Australia might be Jessica Korda's and your top golf destination
From my perspective, the anointing of a new great player or great place ensures that others will take umbrage and raise their level of performance. With all the attention that Lexi Thompson has received over the past year, it’s understandable that other young players would say “don’t forget about me.” Likewise, with New Zealand’s rise to international golf-destination stature, one might anticipate that its antipodean neighbor, Australia, couldn’t be blamed for issuing a subtle reminder of its own worth.
Over the course of the last month, in cracking fashion, both of these notions became events, reality. Not more than six hours ago (as I type), 18-year old USA citizen Jessica Korda (a member of the 2010 Curtis Cup USA side) gained, gave away and then reclaimed the lead and the title at the Australian Open. Korda came out of the gate with three birdies in 8 holes in round 4 to suggest she might win handily, then promptly marked double and single bogey on holes 9 and 10 on her card to give back that which she had so carefully earned. Three consecutive bogies on the back nine, followed immediately by a brave birdie on hole 17, made her a participant in an unlikely, six-person playoff for the tournament title.
The course that hosted the event, Royal Melbourne, had scarcely had time to brush off the glitter from its latest celebration, the November 2011 playing of the President’s Cup. RM, a 36-hole complex, boasts an Alister Mackenzie-designed West course, an Alex Russell-scripted East course, and a unique Composite course, blending elements of the two, over which international events are played. The Australian Sandbelt courses, in and around Melbourne, include Kingston Heath, Victoria, Commonwealth, Metropolitan and the Royal Melbourne pair. Of late, the golf explosion in New Zealand (Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs are two recently-celebrated additions to Kiwi golf) perhaps the older sibling was feeling a bit overlooked of late (sort of a Peyton-Eli thing, for you USA footballers!) After this weekend and last November, Royal Melbourne has shined and the balance of history is righted.
Back to the golf. Joined by compatriots Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome, Paraguay’s Julieta Granada and Koreans So Yeon Ryu and Hee Kyung Seo (the latter two the playoff contestants in the 2011 US Open), Korda had a one-in-six chance to win her maiden LPGA title. Her prospects were lessened when Lincicome face a three-foot putt for the win on the initial playoff hole. Unexpectedly, the roll did not fall and on the sextet went to hole two, where Ryu bogied, four others parred, and Korda caressed home a 25-feet putt for the win.
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