Korda and Ko among most fancied at new LPGA Arizona event

Nelly Korda imitates a "selfie" while holding her trophy from last week's LPGA event, a victory that restored her to the world number one ranking (Orlando Ramirez)
Nelly Korda imitates a "selfie" while holding her trophy from last week's LPGA event, a victory that restored her to the world number one ranking (Orlando Ramirez)

Nelly Korda is off to her best start of any LPGA season and back atop the world rankings, but she wants to be boring at this week's LPGA Ford Championship.

The 25-year-old American, the daughter of 1998 Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda, will be among the favorites in the new tour event at Seville Golf and Country Club in Gilbert, Arizona.

Korda, the reigning Olympic champion, reclaimed the world number one spot by capturing her 10th career LPGA title last week at Los Angeles.

"It felt really nice to get the W and get to double digits," Korda said. "My goal is to stay very present, take it -- as boring as it sounds -- one shot at a time and go from there."

Korda's first victory of 2023 came in January's Drive On Championship in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, and both her triumphs this year have come in playoffs, the intensity fueling her for future success.

"I feel like every single time you play under pressure you learn more about yourself and the way you handle it," Korda said. "My last two wins were a little dramatic.

"The main thing I learned when I'm in contention is how to handle myself, how to calm myself and how to just take that moment on."

More moments could be coming, as Korda has never won twice so quickly in a season. In 2021, she won four times, taking her second triumph in June a week before what is thus far her only major title at the Women's PGA Championship.

The season's first major comes next month at the Chevron Championship but before that, Korda will face a top field at the Ford event, including pal Lydia Ko of New Zealand.

- Ko eyes Hall of Fame -

Ko, who won the season-opening Tournament of Champions, needs one more victory to seal a place in the LPGA Hall of Fame and nearly took it earlier this month at the Blue Bay LPGA in China, sharing the lead entering the final round only to lose to US first-time winner Bailey Tardy.

"All you can do is do your best," Ko said. "I'm just going to keep giving myself good opportunities and instead of setting my goal to just be in the Hall of Fame, I want to win and compete at the highest level as much as I can.

Not just kind of set my end goal as the Hall of Fame. I think sometimes that makes you more narrow minded and makes me feel like I just need to win one. But I want to win more than one as long as I'm still playing."

Korda is a close friend of Ko and expects her to be more hungry and ready to bounce back this week.

"She's super resilient and hard working and super dedicated and I definitely wish it upon her to be in the Hall of Fame," Korda said.

Hall of Fame induction, Korda says, is not on her mind.

"I don't think I ever think of that actually. I just think of everything in my present time and just take it one week at a time," Korda said.

"If I get there, then great, but that's not something I put on my goal sheet. I think small goals then eventually lead to your bigger goals."

World number eight Ko's career, with 20 LPGA titles including two majors, is proof of how things add up. But now, with her next win bringing Hall of Fame acclaim, Ko is on the brink of a big goal.

"Clearly Nelly is showing that it's pretty easy winning two," Ko said. "But when I'm out there I'm just trying to play the best golf I can.

"Being one point away seems a little easier than two. Sometimes it's just easier said than done. Some players win for their first time in 10 years. It's just not that easy."