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Korda wins playoff at Women's Australian Open

Sun 12th, February 2012

Victoria, Australia (Sports Network) - Jessica Korda first gained control during the final round at the Women's Australian Open on Sunday, then gave it away with a string of bogeys on the back nine.

But when she needed critical birdies, she delivered them.

Korda birdied the 17th hole to make it into a six-way playoff, then birdied the second playoff hole at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club to earn her first LPGA title.

The 18-year-old Korda defeated Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Julieta Granada, So Yeon Ryu and Hee Kyung Seo in the playoff. All six finished at three-under-par 289, then made par at the 18th on the first playoff hole.

They returned to play No. 18 again, and Lewis, Lincicome, Granada and Seo parred the hole. Ryu, the reigning U.S. Women's Open champion, posted a bogey. Korda drained a 25-foot birdie putt to earn the victory.

"I knew what the putt did because I'd had it before and it did not move. I was a little higher up and more to the right. I knew the line and I knew the speed. All I had to do was just hit it," Korda said. "It started breaking. I thought, 'Oh my goodness no, don't lip out, don't break too early.' I don't even know what side of the hole it hit. I was overwhelmed by everything."

Korda, the third-round leader, won a tournament during which the board was in constant change. The leader always seemed to be the player who made the fewest amount of mistakes, not necessarily the one who made the most shots.

Across every round, birdies came hard and defeat always seemed to be one quick bogey away. That was especially fitting for Ryu and Seo, who both bogeyed the last on a rainy Sunday to lose the chance to win in regulation.

However, missed opportunities ruled the whole week for numerous players.

Take, for example, Lewis, who was one of the first round co-leaders after carding a four-under 69 and reached seven-under during the second round. But she fell down the leaderboard with a triple bogey-bogey-bogey sequence, then posted six bogeys during the third round to fall even further behind.

Ryu was the second-round leader at six-under and got to eight-under early in the third round, but went on to card six bogeys on Saturday. Seo got to six- under a few times Saturday, but dropped three shots on her back-nine.

Korda also reached six-under on Saturday before two bogeys on her back-nine left her at four-under. Still, that was enough for her to carry the lead into Sunday. When the final round began, Korda held a one-shot lead over Ryu, Seo and Nikki Campbell, who quickly fell out of contention with a pair of double- bogeys on the front nine.

Ryu and Seo, who dueled in the playoff at last year's U.S. Women's Open, teed off as the second-to-last pairing and both birdied the second.

Their rounds diverged from there. Ryu bogeyed the fourth and ninth to make the turn at two-under, while Seo birdied the sixth to start the back nine at minus-five.

But both were quickly back at four-under -- Ryu made consecutive birdies from the 12th, while Seo bogeyed the 11th. A string of pars for both meant they stayed at four-under heading to No. 18.

Both had a chance to win because of Korda's poorly timed struggles. There might not be a good time for a bogey, but they hit especially hard with a title on the line.

Korda had started to distance herself from the field early in her round, with birdies at two, six and eight. That put her at seven-under, but she ceded control with a double-bogey at the ninth and a bogey at the 10th.

She got one of the strokes back with a birdie at No. 11, but three consecutive bogeys from the 14th put her at two-under. She birdied the 17th, but at that point, Ryu and Seo had just as good a chance to win. However, both bogeyed the par-four last to finish with even-par 73s. Korda parred the hole for a 74 and entered the playoff.

Lewis got into the playoff thanks to a three-under 70 on Sunday. Lincicome and Granada both earned their playoff spots with two-under 71s. Lincicome turned in a clean front nine with three birdies before bogeys at No. 10 and 14, but birdied the 17th to finish at three-under. Granada mixed four birdies and two bogeys during her round.

Lincicome had a chance to win on the first playoff hole, but the short birdie putt didn't fall in.

NOTES: Two-time defending champion Yani Tseng shot a 74 on Sunday, finishing in a tie for eighth at one-under-par 291...Only nine players finished below par...Korda's father, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open as a professional tennis player...Korda is projected to move from 285th to 30th in the world rankings...Amateur Lydia Ko, 14, shot a 73 and finished in a tie for 19th at three-over.

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