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Korda off to great start in Blue Bay
October 23, 2014

Jessica Korda posted a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the Blue Bay LPGA. A group of six players are tied for second and trail Korda by one shot including No. 5 Shanshan Feng and No. 6 Michelle Wie.

Korda got off to a blazing start with birdies on her first three holes and made the turn in 31.

“It was really nice. I was hitting the ball pretty good and then I made some long putts, as well, off the green,” said Korda. “I guess the putter was just hot on the front nine, so I took advantage of it.”

The highlight of the round for the 21-year old came on the par-4 10th hole when she sank a 65-foot par putt to stay at 5-under par.

“Highlight was No. 10. Hit my drive way out right. Didn’t hit in the fairway,” said Korda. “Then didn’t have the right club. And the wind took it and I made the putt from across the whole green, from the back of the green to the front of the green, it was like from back to front, about 60 feet.”

Korda would pick up her final birdie on No. 14 to take the outright lead. Her 6-under 66 would hold up for the best round of the day. Her lead marks just the second time in her career that she’s held the first-round lead. The last time came last year at the Reignwood LPGA Classic in Bejing where she went on to finish T15. The fourth-year LPGA Tour member is playing for her fourth career title and third of the 2014 season.

The top-ranked player in the field, No. 3 Lydia Ko, finished with a 2-under 69 and trails the lead by three shots.

Of note: Lee-Ann Pace of South Africa is fresh off her ninth career Ladies European Tour win. She birdied the second sudden-death playoff hole to claim the Cell C South African Women’s Open in her home country. Pace opened this week with a 5-under 67 and is only one shot off the lead. Pace has fared well in China throughout her career and has three LET wins in the country, two coming in Sanya. She won the Sanya Ladies Open in 2010 and 2013….Shanshan Feng will be shooting for her second LPGA Tour title in China. The three-time LPGA Tour winner won in Beijing last year at the inaugural 2013 Reignwood LPGA Classic

New sticks: Jessica Korda refers to the 2014 season as “crazy” and has dealt with some ups and downs that included career wins No. 2 and No. 3 at the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic and the Airbus LPGA Classic. But she has cooled off since the last win in May and has been battling a few nagging injuries.

Korda, who has recorded one top-10 since her last win in Alabama, says that she needed a change. Not one to quickly change up clubs or shafts, she went out of her comfort zone and changed her shafts during a two and a half week break she took between the Evian Championship and her first Asian event in Malaysia.
“Changes shafts in my clubs. I started practicing maybe six days, four days before I left,” said Korda. “I had a 9-iron and a 6-iron and that’s all I was doing. It was a different preparation coming in. But I’m just trying to stay injury-free and really taking care of my body, because I think I’ve played more this year and just having to take a lot of breaks in the season.”

Asked whether she was nervous heading to the Asia swing, Korda admits she wasn’t totally comfortable. But a challenging week in windy conditions in Korea last week pushed the Florida native to get used to them.

“I was very. Last week was tough because of the wind, and I had no idea how to hit a certain shot,” said Korda. “So it was very difficult but this week was already my third week with them, and so starting to feel a lot more comfortable hitting certain shots and controlling distances.”

Short work: Michelle Wie said earlier this week that she has been fine-tuning her short game during her time off from competition back home in Florida and soft green conditions at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course was the perfect set up for Wie to put her hard work to the test.

“It was fun, because I feel like the ball kind of sits up with this type of grass and I felt like I was hitting flop shots all day,” said Wie. “It was kind of fun. I was just blasting them away. Definitely you have to hit to the right parts.”

Wie sank an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that circled three quarters of the hole before dropping and stirred up a relieved look from the four-time LPGA Tour winner.

“It felt really good. I missed a short one for birdie on 15,” said Wie. “Missed a couple of birdie chances coming in. It always feels good when the ball kind of circles the hole 360 and ends up going in. It was a fun round today.”

Perfect scoring conditions with the exception of a short period of showers in the afternoon provided players a pleasant surprise. Practice rounds were wind-filled and the track was playing considerably long.

“Definitely this course plays easier when there’s not much wind,” said Wie. “I think that definitely makes a huge difference.”

Prize time! Danielle Kang turned 22 years old on Monday and celebrated what she said was the longest birthday of her life.

“It was a great week. I had a really good birthday,” said Kang. “It was the longest birthday of my life actually. We went on the plane and it was like a charter plane, so everybody is like happy birthday on the plane. Then I went to sleep and then I woke up. And it was still my birthday. We drove in a car, got to the hotel and then I went to sleep and it was still my birthday and I woke up and I had a full day of birthday.”

In addition to the four different cakes Kang celebrated over, she was treated to a new set of wheels, compliments of a stroke of an 8-iron on Thursday. Kang holed out from 155 yards on the 17th hole to win a brand-new Buick LaCrosse.

It was Kang’s third hole-in-one this season (second in competition) and says she’s had seven hole-in-ones in her lifetime. But today’s was the first to come on a prize hole.

“It was in the middle of the round. So, yeah, I was pretty pumped,” said Kang. “My caddie had to tell me to calm down. On the 18th hole I was still trying to go for it. I’m an aggressive player, so, why not, let’s go. Missed a lot of putts but there was a lot of good things I did.”

Kang has had a lot to celebrate this week and has been one of many players to take to social media to show their satisfaction with the accommodations this week in Sanya. Kang’s celebration jump by her new whip was reminiscent of a post on Instagram from earlier in the week. She earns unofficial honors for best jumper on Tour.


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