Eagles are special. That’s why Tour leaderboards denote them in fire-engine red or deep royal blue. Maria Fassi led the LPGA Tour in eagles last year, making one every 6 rounds or so. Ariya Jutanugarn did a little better in 2019, averaging an eagle every 4½ rounds. Posting two in one round, which Jessica Korda did on Friday at the Pure Silk Championship, in special, indeed. And those eagles helped the Rolex Ranking No. 14 climb the leaderboard with a 67 and a two-day total 5-under-par 137.
“I just try to put myself in the right positions, and luckily I was able to have a good amount of birdie opportunities and saved a good amount of par putts,” said Korda on how her round went. “Obviously the eagles help. If you take those eagles away, I would've shot even par today, so eagles always help.”
What helps produce the better-than-birdie scores is having a high green-in-regulations percentage. Korda currently holds a 78% accuracy rate and is fifth on the LPGA Tour for most accurate approach shots.
“I really wanted to hit and go for it in two, but [the rules team] put the tee so far back with how firm it is out there, there was no reason to even try to take on that pin,” said Korda of how she approached the par-5 on hole 15. “I laid up and (my caddie) Kyle and I were like ‘it's just a hard half shot.’ It landed exactly where we wanted, and it turned straight into the hole. I was like, ‘Sick.’ So unexpected, but very welcome.”
Winning this week would make Korda the first LPGA Tour player to win twice in the 2021 season. Although the American makes playing well look easy, each course poses unique conditions and therefore, different challenges. Even for Korda, who has been on the LPGA Tour for 11 years, nothing comes easy.
“I honestly wasn't prepared for this. This golf course is always super pure, overseeded, soft, not what we are playing right now. It's actually really tough to gauge wedge shots because the ground is so firm that it's just bouncing off of it,” said Korda of her former memories of the River Course at Kingsmill Resort. “I made a couple of mistakes with some wedges in my hands. The greens in the afternoon get very slippery and the wind swirls like crazy inside these trees, so a lot of the time I was posing on a shot on 2 and I finished like 15 yards short of the green. I thought I had hit a perfect shot, because what we felt was downwind but what was actually by the hole was into the wind, and you have no way of knowing.”
Still, the 28-year-old knows what it takes to win and how to climb the leaderboard.