Korda ready for ANA challenge after major near-miss

LPGA Tour star has started 2021 in superb form, winning the Gainbridge LPGA and posting two other top-10 finishes


AFP March 31, 2021

RANCHO MIRAGE:

Nelly Korda says she has learned the lessons of last year's agonising near-miss at the ANA Inspiration as she returns to the first major of the season on Thursday bidding to extend an impressive week for her talented sporting family.

The 22-year-old LPGA Tour star -- the daughter of former Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda -- lost in a playoff at the rescheduled ANA last September, missing out on a maiden major title in a playoff after a late charge from South Korea's Lee Mi-rim.

Korda, whose elder sister Jessica is also a professional on the women's tour, shrugged off that disappointment in the offseason and has started 2021 in superb form, winning the Gainbridge LPGA last month and posting two other top-10 finishes.

It has left the world number four from Florida in a relaxed mood as she prepares to tackle the demanding Mission Hills Country Club layout at Rancho Mirage in the southern California desert this week.

"I put a lot of work into it over the off-season and it just feels good for it to pay off," Korda said Tuesday when asked about her recent run of form.

Korda looked to be closing in on a wire-to-wire victory at last year's ANA until a remarkable late surge from Lee, which included a chip-in for eagle on the 18th to force a playoff.

The Korean then birdied the first playoff hole to pip Korda and Canada's Brooke Henderson for the title.

Korda, however, believes she has emerged a stronger player from the experience as she prepares for a fresh assault on the ANA this week.

"I've always said when you put yourself into those positions, you get more comfortable being in those in the future," Korda said Tuesday.

"I feel like a lot of people put pressure on themselves when it comes to major championships. I've just learned to kind of put the same mindset to every tournament and not put so much pressure on major championships.

"Obviously you want to win them but I feel like people get so in their heads when they get to a major."

Korda said she was also philosophical about the experience of being reeled in by Lee's late charge.

"If someone's got it going, they have it going," Korda said. "I wasn't really disappointed last year. I played well. There's nothing you can do."

Korda's victory at the Gainbridge was her first on American soil, and the first where her parents were on hand to congratulate her.

But while the Korda parents would normally be expected to attend this week's tournament in California, they are currently in Florida cheering on Sebastian Korda's progress at the ATP Tour's Miami Open.

The 20-year-old American world number 87 booked his place in the quarter-finals in Miami on Tuesday with an upset of Argentinian fifth seed Diego Schwartzman, his first ever win over a top 10 opponent.

"They are in Miami right now with my brother," Nelly Korda said Tuesday.

"It's day-to-day. I ask them every day, 'Can I book your flight?' They are with my brother obviously. He's having a really good run -- hopefully they stay there."

Korda says her younger brother will also be following her progress, revealing that he typically peppers her with motivational messages when she's playing.

"I get text messages -- sometimes when I'm already on the third hole," she said.

"He's definitely the hype man of the family. It's kind of funny. He's playing well. He's putting a lot of work in, and it's so cool to see it pay off and it's so cool to see him do well."

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