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Korda jumps at chance to defend Australian Open title

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In the 12 months since her Women’s Australian Open win at The Grange last February, Nelly Korda has gone from being the only member of her family never to win an Australian Open to one of the brightest stars in golf.

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Korda is among a star-studded field for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open that tees off at Royal Adelaide tomorrow and includes 15 major champions with crowd favourites Karrie Webb and Dame Laura Davies among them.

However, the tournament will get underway without Chinese golfer Weiwei Zhang who was unable to make it to Australia before the coronavirus travel ban came into effect on February 1.

Zhang is from Hubei Province where the coronavirus originated. The world No. 180 rocketed to the top of the Australian Ladies Professional Golf order of merit for 2019/20 after winning the season opening Thailand Masters in September.

Korda, 21, is the daughter of former Czech tennis player Petr Korda won the 1998 Australian Open singles title in 1998.

Her older sister Jessica won the Australian Women’s Golf Open in 2012 and her tennis-playing brother Sebastian, 19, won the 2018 Australian Open junior title. All of the Korda’s have celebrated with the scissor-kick made famous by Petr.

“I did get told that holding the trophy, my jump was the best, so I was really happy about that one,” the Floridian said.

The world No. 3 went on to win twice more on the LPGA tour last year and said starting last year’s Australian Open with three consecutive bogeys proved a turning point.

“I just looked at my caddy and I was like, you know what, I’m just going to not think about anything, about winning this tournament and just go out and play my golf game,” she said.

“From then on I played really well, so I think that’s kind of the mentality that I adapted throughout the whole year as well. It was funny, I learnt that within three holes last year here.”

But Korda admits that this week’s tournament will be a different challenge at the beautifully manicured Royal Adelaide course, particularly if the afternoon sea breezes pick up.

“I just got off the golf course and it’s a completely different golf course when the wind picks up out here,” she said on Tuesday afternoon.

“The holes play so long when they’re into the wind and it’s going to be definitely about controlling the flight on the ball this week if the wind does get up.

“The fairways look like carpets, they’re so nice – even the greens, it’s definitely a really pure golf course. Yesterday (Monday) when there was no wind, it was like a golfer’s dream out there.”

World No. 8 Minjee Lee is the best hope of an Australian victory.

“I feel pretty relaxed this week for some reason.  Usually I have a little bit of pressure that I put on myself to perform but … it would just be a great honour to be crowned the champion of the Australian Open as an Australian,” she said.

The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open tournament has been played in Adelaide since 2016 with Royal Adelaide hosting in 2017.

The course layout will be virtually identical to the 2017 event when South Korea’s Ha Na Jang stormed home to claim the Patricia Bridges Bowl.

Tournament director Trevor Herden said good recent weather including some welcome rain had the course looking “unbelievably amazing”.

“The turf quality is the best in Australia right now and they’ve had somewhat of a perfect climate in the lead-up,” he said.

Herden said having the national open follow on from the Victorian Open, which has also been included on the global LPGA tour since 2019, had helped attract some of the world’s best players.

“A lot of people lose sight of the fact that we all strive to get major champions into golf tournaments and it shows great depth alongside the up and coming super stars of the game,” he said.

“Two weeks in Australia is a great way to get good strong fields and it’s certainly working well for both tournaments.

“We’re looking forward to a great week in Adelaide on a superb golf course with so much history and it’s an amazing field so everyone should come out and watch the greatest female players on the planet.”

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