Jessica Korda turned it on during the home stretch of the Airbus LPGA Classic and just beat 3rd-round leader Anna Nordqvist to the finish line, thanks to 7 birdies in her last 12 holes, 6 of them coming on the back and 4 in her last 5 holes, with the winning birdie coming on the final hole. All it took for Korda to become the 3rd repeat winner on the LPGA in 2014 was a bogey-free 65 that got her to -20, 1 shot better than Nordqvist and 2 better than playing partners Michelle Wie and Charley Hull, along with Catriona Matthew.
But for awhile, this tournament was even wider open than the JLPGA event that Sun-Ju Ahn won today. Whereas Ahn had started the day with the entire field within 7 shots of the lead, Nordqvist had only 13 players within 5 shots of her at the start of the day. But she opened the door with bogeys on 1 and 9 and an uncharacteristic single birdie on a side she had owned the 1st 3 rounds (33-31-31!), falling to -15 for the week. That allowed Wie to take the lead at -17 with 4 birdies in her 1st 7 holes, or rather tie Matthew for the lead, as the veteran twice got to -17 on the front herself. Eun-Hee Ji made 4 birdies after an opening bogey to catch Nordqvist at -15, while Hull birdied 4 holes between 5 and 12 to get to -16.
Matthew, Wie, and Hull would each falter a bit early on the back, as Matthew bogeyed 10 and 12 to fall back to -15, Wie bogeyed the 12th to drop to -16, and Hull bogeyed the 13th to move to -15. Nordqvist, meanwhile, was figuring out how to get the ball in the hole again, as she birdied 11 and 13 to get to -17. And Korda was making a charge of her own with birdies on 7, 10, and 12 to move to -16. And that's when Korda turned on the afterburners: she birdied 14, 15, and 16 to soar to -19. And a good thing it was, as Hull would match Korda's feat, birdie for birdie, and Wie responded with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 join Hull at -18. All this came as Matthew birdied 13, 14, and 16 to also get to -18, while Nordqvist made it 4 players right on Korda's heels with a birdie of her own on 16.
So with 2 holes to play it was anyone's tournament. In the end, the players who birdied 18 would finish 1-2, while Wie, Hull, and Matthew had to settle for T3, a single shot ahead of Jenny Shin, 2 ahead of Ji, Lexi Thompson, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and 3-up on Stacy Lewis, So Yeon Ryu, Brittany Lincicome, and Belen Mozo.
In short, Korda's 1st win in the States and 1st win after the 1st event of a season was quite the barnburner. I'm glad I kept her at #4 in my ranking of the top 22 female pros on the planet under 22, even though youngsters on other tours were passing her in the wins column!