LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Looking back, Jessica Korda couldn’t believe that her only par on the back nine came on a par 5. That’s especially significant considering that the elder Korda sister posted the fifth 60 in LPGA history on Saturday at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
Korda said she wasn’t really doing the math out there until she dropped an 18-foot putt for eagle on the 17th hole to get to 10 under on the par-71 Tranquilo Golf Club. She then hit a 6-iron to 9 feet on the 18th to post her career-best round on her father Petr’s 53rd birthday. Her back-nine 28 included seven birdies and an eagle.
“Days like today don’t come often,” said Jessica, “so you really cherish them when they do. Everything has to come together to have a day like today.”
Even with that spectacular round, Korda still trails Danielle Kang by two strokes heading into the final round. Kang, who hasn’t made a bogey in her last 70 holes dating back to the CME Group Tour Championship, birdied the 18th to shoot 63 and tie her career low.
Her 21-under 192 total shattered the previous 54-hole tournament record by five strokes and ties the all-time total aggregate 54-hole score in tour history.
“I had a blast with Aaron Hicks and Mardy Fish,” said Kang. “They’re such good golfers, and Aaron kept outdriving by me about 150 yards, and Mardy a solid 80. Tried to just stay in my own game and make good shots.”
In a departure from how Sunday groupings are normally done at this event, the top three LPGA players will be together in the final group and the penultimate group will be made up of the top three celebrities. That means leader Danielle Kang will be joined by the Korda sisters.
“You guys finally get your wish,” said Jessica.
Nelly Korda birdied the first three holes of the day and pulled into a share of first with Kang early in the round. A pair of bogies on the 15th and 18th moved her down into a share of third, six strokes back at 15 under.
NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Fox News Chief Political Anchor Brett Baier played alongside Jessica in Saturday’s round and tried to stay out of the way. Fitzgerald said he picked up on Nos. 16 and 18 to avoid messing up Korda’s flow.
“I just wanted her to be comfortable and stay in her routine,” said Fitzgerald, who watches more LPGA coverage than PGA Tour golf, “once we probably got about to 13 or 14 and saw her picking up steam, you just don’t talk to her unless she talks to you.”
With a lights out day, @Thejessicakorda cards only the 5th 60 in Tour history!
— LPGA (@LPGA) January 23, 2021
The trio took a photo together with Korda’s card after the round.
“I’ve played with Jessica a number of times and I’m like I don’t understand how this girl doesn’t win all the time,” said Angela Stanford. “She bombs it. Once she figures it out on the putting green, she’ll be unstoppable.”
Jessica, 27, is a five-time winner on the LPGA and has dealt with a number of health issues since turning professional. Her last victory came at the 2018 Honda LPGA Thailand event after she had major surgery to correct a severe overbite.
Kang, 28, also owns five LPGA titles and won the Vare Trophy last season for low scoring average on the LPGA. She won back-to-back tournaments in Toledo last season after the LPGA’s extended break for COVID-19.
“I think my mental game is pretty strong this week,” said Kang. “Just kind of chugging along. I know I’m being really repetitive, but that’s what I’m doing, is just focusing on what I need to hit and what I need to execute. That’s pretty much it.”
Fish, a retired tennis player who is quite familiar with the Korda family, leads the celebrity division with 117 points in the Modified Stableford format. Former NFL placekicker Josh Scobee sits in second at 111, while the Yankees’ Hicks is in third at 110 with girlfriend Cheyenne Woods on the bag.