LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Jessica Korda has a high threshold for pain.
She proved that this year coming back to win in her first start after undergoing a difficult offseason surgery to alleviate migraine headaches caused by a misaligned jaw.
She won the Honda Thailand still feeling the debilitating ache of the healing process.
That makes her a player to watch this week.
Royal Lytham & St. Annes promises to offer a punishing links test at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
With 167 bunkers along its sprawling, windswept layout just off the Lancashire coastline, Royal Lytham & St. Annes is a beast. That’s how famed golf writer Bernard Darwin described it back in the ‘30s.
“As ruthless an examination as any course of my acquaintance,” he wrote.
Korda, 25, is the highest ranked American in the field this week, with Lexi Thompson taking a break to “recharge” mentally. At No. 9 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, Korda seems to be in the right time in her life to make a run at winning her first major championship title. She seems to be in the right place, too.
Korda welcomes a nasty links test.
“My first introduction [to links] was Carnoustie in 2011,” Korda said. “That was not the best introduction, but I fell in love with it.”
Carnoustie snarls more menacingly than Royal Lytham.
“I love the different shots that you have to play,” Korda said of links golf. “You can't just hit a high ball and try and spin it. Around the greens, there are so many different shots that you can hit. I think that's really fun. It brings the creativity back into golf, a little bit more than versus just trying to hit it far and high.”
While Korda has five LPGA victories, her major championship record wasn’t the best coming into this season. She wasn’t the same player in majors that she was in regular tour events, but that’s changing.
In the first 36 major championships of her career, she finished top 10 just twice.
This year? She was T-4 at the ANA Inspiration and T-4 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Royal Lytham has her excited to return to the majors after taking the last month off. Her game is more well-rounded than it has ever been, her short game better than it has ever been.
So is her frame of mind.
“You cannot get upset out here,” Korda said of the attitude it takes to play Royal Lytham. “You might hit a great shot, but you might catch a bounce and you might end up in some high grass or in a bunker or over the green. You just have to be committed to the shot that you're hitting, and that's all you can do. After it leaves that club face, you have no idea what's going to happen.”
There’s so much history at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, adding to the excitement Korda and others are feeling this week. It has hosted The Open 11 times, the Women’s British Open five times and the Ryder Cup twice.
Bobby Jones, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros were among men who won here.
Annika Sorenstam, Sherri Steinhauer and Catriona Matthew won here, too.
“It’s one of my favorites,” said Karrie Webb, the 2002 Women’s British Open champion. “The bunkering is probably as penal as any of the links courses we play.”
The bunkers are famed for their steep faces.
“They're all pot bunkers,” Korda said. “You just have to go sideways, take your penalty and go.”
Korda wants that kind of test.
“It’s going to get very stressful out there,” she said.