What once looked like a breakthrough victory for an American teen, unpredictably shifted toward a potential repeat dual of last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, and then quickly turned into a playoff party for six at the LPGA’s season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in Melbourne. But in the end, the girl who held the lead at the start was the same girl holding the trophy at the finish line. Jessica Korda holed a 25-foot putt for birdie on the 2nd playoff hole to cap off a wild afternoon amidst rain showers for her first career LPGA victory.
The 18 year old Korda, daughter of the well-known tennis star Petr, started the day with a slim 1-shot lead and assumed control of the tournament with a steady front nine. Yet a string of three straight bogeys on the inward nine at 14, 15 and 16 opened the door for a big finish at Royal Melbourne’s Composite Course that included last year’s U.S Open champ So Yeon Ryu and the event’s runner-up Hee Kyung Seo.
Korda, actually birdied 17 to give herself new opportunity and like Ryu, and Seo had a birdie chance at 18 in regulation to win it. None could convert however and thus the 6-way playoff broken into two groups of three which played the 18th twice, eliminating players along the way to decide the winner.
Stacy Lewis (70), Brittany Lincicome (71), and Julieta Granata (71) all posted sub-par rounds to finish the tournament at minus-three and earn their lottery ticket in the massive playoff puzzle. Lincicome joined Ryu and Seo in a playoff threesome. Korda was grouped with Lewis and Granata.
Lincicome had the best chance to win on the first playoff hole after a terrific approach shot. But her 3-footer for birdie circled the cup and never dropped. All six settled for pars on the first go- around.
Korda’s first victory couldn’t come at a better venue. Petr Korda was a well-known tennis star and counts the 1998 Australian Open as the biggest of his many titles. Now his daughter is making her own racket in the game of golf and has an Australian title to her credit as well.