US teen rookie Korda grabs 2-shot LPGA lead

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

US teen rookie Nelly Korda, the daugh­ter of re­tired Czech ten­nis star Petr Korda, fired a five-un­der par 66 to seize a two-stroke lead af­ter Satur­day’s third round of the LPGA Marathon Clas­sic.

Korda, who turns 19 next Fri­day, birdied four of the first seven holes and closed with birdies at the par-5 17th and 18th to stand on 15-un­der 198 af­ter 54 holes at High­land Mead­ows Golf Club in Syl­va­nia, Ohio. “There’s still 18 more holes and a lot of golf left to be played, so I’m just go­ing to stay pa­tient and see how it goes,” Korda said. “When you end on a birdie, you’re just re­ally ex­cited to play the next day and get it go­ing, so I’m def­i­nitely ex­cited.”

Korda, whose older sis­ter Jes­sica is also on the cir­cuit, seeks her first LPGA ti­tle. The world num­ber 87’s best fin­ish in 14 LPGA starts this year was a share of fifth in Jan­uary’s sea­son-open­ing Ba­hamas LPGA Clas­sic. “Not re­ally go­ing to think about it too much,” Korda said about play­ing in the fi­nal pair­ing. “I’m not go­ing to get ahead of my­self. I’ve done that a cou­ple times this year and I’m just go­ing to take it shot by shot.” Start­ing the day one stroke off the lead af­ter a sec­ond-round 64, Korda birdied the third hole and ran off three birdies in a row end­ing at the par-5 seventh. She closed the front nine with her lone bo­gey but fin­ished with back-to-back birdies to seize the lead.

“It’s a new po­si­tion. I’m ex­cited,” Korda said of her first lead en­ter­ing an LPGA fi­nal round. “My men­tal­ity hasn’t changed. It’s the same as the first two days. I just try to take it shot by shot.” Petr Korda reached as high as sec­ond in the world rank­ings and won the 1998 Aus­tralian Open ti­tle be­fore re­tir­ing in 1999 while Jes­sica Korda, 24, has won four LPGA ti­tles, most re­cently in Malaysia in 2015. South Korea’s 28thranked Kim In-Kyung, who cap­tured her fifth ca­reer LPGA ti­tle at last month’s ShopRite Clas­sic, fired a 68 to stand sec­ond on 200. Newly crowned US Women’s Open cham­pion Park Sung-Hyun fired a 67 to fin­ish in a pack shar­ing third on 201 that in­cluded In­dia’s Aditi Ashok, Tai­wan’s Chien Pei-Yun and Amer­i­cans Ge­rina Piller, San­dra Changk­ija and Lexi Thomp­son. “There are so many good young play­ers out here on Tour that I don’t even feel like I’m 18,” Korda said. “But it’s re­ally cool.” Ashok, who added the tour­na­ment to her sched­ule at the last minute in a bid to qual­ify for the Women’s Bri­tish Open in two weeks in Scot­land, fired a 68. “This is my first time be­ing in con­tention on the LPGA, but I’m as­sum­ing it’s pretty much the same ev­ery tour­na­ment you’re in con­tention,” Ashok said. “I’ve won a cou­ple times on the Eu­ro­pean Tour, so I’m go­ing to hope that ex­pe­ri­ence helps to­mor­row.”

Tai­wan’s rookie Chien, ranked 266th in the world, does not have a top-10 fin­ish this sea­son and has missed the cut in 10 of her 16 prior LPGA starts this year. “If I won I’d be very happy,” she said. “It’s very im­por­tant be­cause I play a lot of golf, try­ing to get qual­i­fied, the LPGA is pretty tough... Ev­ery­body is very hun­gry, very strong. I’m very lucky top 10.” Piller, chas­ing her first LPGA ti­tle, fired a 70 to fall back. She has four run­ner-up show­ings in 34 ca­reer top10 fin­ishes.

—AP

SYL­VA­NIA: Nelly Korda hits to the 18th green Satur­day, dur­ing the third round of the LPGA Tour’s Marathon Clas­sic golf tour­na­ment at High­land Mead­ows Golf Club in Syl­va­nia, Ohio. Korda birdie the hole.

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