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Solheim Cup 2019: How the Korda sisters convinced Juli Inkster to let them play together

September 12, 2019
korda sisters The Solheim Cup - Preview Day 4

Andrew Redington/WME IMG

GLENEAGLES, Scotland — The Solheim Cup’s Friday start—as opposed to the normal LPGA event’s Thursday opening round—builds in a whole 24 extra hours of anticipation. That additional day of waiting matters more than you’d think. The normal tournament-week rhythms tell players that it’s time to play, but they’re forced to hold off. That extra day drags by.

Only adding to the anxiousness is the fact that the players don’t entirely know who they’re playing with—or against—until late Thursday evening during the opening ceremony.

When the captains finally announced their pairings, Juli Inkster admitted that there was one twosome that the players had to convince her to make, perhaps surprisingly.

The Korda sisters.

“They actually asked me to play together,” Inkster said. “I wasn’t too keen on it.”

Initially, Inkster didn’t want to put the sisters together, the thought being that although their games are similar, their personalities are too different.

korda sisters The Solheim Cup - Preview Day 3

Stuart Franklin

Jessica, 26, and playing in her second Solheim Cup, told Inkster to see how the sisters played at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, a new team LPGA Tour event that took place in July. Inkster said that Jessica offered, ‘If we kill each other, then maybe not put us together. But if we do OK, can you think about putting us together?’ ”

At the Dow, the Korda sisters finished T-12, shooting two rounds of 68 in foursomes. More important, they didn’t kill each other.

“But the more I thought about it, it would be stupid not to play them,” said Inkster, who has put them off in the third match of the morning foursomes, the siblings facing Europe’s Caroline Masson and Jodi Ewart Shadoff. “This is not often you get two sisters on one team. They should have the right to play together.”

The Kordas are just the second set of sisters to compete on the same team in Solheim Cup history. The other pair was Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam, who played for Team Europe in 1998. However, they were not paired together during any of those matches.

The Korda sisters think they’ll make a strong team for reasons obvious and nuanced. On paper, their games are, indeed, incredibly similar. Jessica’s driving distance is 274 yards, Nelly’s 271. Jessica hits 72 percent of fairways, Nelly hits 74 percent. Jessica hits 74 percent of greens in regulation to Nelly’s 76 percent. Jessica has 29.9 putts per round, and Nelly has 30.2. They’re even similar heights: Jessica is 5-11, and Nelly 5-10. Their biggest difference is the five-year age gap (Nelly turned 21 in July) and that Nelly is one of America’s six rookies competing this week.

Because they’re statistically almost identical, playing foursomes should feel pretty natural for both. A common challenge in foursomes is finding players with games similar enough to be successful. It’s hard to find a rhythm when you’re hitting shots from places you’re not accustomed to.

korda sisters The Solheim Cup - Preview Day 2

Stuart Franklin

And though they might not be as similar personality-wise—Nelly is the quieter of the two, and Jessica is more outward with her emotions—they know each other better than anyone else on the team.

“We kind of know what ticks one another off, and we know how to calm each other down as well,” Nelly said. “So I think we handled it quite well at Dow and kind of got a game plan going.”

Jessica didn’t know that Annika and Charlotta didn’t play together when they were on the same Solheim Cup team.

“I just figured they did,” she said.

To her, being paired with her sister just makes sense.