May 20, 2022

Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda have joked that both are defending at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club this week. Jessica won the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions (formerly the Diamond Resort at Tranquilo Golf Course) last year, and shortly thereafter Nelly won the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona.

When asked how she feels about her game this week, Jessica, who got married in December, said: “About like every year I start. I have no idea. I work hard in the off-season. I haven’t really played a ton. I definitely enjoyed the break and my body needed it so I just tried to start with fewer expectations and just put one foot in front of the other.”

That Sunday in Orlando was the highlight of Jessica’s touring year, especially when Nelly played alongside her in Sunday’s Tranquilo. But for Nelly, the win at Nona was just the beginning of a breakout season that included a major, an Olympic gold medal and the No. 1 ranking.

“Obviously I’m hungrier for more,” Nelly told Golf Channel on Tuesday, “but in the sense that I’m just focused on that No. 1 course, I’m not too focused on it. I mean rankings come and go. Someone will probably have a better year or play well and you will lose that placement.”

Highlights of Nelly’s notable season included competing alongside her father Petr in the PNC Championship and meeting Tiger Woods for the first time.

“I didn’t know I was being taped,” Nelly said of a video recorded by her and Woods. “I look like a fangirl, and then it blew up. It went viral. So it was really fun.”

Nelly met Tiger for the first time. Your reaction says it all. 🤗 pic.twitter.com/Wn2yEFP42h

— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) December 18, 2021

Things got better the next day when Woods, her childhood idol, used her butter putter tool on the putting green. Nelly said to her caddy, “Don’t wash that.”

Speaking of sizes, Jessica will be making her debut alongside Annika Sorenstam at Lake Nona on Thursday. Sorenstam is competing in the celebrity division for the second straight year. Last year, Sorenstam made the cut at Lake Nona, her home course, during the Gainbridge on her first LPGA start in more than a dozen years. Later that summer she would win the US Senior Women’s Open.

“I’m excited,” Jessica said. “I’ve never played with (Annika). I was at a US Open (2008) many years ago when she retired and it really was.”

Jessica said the move from Tranquilo to Lake Nona is essentially going from a resort course to a championship course. While Jessica shot 60 at Tranquilo in the third round, she struggled on the greens at Nona, noting the large number of subtle breaks and dips. Jessica placed 31st at the Gainbridge.

Jessica’s 60 was only the fifth in LPGA history, and it happened alongside the NFL’s Larry Fitzgerald and Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier. The LPGA star said she didn’t even realize she was on track to shoot 60 and from No. 13 onwards wondered why Fitzgerald kept picking up his ball to get out of the way.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t you finish up? I don’t understand why you’re not finishing,’” Jessica said. “Then I think I did the eagle on the 17th and he almost attacked me after that. I realized like I was looking at the leaderboard — I think that was the first time I’ve ever seen a leaderboard — that I was moving up, and then I kind of looked at my scorecard and I was like, oh, there’s a lot of circles to go here.”

Fitzgerald smashed his drive shot into the hazard on the par-3 18, but refused to drive another shot, Jessica said, because he was so nervous.

“He wanted it more than I thought, almost,” said Jessica, who ended up snapping a photo with Baier and Fitzgerald with her scorecard. She gave the golf ball to her father who was celebrating his birthday.

What to expect this time?

“First tournament of the year,” Jessica said, “It’s kind of a free-for-all…we’ll see.”

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