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Korda smiling again, closing in on world top 10

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Jessica Korda says she had to learn to smile all over again with 27 screws in her skull holding together the reconstruction doctors did in a complex offseason surgery on her jaw.

She’s getting a lot of practice smiling this week in Singapore, where she will be trying to follow up last week’s remarkable victory in Thailand with another at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

Korda, 24, leaped 14 spots in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings claiming her fifth LPGA title, moving her close to cracking the top 10 for the first time in her career. She’s No. 12 now, the highest she has ever ranked.

It’s a testament to more than her skill that she won in her first start coming back from surgery, a procedure that has alleviated headaches caused by the misalignment of her jaw.

Korda shared in an interview Wednesday on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” how there were so many challenges in her return, beyond hitting a ball. There were personal issues that made her question herself beyond the game.

Full-field scores from the HSBC Women’s World Championship

“I think the biggest shock of all was looking in the mirror,” Korda said. “You don’t know who you are looking at. That brings a lot of doubts and a lot of mixed emotions.

“It was a total shock to me, just trying to learn how to smile again, trying to learn how to move my top lip and bottom lip. Just being myself again is difficult.”

Korda missed the season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas and the year’s second event at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open while recuperating from the December surgery. The difficulty in that was exasperated by the fact that she has won both of those events.

“It was really motivating to me to get my butt back out there,” Korda said. “I’m really glad just to miss two tournaments after that big of a surgery.”

Korda’s jump to No. 12 in the world is important in her bid to win one of the four spots on the U.S. International Crown team that will tee it up in South Korea in October.

Before the victory, she was sixth on the American rankings list. She’s third now. If the American team were finalized today, she would be on the team.

Korda shattered tournament scoring records in Thailand, shooting a 62 in the second round on her way to a tournament record 25-under total.

With the intense heat in Thailand, Korda is spending the week in Singapore re-energizing the best she can. She’ll be looking to take advantage of her momentum.

“I’ll just be trying to do the same things,” Korda said. “It’s obviously a totally different golf course. I played today, and it’s very, very firm and fast.”

Korda showed there may not be much she cannot adapt to inside and outside the ropes.