Lydia Ko tips Nelly Korda to contend in the AIG Women's Open

The former World No. 1 from New Zealand is impressed with the current leader of the rankings and backs her to make a bold bid this week at Carnoustie.

Nelly Korda is the clear favourite ahead of this week AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie and it's easy to see why.

The 23-year-old American is enjoying the best season of her career - and then some.

It's included third place at the opening major of the year (the ANA Inspiration), victory in the third of them (the KPMG PGA Championship), a career-best effort in the fourth (the Evian Championship), plus a giddy little leap onto the top step of the Olympic podium in Tokyo two weeks ago.

Besides all that she's won another two regular LPGA events and hit the top of the world rankings.

Little wonder her peers are impressed, none more than Lydia Ko, a former World No. 1 herself.

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Ahead of the first round the Kiwi was asked what she made of Korda's challenge and she was in little doubt, the compliments tumbling forth.

"I mean, when you look at Nelly's game," she said, "she's obviously very long and also accurate. She's also a great putter. Her iron control is amazing. And her short game is great.

"I go could on and on and on about how great Nelly's game is and, on top of it, she has incredible mental strength.

"I think that's why she's had, is it three wins this year?!

"And then obviously the Olympics, the gold medal, which makes four, and also a bunch of top 10s. Yeah, she's very impressive.

"I think her game is a game where it doesn't fit one type of golf course and it can definitely translate well here because she is plenty long and also accurate.

"I'm sure she's going to have a great week. She's been playing so good and so consistently well. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw her around the top of the leaderboard."

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The one concern for punters would be that Korda is yet to land a top 10 finish by the British seaside. On the other hand, her game is trending in the right direction.

She missed the cut on debut at Kingsbarns, was T42nd at Royal Lytham in 2018 and then T14th, spending all week in the top 20, at Royal Troon 12 months ago.

Let's see what else Ko and the other leading contenders had to say ahead of this week's action.

Ko on the Scottish Open as prep for this week

"Dumbarnie was great and a really good lead-up for this week, but it's also a very different type of golf course to here. The whole length is a little bit longer, and especially with links golf, the wind is such a big factor where one day you could be hitting a short mid-iron into a par 5 and the next day you could be not reaching it in two."

Ko on Carnoustie

"This might be the trickiest Open I've played. I've heard a lot about this place. You have to be strategic around here. Tee shots are going to be so important. The more times you keep it in the fairway, the more chances you've got and the less mistakes you'll make."

Ko on the closing holes

"17 is a beast. 18 is also a beast. 17, there's two creeks. I hit a hybrid off the tee and 5-wood for the second shot. It's pretty rare that you would hit a longer club for your second shot into a par 5 compared to the club off the tee. The good thing about links, and especially on 17, is that you can roll it up. So even if you have a longer club in, it's not like you have to fly something and get it to land softly. It's definitely a unique hole. 18, if you hit a really good drive down there, I think you're able to go for birdie."

Ko on her future

"I kind of set a goal of retiring when I'm 30. I hope to not be playing when I'm 34. I love this game but I feel like there's also a lot of other things that I would like to do in my life. Obviously I have goals and doing the career Grand Slam is definitely one of my biggest goals as a golfer. Only time will tell, but for now, I'll just enjoy it and be grateful that I have the opportunity to play on Tour."

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Sophia Popov on returning as the defending champion

"It's cool to see all the pictures, a lot of memories of last year. Obviously a special week in my golf career. It's a little bit emotional. My face is everywhere.

Yuka Saso on the course

"Difficult. First, it's very beautiful. A lot of bunkers. Very windy. First time in Scotland, it's summer, and we're wearing a jacket. So I really like the weather. I've met a lot of people who've given me advice about the links course."

Inbee Park on Scottish summers and sausage rolls

"Really excited for cooler weather after the Olympics and Korea, where it's been very, very hot. I'm really enjoying this weather and the course. I don't really remember the golf course except for that I had a sausage roll after No. 10. There are changes, a little bit longer, I don't think it was that windy in 2011. It's a really windy-dependent golf course and the ball is running. So the course is not playing overly long."

Hannah Green on the test

"It's a really cool golf course. Probably one that I'm even really excited to actually play a practice round in. It has some long holes, some short holes, some narrow holes and also some tough bunkers. You have to be patient. I heard that the wind direction is actually going to be different in the tournament rounds compared to the practice rounds. There's a lot of tough holes coming in, so I feel like whoever is leading come Sunday probably wants quite a big lead prior to playing those last few."

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READ MORE: Punter's pointers: The AIG Women's Open - the final major championship of the year

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