sunday.

“Maybe I pay attention more to detail, and I’m more relaxed out here,” Korda said. “I don't know, but whatever it is I need to figure it out and do it more often.”

Korda met Nicklaus a couple months before her Australian victory after her father, former tennis star Petr, set up the meeting. She took Jack’s advice for being confident on the course. Her change this year was more sudden. Two weeks before traveling to The Bahamas, she started working with Grant Price, a nephew of World Golf Hall of Famer Nick Price, near her home in Bradenton, Fla. Adding to the back story is that Price, a coach at the IMG Academy, is suffering from cancer. She also got a new caddie, Augusta National Golf Club regular Kyle Bradley, who sported a Masters hat during the victory.

“Grant means so much to me,” Korda said. “He’s so positive, and that’s really kind of shown – it’s given me a lot of confidence this week. His positivity – he said you’re going to be ready for this week, you're going to be ready for this week, regardless of how I was hitting it on the range, and I was not hitting it good. I started hitting woods a week before I came here, so I really wasn’t that confident in myself. But him being on the range and constantly kind of encouraging the positive in me, into my mind, it helped me so much.”

Close finishes not going Lewis’ way
Despite being ranked No. 3 in the world, Stacy Lewis must feel a bit like a bridesmaid. Since last June, Lewis has recorded four runner-up finishes, with three of those coming down to the last hole, a reachable par 5. Last week’s 2014 season-opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic was another close call for the world’s top-ranked American as Jessica Korda birdied the final hole to break a tie.

“It’s very frustrating,” Lewis said. “The 18th hole has gotten me the last couple tournaments.  I’ve had so many chances to win.  It’s very frustrating, but to finish second a lot of weeks in a row, you're not doing anything really wrong.  That’s what I’m taking out of it is I’m doing a lot of stuff right. There are more events and there are bigger tournaments this summer, so I’m just going to take this momentum from here.”

Lewis has finished no worse than a tie for eighth in 11 consecutive tournaments, dating back to last June’s T42 finish at the U.S. Women’s Open. The streak included a win in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at St. Andrews.

Here’s a look at her recent second-place finishes:

Tournament Winner What Happened on 18?
Safeway Classic (Sept. 1, 2013) Suzann Pettersen Lewis made no bogeys for the entire tournament but finished two behind Pettersen.
Reignwood Classic (Oct. 6, 2013) Shanshan Feng Lewis led by one, but Feng hit her second shot to 3 feet for eagle and Lewis couldn’t convert an 18-footer for birdie.
Ochoa Invitational (Nov. 17, 2013)  Lexi Thompson Tied entering the final hole, Thompson two-putted for birdie on the par 5 (making a 5-footer) while Lewis couldn’t make her similar length putt.
Pure Silk Bahamas (Jan. 27, 2014) Jessica Korda Korda got up and down for birdie from behind the green with a putter while Lewis couldn’t do the same from a similar spot.

Sweet Home Alabama
With last week’s announcement of Airbus sponsoring the Airbus Mobile Bay LPGA Classic this spring (May 22-25), the state of Alabama has solidified two events on the 2014 LPGA schedule. The Alabama LPGA Classic is scheduled for September in Prattville, Ala.

California is the only other state to host multiple events, with three in a one-month period in March and April. Other states that will host LPGA events this year include Arizona, Hawaii, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Arkansas, Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Florida.

Thailand’s surge
Thailand had a good start to the season last week in The Bahamas, with three players finishing in the top 11. Pornanong Phatlum (T3), P.K. Kongkraphan (T7) and Thidapa Suwannapura (T11) were instrumental in Thailand moving to fourth in the nation standings for the International Crown, which is scheduled for July 24-27 in Owings Mills, Md. There’s even more depth when you add Moriya Jutanugarn, the 2013 Louise Suggs LPGA Rookie of the Year (T27 last week), and her younger sister Ariya, who is scheduled to return from shoulder surgery in two weeks for the Australian tournament. The sisters are currently ranked among the top four to make up the Thailand team.

Yani Tseng won the Taifong Ladies Open on the Taiwan LPGA Tour last week, her first victory since March 2012 at the Kia Classic on the LPGA. … Michelle Wie led the field in Greens in Regulation last week, hitting 64 of 72 (88.9 percent) greens. She finished T13. … The next tournament on the LPGA schedule, the Feb. 13-16 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, will be played at the Victoria Golf Club. It will be the first time Victoria has hosted the tournament since 1976. … In two years, there have been six aces at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Sue Kim (No. 12, first round), Eric Popson (No. 17, third round) and Karine Icher (No. 5, third round) holed out last week.

Topics: Stats and Stuff

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