When Jessica Korda joined the LPGA last season many eyes were pointed her way to be one of the contenders for Rookie of the Year. With a sparkling amateur career, and professional athlete pedigree (her father Petr was a top tennis player winning the Australian Open), it wasn’t a question of will she, but when she. It wasn’t her rookie campaign which saw her finish just inside the top 100 on the money list. While adjusting to the professional lifestyle, and trying to find some momentum is the sparse playing schedule for rookies last year, Korda never got anything going. It took her one week to turn that around.
Jessica Korda showed some nerves of steal when she birded the second playoff hole to knock out 5 other women in the sudden death playoff for the ISPS Handa’s Women’s Australian Open. Korda started the round magically with three birdies in the first 8-holes to get up to 7-under par. Then the wheels started to fall off. She doubled the 9th, broke even with a bogey/birdie duo on 10 & 11, before a 3-bogey stretch on holes 14-16. The mini-choke was truly just miniature, because she rebounded with a birdie on 17 to finish at 3-under, which lead to her impressive playoff victory.
The tough weekend scoring conditions saw them finish at just 3-under par, 3-shots worse than the 6-under par So Yeon Ryu posted to take the 36-hole lead.
For Ryu, it’s another troubling so close, but cannot close moments. She bogeyed her 72nd hole to fall back to 3-under. She lead for most of the weekend last week at the Australian Ladies Masters before closing with an even par 72 to fall one stroke short. Today she entered the final round one-behind Korda and again shot even par, which was enough to get in the playoff, but still equals the same result, a runner-up finish. Ryu got the reputation as a clutch competitor at the U.S. Women’s Open last year where she stared down Hee Kyung Seo in the aggregate playoff, but these type of runner-up finishes seem more accurate. Aside from the U.S. Open Ryu has only won one other time in the past two years, and has faltered down the stretch and was unable to win a single KLPGA End of Season award. While these back-to-back runner-up finishes are promising for the rookie, the manner in which she got there leaves some troubling feelings in my opinion.
It’s nice to see Julieta Granada secure a runner-up finish as well. After strong 2006 and 2007 seasons which saw her win the ADT Championships (and the million dollar payday) Julieta has struggled. She hovered around the 100 on the money list range for three years, before a mini-resurgence last year brought her into the top 70. This might be a nod to say Julieta’s back!
Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome also found themselves in the playoff and look to continue to push Cristie Kerr & Paula Creamer out of the top of American golf. Hee Kyung Seo, the runner-up to Ryu at the US Open rounded out the 6 way playoff. Seo matched Ryu’s even par round, and also matched her 72nd hole bogey, to get into the playoff that would be won by Korda.
And what a way to win your maiden LPGA title by birdieing the second playoff hole to knock out 5 talented women out. Korda was a teenage prodigy, and had a mountain of expectations laid upon her last year. In just one week she’s tripled her career money won. Heck, even if she had lost in the playoff the share of runner-up money would’ve been more then she gained in 2011! Jessica Korda has always had the game to be one of the best, now that she has proven belief how far will she go?