BELLEAIR, Fla. | It’s not exactly home. The Kordas grew up in Bradenton, Florida, the town tagged onto Sarasota as if it’s one word, Sarasota-Bradenton, about an hour from Belleair depending on Tampa traffic. Still, the Pelican Women’s Championship presented by Konica Minolta and Raymond James is as near to a home game as the sisters get on the LPGA Tour, an hour nearer than both Orlando and Naples. Granted, Jessica has lived in the Jupiter area, on the other side of the state, for years now. But it’s still nice to be close to family.
“I drove over to my parents on Sunday and got to spend some time with them and have dinner and then casually made my way up on Monday,” Jess said. “So, yeah, it's super nice to be this close. It's nice to be able to drive to an event, just pack it in the car and go and not have to think about flights and all the extra stuff that goes into it.”
At that point, Nelly interrupted. “And stop home on Sunday and do your laundry,” she said.
Jess chuckled and said, “Yeah.” But there’s a good bit of truth in the joke. Their mother, Regina, cooked for them for the week so they brought food that can be heated up in the room.
“It’s great to have friends and family nearby so they can come down and watch,” Nelly said.
What those friends and family will see is a player who just reascended to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings and who is embroiled in one of the best season-ending battles the game has seen in some time.
Nelly got back to No. 1 despite the fact that neither she nor Jin Young Ko played anywhere last week. The rankings are a rolling average and the weeks that rolled off jiggled the numbers in Nelly’s favor. Ko leads the Player of the Year battle by 15 points. But Nelly could overtake her with a win this week or next and another top 10, depending on how Ko plays.
Even so, Nelly insists that she doesn’t think about what’s at stake. “I was super shocked,” she said when she learned about becoming No. 1 again, a spot she assumed for the first time after her victory at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Atlanta. “I had someone come up to me on 18 yesterday when I was finishing up my practice round and told me that I am back at world No. 1. I was like, ‘No, you're joking. How is that possible?’ So, it was a little bit of a shock to me.
“But I'm honestly not thinking about it because I haven't played in three weeks. I have kind of had a weird schedule the past two months where I haven't been playing a lot. So, just trying to get back into competitive golf and take it one shot at a time, because I can definitely tell that I haven't been playing competitive golf a good bit.”
With the majors, the Solheim Cup and the Olympics stacked up in a busy summer, both Kordas took some time off after circling the globe more times than John Glenn.
“My schedule was crazy enough,” Nelly said. “I had to pull out last minute from Portland because I just wasn't feeling well. And, the same with Walmart. I don't think I could have played more events because my body was just so tired. I typically play all the events at the start of the year and if I play well, then I'll take some time off, because the traveling in the summer was just so crazy.”
There is also a longer-term goal than just this year’s awards and the recognition that comes from being No. 1. That’s where having Jess nearby comes in handy. The elder Korda advises her sister that professional golf is a marathon. To finish the race, you have to stay healthy, something Jessica hasn’t always accomplished. “I played a lot of weeks when I shouldn’t,” Jess said, referring to her battles through wrist injuries. “I’m stubborn like that.”
Nelly seems to be heeding the advice she’s getting from family. “Honestly, I think I've always said good golf kind of solves it all in a sense,” she said. “I'm not going to worry about anything, no trophies, nothing, until I tee up that first shot and hopefully sink that last putt on the 72nd hole.”