CLAYTON: Greatness awaits Nelly Korda

Nelly Korda
Nelly Korda with the Patricia Bridges Bowl.

Nelly Korda’s first Australian foray was to the 2017 Women’s Open at Royal Adelaide. I carried her clubs to a relatively lowly 40th place finish and, whilst far from horrible, it was clear she going to be a force in women’s golf.

Saturday was especially windy and her 77 was evidence she needed to work on controlling her irons a little better when the breeze was up. Golf in Australia is somewhat different than the version she is used to in Florida and it takes a little learning to play our courses with their seemingly ever-present seaside winds, the wider than usual fairways and sparse roughs with all the flyer lies they encourage. Steep, shaved banks, so often a feature of the sides and backs of greens here, take marginal shots far away from the targets and leave difficult recoveries back.

Having said that, Nelly’s sister, Jessica turned up at Royal Melbourne in 2012 never having never hit a shot in Australia and won around Royal Melbourne, the most Australian of all our championship courses.

Royal Adelaide was the beginning of Nelly’s very first season on the tour and she finally won at the end of last season in at the Swinging Skirts LPGA tournament in Taiwan. ‘Finally’ is perhaps harsh but winning was no surprise given her obvious skills and that win ‘gave me the belief I could contend and win out here.’

From this point there is no reason she cannot become the dominant American player and one to match the best Asian players who have taken the ascendance from the Americans over the last fifteen years.

Michelle Wie was going to be that player but she long threatened to retire from the tour at 30, a day fast approaching. If she were to retire it would be a career far short of the number of wins everyone expected when she amazingly missed the cut by a single shot in the men’s Hawaiian Open as a 14-year-old.

Lexi Thompson matches the power of Korda but clearly one technique - Korda’s -  is preferable to the other. Technique may not be the be all and end all but it’s not unimportant.

Curtis Luck, the young West Australian making his way on the American tour plays a lot with Nelly on their off weeks in Florida and he is huge fan of her game. ‘She hits it way better than any of them’, is his assessment and whilst perhaps an exaggeration it underlines how impressive her game is.

The greatest technician in women’s golf, eighty-four year old Mickey Wright, is likewise a recognizer of the quality of the swings of the Korda sisters. ‘Of the players out there now, I really like the swings of the Korda girls, Jessica and Nelly. They’re both special.’ From a player Ben Hogan once said owned the ‘best swing in the game’ it’s some compliment.

This win in Adelaide is one of some significance for a player Ivan Lendl has described as ‘viscously competitive’. The defender, Jin Young Ko made eight birdies for a 64 and could well have expected that would be enough to catch the leader. Instead Korda made six of her own in the opening twelve holes and threatened to make it a procession until a bogey at the 15th almost at the same time as Ko was tapping in for a birdie at the 16th bought the lead back to a couple of shots. The 17th is likely the best hole on the course and Korda drove perfectly and wedged to 15 feet and the putt was never missing – not from six feet out anyway. It was her third birdie at the 17th, it was easily the timeliest and it made the walk down the final hole a deal less stressful.

With what she showed us this week we can expect much more from the brilliant young player.

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WOMEN'S AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Pos.CountryPlayer TotalToday
1 USA N.Korda -17-5
2 KOR J.Ko -15-8
3 TPE W.Hsu -12-4
T4 JPN H.Nomura -11-2
T4 USA A.Yin -11-6
T6 ESP A.Munoz -10-7
T6 CAN A.Sharp -10-4
T8 ENG J.Ewart Shadoff -9-1