What an exciting, momentum-building year this promises to be for women’s golf.
Bolstered by resources from the LPGA Tour in America, the European circuit this season will go from being threadbare and looking ready to fold a couple of years ago to offering no fewer than nine new events, making 27 in all.
On television, Sky Sports are delivering a regular diet of tournament play from the other side of the Atlantic, bringing the game invaluable exposure.
Nelly (middle left) and Jess (middle right) Korda have the X-factor to boost women’s golf
The Korda sisters have won the first two LPGA titles of 2021 and could attract a new audience
Then there are the two sisters with the X factor who are beginning to realise all their awesome potential. What a shot in the arm for the women’s game to emerge from the worst of the pandemic with the photogenic Nelly and Jess Korda as their poster offering for attracting a new audience.
We first met them at the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles, where they were the standout Americans in a losing team. Paired together, none of their matches went beyond the 14th hole.
Now the two totems from arguably the world’s most athletic family have completed the remarkable achievement of winning the first couple of events of the LPGA Tour season.
Jess is currently ranked 17th in the world, while her sister is now up to fourth after her title win
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
‘It’s hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the TV and saw all the red shirts. To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.’
Tiger Woods tweeted a poignant appreciation for the gestures of support he received from the players competing in Florida on Sunday.
Many donned red and black, the colours that Woods has worn for every final round throughout his career.
Jess, 28, won the Tournament of Champions and was followed into the winner’s circle by 22-year-old Nelly in Orlando on Sunday.
No wonder Swedish legend Annika Sorenstam, making a one-off appearance owing to the event being staged on her home course at Lake Nona, was effusive in her praise. ‘I have so much respect for them,’ she said.
They’ve certainly made their father Petr change his tune. The 1998 Australian Open tennis champion, who played under the Czech flag before moving his family to Florida in 2008, scoffed when his girls told him they were more interested in golf. ‘That’s a retirement sport,’ he huffed.
Watching proudly from behind the ropes on Sunday alongside wife Regina, another former tennis star, it’s safe to assume Petr has revised his opinion.
Not that tennis has been completely lost from the gene pool. Almost unbelievably, younger sibling Sebastian is a promising player on the men’s circuit, reaching the fourth round of the French Open last year, where he lost — and who doesn’t? — to Rafa Nadal.
As for the two girls, fancy being 17th in the world (Jess) and still not the best player in your own family? With her victory on Sunday, Nelly is now up to fourth.
Asked by Golf Digest for a recent front-cover story about what the best piece of advice given by their parents was, the girls were in agreement. ‘Our dad said to make sure we enjoy every moment and he’s right,’ they chorused. ‘It’s easy to forget when you’re playing every week. He stressed to really take time to appreciate the highs.’
Not only in the Korda household, there’s plenty here for the women’s game in general to enjoy.
MOLINARI COMEBACK WELL UNDERWAY
During the recent West Coast swing in America, the welcome revival of Jordan Spieth rightly garnered plenty of attention.
But what about another forgotten Open champion of recent vintage who put together a couple of pleasing results?
It says much about the indignities that have befallen Spieth and Francesco Molinari that neither matched the qualifying criteria to play in the WGC-Workday Championship in Florida last week. Such ego-bruising must have been easier to accept, mind, now that both comebacks appear to have gained momentum.
Francisco Molinari is looking to bounce back from missing the WGC by winning the Arnold Palmer invitational
While Spieth was leading two events on the West Coast with a round to play — he finished fourth and tied third for his first consecutive top-five finishes for three years — Molinari was notching a couple of top-10 finishes of his own.
The popular Italian, like Spieth, is competing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week. This was an event he won in 2019, following on from his Open and Ryder Cup heroics, when it looked like his run of success might never end until he ran into Tiger Woods at Augusta the following month.
Can he make it all the way back? After his five points out of five in Paris last time, Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington is sure to be a studious observer.