Jessica Korda had been close to picking up win No. 2 of her LPGA Tour career many times over the past two years and on Sunday, she finally did it. The 20-year-old made a dramatic up-and-down on the 18th hole for birdie to defeat Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis by a stroke at the 2014 season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
After hitting her second shot over the green on the par-5 18th that rested up against the grandstands, Korda took her relief and proceeded to putt the ball – while officials and volunteers held up cable – to six feet. As her birdie putt dropped in to move her to 19-under-par, Korda raised her hands in the air and was doused with Pure Silk shaving cream to celebrate her second career LPGA Tour victory.
Season-opening events must have a special magic for Korda, who became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2012 season-opening ISPS Handa Australia Women’s Open.
“It's unbelievable,” Korda said of winning another season opener. “I don't know, maybe I pay attention more to detail, and I'm more relaxed out here. I don't know, but whatever it is I need to figure it out and do it more often.”
Korda entered Sunday’s final round sitting three shots behind third-round leader Na Yeon Choi. But she caught fire midway through the front nine with a five birdies in a stretch of seven holes. The Bradenton, Fla. native needed to get hot as many players went low in the final round on an ideal weather day.
One year after rain put a damper on the inaugural event and forced the tournament to be switched to a 12-hole format, the Bahamas put on a spectacular weather display this week. There was barely a cloud in the sky and just a hint of wind for Sunday’s final round as temperatures reached the upper 70s on a picturesque day.
It was a perfect day for birdies and there were plenty to be found. Lewis set the tone for the day as she got off to a blazing start. The top-ranked American birdied six of her first eight holes to move into a tie for the lead at 17-under-par with second-year LPGA Tour member Lizette Salas.
Despite a bogey at the ninth that halted her momentum, Lewis continued to lead the pack for most of the back nine. She took the outright lead with a birdie on the 14th as Korda continued to chase.
But Lewis’ momentum slowed with five straight pars to end her round. And after Lewis faltered in her attempt to get up-and-down for birdie from behind the 18th green, Korda managed to take advantage with her remarkable two-putt from off the green.
“It was like double‑dutch,” Korda joked of putting under the cables. “I was jumping over wires with people holding onto them. It was really funny.”
Korda has been working on some swing changes in recent weeks, even switching to a new swing coach this month. The changes caused a few hiccups in Saturday’s third round as Korda battled her old swing habits but she found that retooled swing again on Sunday, particularly on the back nine with birdies on three of her final four holes.
How was Korda able to turn things around for Sunday? A lot had to do with her new swing coach, Grant Price, who she actually worked with before when she was 15 years old at the IMG Golf Academy. Price is currently in the midst of battling cancer and Korda said that she wanted to make sure he was feeling good enough health-wise to work with her, as his wellbeing was her biggest concern. They’ve been able to work when Price feels able and the relationship has been a tremendous boost to Korda and her game.
“Grant means so much to me,” said Korda, who got choked up discussing her new coach. “He's so positive, and that's really kind of shown ‑‑ it's given me a lot of confidence this week. His positivity, and he's like, 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.”
Topics: Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic