CLIFTON, NEW JERSEY | After earning a long-awaited win at the Palos Verdes Championship presented by Bank of America, Marina Alex enters the week with a second career LPGA victory under her belt. Alex, now No. 28 in the Rolex Rankings, defeated world No.1 Jin Young Ko by a single stroke in California two Sundays ago.
"It's probably some of the most consistent golf I've played in a long time, starting from Boca all the way through to this stretch," Alex said.
Marina said she worked out some kinks in her game leading into the California stretch, following Thailand and Singapore.
"I just changed how I begin my golf swing and my take-away in the first one-third of my swing. That allows me to take a little bit of a load off of my back and get through the ball with a little bit less torsion on my spine," she said.
Alex has been battling a nagging back injury the last few years which has kept her out of competitions and left her career up in the air. Going into 2020, she said that she was in the best shape of her life, but training hard during the pandemic triggered her back to flare up.
"It didn't afford me an opportunity to improve on anything. It's really easy to jump back full throttle, and then that's when things start going haywire, which is what happened for me. I was trying to ramp up to come back to play and I was totally not ready for it," Alex said.
Earlier this year, Alex didn't know how long she would be able to continue playing competitive golf due to injury, but she worked hard in the off-season on her swing after gaining some endurance.
"It was a long process, but I'm hoping that it's allowed me to properly heal and rebuild strength, and I'm hoping that that's not something I'm going to have to deal with in the immediate future," she said.
Born and raised in Wayne, New Jersey, Marina is vaguely familiar with the tree-lined course, tight fairways and sloping greens at Upper Montclair Country Club.
"I played in the U.S. Junior Qualifier when I was 12, and I'm pretty sure I shot 93. That's my only memory." Marina joked, "I'm hoping I improve on the 93, if I'm being honest.”
To prepare for this week's potential curveballs, Alex worked closely with coach Claude Harmon III.
"I noticed on the nine that I played, which was our back nine I played yesterday, you can hit a nice drive, but then you might be slightly blocked out by a tree and have to work away from the pin or the middle of the green," she said.
Marina said this hometown event will require tactical positioning off the tee and consistent ball trajectories to be successful.
"There are some angles off the tee where you need to place yourself in the right or left side of the fairways to have better approaches into the greens because they do have some overhanging tree limbs, which is a pretty subtle but cool element of this course," she said.