RED-HOT KORDA RETURNS TO SENTOSA WITH HER CONFIDENCE SKY-HIGH
Twelve months on from a disappointing runner-up finish at the HSBC Women’s World Championship where she led the tournament heading into the final round, Nelly Korda is oozing confidence as the hottest player on the LPGA Tour. In her last six starts, she has won twice while posting three other top-10s. Her worst result during this sizzling run was a tie for 19th at the TOTO Japan Classic in November.
Korda leads the 2019 Race to the CME Globe with 780 points, and she also sets the pace in the LEADERS Top 10 competition, with three in her first three starts of the year. While her memories of last year's HSBC Women’s World Championship are somewhat mixed after she came up agonizingly short in her bid to claim a first LPGA Tour victory, she returns this week to the New Tanjong Course at Sentosa Golf Club in buoyant spirits as a twice champion on the women's circuit.
"I definitely feel more confident," Korda said after playing in Wednesday's pro-am competition. "I kind of know the ins and outs of this golf course after playing it once. But I'm just going to approach it like I do every week. It's a new week. The course is playing completely different than it did last year ... so I'm just going to approach it like I approach every week. It was a little disappointing (here last year) but I finished second and I had a good run. I realized that, you know, I can compete with all these top girls out here, so really, I took a lot of positives away from it, as well.”
Having finally clinched her first LPGA Tour victory at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship in October, Korda added a second earlier this month at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, where she triumphed by two shots. Unquestionably the hottest player on the LPGA Tour over the past four months, she knows how she wants the next four months to unfold. "Hopefully a lot of consistency," she smiled. "That's something that was a huge goal of mine this year, and I’m just going to take it tournament by tournament. Do my fundamentals, get ready and try to play my best."
2020 OLYMPIC DREAMS FOR SO YEON RYU
So Yeon Ryu is a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour and was a member of the victorious 2018 UL International Crown but there’s one thing that the 29-year-old from Republic of Korea has not yet accomplished. Competing in Olympic Games. With golf’s re-entry into the Games in 2016, Ryu revealed her long-term goal of making the Olympic team in 2020.
“To make the 2020 Olympic Korean Team is going to be really tough, but if I'm playing really well in 2019, I can put myself in a really good position, so that’s my goal -- even though it's not really this year, that’s my long-term goal,” Ryu said with determination.
For the Olympic hopeful to qualify for her national team, Ryu’s strategy is to capitalize on every opportunity in 2019 with her sights on a win at this week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship.
“Hopefully my game is going to be better and better all the time and by Sunday I'm good enough to hold the trophy,” said Ryu, who will tee off in round one with fellow countrywoman Inbee Park and American Lexi Thompson. “For this week, like I said, hopefully I can have a better timing, and if I am great enough, for sure I want to win this tournament.”
WIND A BIG FACTOR ON AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE, SAYS LIZETTE SALAS
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the HSBC Women’s World Championship is the par-five 13th and Lizette Salas will be keeping a close eye on the wind before she decides on her strategy there and tees off.
On this dogleg-left, the tee shot is key with bunkers on the left and right protecting the landing zone. Players can either tee up short for safety or go long and right, beyond the first three bunkers, in a bid to reach the green in two. Care is also needed with a bold approach here, since over-hit shots will more than likely bounce over the back of a deceivingly elevated green.
"It's a very demanding tee shot and the second shot is typically blindsided - you can't really see where the ball is landing," said Salas, an Aon ambassador whose sole LPGA Tour victory came at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship. "You are basically landing in a very narrow fairway, unless you take a more aggressive second shot and maybe possibly end up in that bunker short of the green and your third shot be a bunker approach shot. It all depends on how the wind is.
"The wind tends to be in your face right-to-left on that hole so that can also be a big factor in either going for it or playing a little more conservative. My approach is to just look at the wind first, and the pin placement as well. If the pin's in the back, I don't think there's any greater reward to go for it because that back side you're going to short-side yourself and it's a very steep roll-off behind the green. It would be even more a risk-reward opportunity if the pin is in the front and the wind isn't that aggressive. There are tons of factors that play into it. It's a really demanding hole from the get-go."