Tournament favourite Momoka Kobori is a better player than when she won the Women’s NSW Open just five days ago as the opening round of the Australian Women’s Classic tees off at Bonville Golf Resort today.
That’s the scary proclamation of Kobori’s coach, Dominic Azzopardi, who has travelled south from his base at Peregian Springs on the Sunshine Coast to the Coffs Coast to prep his newest pupil for a shot at winning back-to-back WPGA Tour of Australasia events.
The pair spent an hour with two clubs and four balls on Sawtell Beach on Thursday morning, honing her bunker technique, before adjusting her ball flight with driver on the range at Bonville prior to yesterday’s Pro-Am.
The results of the two sessions should send warning bells through the rest of the field.
“She drives it 215-220 yards carry with not much roll because of her flight,” Azzopardi said on the eve of the tournament.
“I spoke to her after the Aramco Series Singapore event (where she finished T16); we’ve got to get 20 yards more, 30 yards more.
“We were hitting some drives on the range this morning with an alignment stick working it from right-to-left.
“She’s hitting some 230 carries that were running out to 260. That’s 30-35 yards further than what she was hitting at Singapore.
“If she can hit it 240 carry, 260 roll-out yards, that’s going to be pretty competitive on any tour.”
Another critical area of focus for the pair since they began working together in December last year has been Kobori’s putting, specifically her speed control.
With clutch putts at the final hole of regulation and the first playoff hole, that work stood up under tournament pressure at Tuncurry last Sunday… not that Azzopardi saw it.
He was only made aware that the final round was being broadcast on Kayo Sports as Kobori made her way towards the 18th green, needing to make a sand save from the left trap to force a playoff.
What he saw next vindicated everything they had been working towards and the potential ahead.
“Those last two putts I saw last week, perfect speed, matched her line to speed, they were in the middle. She’s walking them in,” said Azzopardi, who also works with world No.51 male player Lucas Herbert and LPGA Tour player Karis Davidson.
“That’s where she’s going to get to with her putting, having better and better speed control.
“The stroke’s great; the mechanics have gotten better and better since we’ve started working together.
“That’s the exciting thing for me, to see what she did in Singapore and again last week.”
As he talks about Kobori’s ceiling, excitement permeates Azzopardi’s voice.
A player ranked No.179 in the world, in her rookie season on the Ladies European Tour and with two LET Access Series wins to her name with a bubbly personality and a nickname of the ‘Smiling Assassin’.
It’s a mix that Azzopardi finds intoxicating.
“She’s class,” was his succinct summation.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl as good between 75-125 metres. She is unbelievable.
“I jumped on the bag the week of the Sandbelt Invitational to have a good look at her game and she had 15-under, shot three course records and lost by a shot to Cam Davis.
“She showed herself what she was capable of that week.
“She showed me a lot too. She showed me how good she was in some areas and how we could really improve in other areas.
“Her putting needed a little bit of work, her bunker play needed a little bit of work, her chipping needed a lot of work. She drove it straight but not far enough to be mixing it with the best in the world.
“She took everything on and rolled the sleeves up.
“I’m just loving working with her because she’s just such a great person too.”
Kobori begins her Australian Women’s Classic campaign at 11.10am AEDST, paired with another tournament fancy in Kelsey Bennett and Sydney amateur Charlotte Perkins.