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Will the real defending Korda please stand up? Jessica, Nelly looking to defend titles at Lake Nona

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Korda sisters have a running joke this week.

“Jess and I were joking that she’s defending, but I’m also defending this week,” said Nelly, who won last year’s Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, site of this week’s Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

Jessica won the latter event, when it was still sponsored by Diamond Resorts and played at Tranquilo Golf Club, about a half-hour from Lake Nona. But when it comes to the player to beat, Nelly – who won five times, including her first major and Olympic gold, while rising to No. 1 in the world – is the betting favorite entering Thursday’s opening round.

“I told my sister she’s defending this week,” said Jessica, who topped Danielle Kang in a playoff at last year’s TOC before sharing 31st at the Gainbridge the following week. “I was like, this is where you won. I think I played fine here last time, so hopefully, with kind of my learning experience from then, I can do something with it this week.”

Full-field tee times from the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions

Jessica is used to defending titles on different courses. Of her six LPGA wins, she’s only defended on the same layout twice. In addition to this week, she won the 2012 Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne, which doesn’t host every year. She also didn’t play the Honda LPGA Thailand after winning in 2018.

The fact that this is the season opener also diminishes the importance of being the defending champ, says Jessica, who admits she didn’t play a ton during the two-month offseason. (She also got married during that stretch.)

“First tournament of the year,” she explained. “It’s kind of a free-for-all, so we’ll see.”