Date: February 16, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

WRAP: Korda’s Open to win or lose

Nelly Korda said she was not about to even think about the family history that she is chasing in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open tomorrow. But the superstar American 20-year-old is going to find that hard.

Enough people will surely remind her that she is the only member of her family who has not won an Australian Open of sorts — whether it be tennis or golf.

Korda, the world No. 16, monstered The Grange’s west course in Adelaide for a second straight day today to seize an iron grip on the Open. After a 67 to go with her early 71 and 66, she leads by three shots from Japan’s Haru Nomura going into the final day.

The Australian challenge faltered. Neither Karrie Webb nor Minjee Lee could make a charge, and Hannah Green, who started up close, went backwards before rallying late.

All of which left the leaderboard with an international flavour headed by Korda, whose world ranking (16) is lower than her age. Korean star Jeongeun Lee6, who adds the numeral to her surname to distinguish herself from the plethora of golfing Lees in her home country, is in the mix at eight-under along with England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Taiwan’s Wei-Ling Hsu after the third round.

Nelly Korda is seeking to become the fourth member of her family to win an Australian Open of sorts. Famously her father Petr won the tennis Open in 1998, mimicked by Nelly’s elder sister Jessica at the 2012 golf Open, and then brother Sebastian in the boys’ singles at the 2018 tennis Open.

It is a situation that she said had her feeling “so left out” around the dinner table but on her performance so far, she has a strong chance of addressing it on Sunday. Doubtless if she wins tomorrow, she will be asked to perform the somewhat famous Petr Korda scissor kick for the cameras; certainly Jessica obliged in 2012 at Royal Melbourne after she won a playoff.

A bomber off the tee who also has seriously good hands, Korda won her first LPGA Tour event in Taiwan last year and was runner-up at the tour championship in Florida in November, giving indications that she was on the rise. She will move ahead of her elder sister (who withdrew from next week’s Thailand tournament because of injury) in the rankings if she wins tomorrow.

The American played alongside Nomura and watched the Japanese player surge to the lead when she birdied the par-four seventh hole. But Korda is a mercurial player with unlimited X-factor, exemplified by the way she spins her wedges. At the 13th, she monstered the par-five for a birdie then hit it close at the par-three 14th for another, and at the par-four 15th for a third on end.

By this time she had the lead to herself and at the 348-metre 18th, she put an exclamation mark on it with a tremendous blow off the tee and a chipped wedge to a metre from the flag, knocking in the putt for a 67 to go with her earlier rounds of 71 and 66.

“I’m not even going to think about it,” she said after her round. “There’s so much golf to be played. I’ll take it shot-by-shot.”

Green is the leading Australian at six-under par after a 73 today, and she will need to go extremely low tomorrow to win other than if Korda imploded. New South Wales professional Sarah Kemp’s resurgence continued with a 68 today that puts her inside the top 20, but veteran Karrie Webb (71 today) and world No. 7 Minjee Lee (also 71) are eight shots back.

Overnight leaders Hsu of Taiwan and Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden both gave shots back to the field, unable to break par.