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BC-GLF--LPGA Tour

April 3, 2019
AP Sports Writer

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Nelly Korda is ready to take a major step at the ANA Inspiration. She’s also trying not to get too far ahead of herself, barely letting herself think about the traditional victory leap into Poppy’s Pond.

“I’m not going to think about it too much,” Korda said Wednesday.

Instead, she was thinking about the opening round Thursday.

“The first round is tomorrow, so just focus on that one,” said Korda, at 20 making her fifth start at Mission Hills in the major championship.

That task-at-hand philosophy has worked well in the last six months.

Building on a strong finish last year when she won in Taiwan and was second in the season-ending event in Florida, the American has opened the season with five straight top-10 finishes, winning the Women’s Australian Open in February. She’s coming off a second-place tie — with older sister Jessica among others — two weeks ago in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

“Just staying calm and consistent,” Korda said. “I’ve said it quite a bit this year, but really my goal is just to stay consistent, not to overreact when I hit bad shots. That was a goal of mine this year, to take it shot by shot and really to stay calm.”

She’s No. 8 in the world ranking, three spots ahead of her sister.

“We don’t talk about how we push each other, but obviously we want to beat each other as well at the end of the day and that pushes us,” Korda said. “It’s very healthy. When I’m struggling she’s right there and vice versa.”

The victory in Adelaide added to her family’s sports pedigree Down Under. Her father, Petr Korda, won his lone Grand Slam tennis title in the 1998 Australian Open. Jessica won the Women’s Australian Open seven years ago for the first of her five LPGA Tour titles, and tennis player brother Sebastian took the Australian Open boys’ singles title last year.

“I’ve always seen something, a shade more serious in Nelly than I have in Jessica,” said Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, Golf Channel/NBC’s lead LPGA Tour analyst. “Jessica might be loving life a fraction more, where Nelly is just a little bit more directed, a little bit more on a path.”

Korda skipped the Carlsbad event last week to prepare for the major, practicing at The Vintage Club in nearby Indian Wells.

“Just kind of practicing my putting, my swing, just to stay consistent throughout the week,” she said. “Just so grateful at the end of the day to just be practicing out there and to enjoy the views, saying to yourself, ‘Oh, my God, this is actually my job.’”

Korda will play alongside 2013 winner Inbee Park the first two days. They will open Thursday afternoon on No. 10.

“The rough is really thick around the greens and around the fairways,” Korda said. “It seems like it’s pretty firm. Playing really pure. They made a couple of the holes longer, so I think it’s going to be playing tougher this year on a couple of the longer holes.”

Park lost a playoff to Pernilla Lingberg last year in a Monday finish, falling on the eighth extra hole. The seven-time major champion likes the tougher and longer setup.

“The rough is thicker than what we play probably four, five years,” Park said. “I think the rough will be definitely the challenge of the week. ... Four holes have tee boxes that we never played before. The course is going to be longer and the rough is going to be up. I think it’ll be quite a tough test. I think it’s a good major setup.”

Park missed a chance for her 20th LPGA Tour victory and first in just over a year Sunday in Carlsbad. After taking a one-stroke lead into the final round, she closed with a 1-under 71 to tie for second — three strokes behind Nasa Hataoka.

“Doesn’t matter whether I win or not,” Park said. “If I can have that kind of opportunity on the weekend every week, that’ll be just really great. Just to play under the pressure and play for the trophy, that’s what you want every weekend.”

DIVOTS: Jessica Korda is making her second start of the year after being sidelined by a left forearm injury. She’s in the opposite side of the draw from her sister, teeing off on No. 1 in the morning with Phoenix winner Jin Young Ko. ... Title sponsor All Nippon Airways signed a three-year extension Tuesday. The Japanese airline took over the tournament from Kraft Nabisco in 2015. .... First played in 1972 as the Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle, the event became a major championship in 1983.

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