Korda sisters together in Olympic golf against strong field

KAWAGOE, Japan (AP) — They are separated by five years and could pass as twin sisters from a distance, blond and athletic, both approaching 6 feet with a golf swing that is picturesque and powerful.

Jessica and Nelly Korda — Team Jelly, they like to say — were decked out in matching American outfits for their first Olympic practice round at Kasumigaseki Country Club, distinguishable mainly because of the heat.

The sun blazing, Nelly flipped up the collar of her white shirt, which was blue on the inside. That was one way to tell them apart.

The other is the world ranking.

Both with six LPGA victories, 23-year-old Nelly became the first major champion in the family since their father — Petr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion in tennis — by winning the Women’s PGA Championship in Atlanta and moving to No. 1 in the world.

That was a big week for 28-year-old Jessica, too, because she locked down the fourth American spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

“We walked around the Olympic Village a couple of days ago when we got here and what an experience that was, just itself,” Jessica said Monday. “What a exciting time to be able to play.”

They accomplished one dream five years ago when Nelly joined her big sister on the LPGA Tour.

They played in the Solheim Cup together for the first time in 2019. As partners in both foursomes sessions, they were so dominant in their two victories that neither match made it past the 14th hole.

Jessica won the first LPGA event this year. Nelly won the next week.

This is more about sibling support than sibling rivalry.

“It’s honestly surreal,” Nelly said. “It’s so much fun. I don’t know what I would do without Jess. We had a conversation a couple days ago. I was like: ‘So you’re going to be playing until the end of my career, too, right? You’re going to be out here as long as me. You’re not going to leave me, right?’ I’m just super grateful to have her, honestly, every step of the way.”

That goes for Jessica, too.

She earned her LPGA Tour card when she was 17, meeting the LPGA age requirement the following February and a year later had her first LPGA title — fittingly, the Women’s Australian Open, like her Czech-born father.

She had four wins before Nelly joined her, and in some ways made golf even better.

“Not that it saved my career, but I definitely think it refreshed it,” Jessica said. “It’s really lonely and it’s really hard to be out here, and I did a lot of it myself. I have a younger brother and a younger sister, so it’s not like my parents could come out every week and travel with me.

“You forget what normal life is like,” she said. “Then just having her come out, it really refreshed a lot of the love of the game and the love for the tour, just wanting to be out here and doing this with her.”

The younger brother is Sebastian Korda, who at 21 already has reached the fourth round of two Grand Slam events — most recently Wimbledon — and cracked the top 50 in the world. He chose not to play in the Tokyo Olympics.

Nelly Korda is a leading contender when the women’s competition starts Wednesday. She is coming off a major title, her third victory on the LPGA Tour.

Both will have their work cut out for them.

The Olympics have been front and center for the women when golf returned to the program in 2016. The 60-player field features the top 14 in the women’s world ranking. The men had six of the top 14 in the world.

All three medalists return from Rio de Janeiro — Inbee Park of South Korea won the gold, Lydia Ko of New Zealand won the silver and Shanshan Feng of China won the bronze.

Park returns feeling much more relaxed than in 2016. She was under enormous pressure at home because of a thumb injury that kept her out of elite competition for two months, including two majors. There were questions whether she should give up her spot so that powerhouse South Korea could have four good chances at gold.

And then she beat the world’s No. 1 player by five shots.

“It’s not the same. I mean, 2016 was by far most pressure-filled I’ve ever felt in my life. I don’t know if I could do that once again,” Park said. “I have no injury this year and I have been playing the season well. So it’s a little bit different to 2016.

“But the same result would be nice, right?”

This could shape up as a surprising fight between South Korea and the U.S. for the podium.

South Korea has been dominant in women’s golf for more than a decade. This year, led by Team Jelly, the Americans have accounted for six wins. South Korea has only three. Thailand has four, led by major winner Patty Tavatanakit.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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