The LPGA’s second major of this adjusted season, the ANA Inspiration, begins Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club’s Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, California.
While the championship has a new date after moving from its usual April slot because of the COVD-19 pandemic, that’s hardly the only thing that’s different about this year’s edition. There won’t be fans. The golf course will look decidedly different. And have you checked the weather forecast yet?
To get you caught up to speed, here are some answers to several questions you may have:
What’s different about Mission Hills in September?
You mean, besides the triple-digit temperatures? Yes, it’s really hot in Rancho Mirage right now with tempratures over 100 degrees, not to mention nearby wildfires have made the air quality less than desirable. The mix of heat and smoke are so bad, in fact, that the LPGA is considering letting the competitors use carts (caddies are already able to use carts or push carts this week). But as for the golf course itself, recent renovations saw the removal of more than 100 trees and the addition of bunkers on several holes. And the date change brings with it Bermuda grass instead of the usual over-seeded rye.
While Bermuda, which thrives in hot conditions, will likely make the course play longer, the difference will be most noticeable in the rough, says competitor Stacy Lewis. “A lot of times when you’re walking up to the ball you can’t see it [in Bermuda]. You’re going to see a lot of players be 2 and 3 feet from their ball and looking for it, versus April you can kind of get some lies that it kind of sits up in and you can get it out of there, but there’s places here if you hit it in the rough you’re going to be chipping out and trying to get up-and-down for par, but again, that’s what a major should be.”
Who’s missing from the field?
Let’s start with the world No. 1 and defending ANA champ Jin Young Ko, who decided not to play because of COVID-19 concerns. Three other South Koreans and top-15 players are absent, as well: Hyo Joo Kim, Jeong Eun Lee6 and So Yeon Ryu. … This year’s first major winner, Sophia Popov, whose victory last month at the Women’s Open Championship didn’t afford her an invite to this year’s ANA. To be clear, Popov’s five-year exemption to the ANA begins next spring. … And then there’s Charley Hull, ranked No. 28 in the Rolex Rankings, who was forced to withdraw this week after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. “I’m very disappointed to have to withdraw from what is one of my favorite events of the year,” Hull said.
So, then who are the favorites?
If you ask the oddsmakers, specifically PointsBet, Inbee Park and Danielle Kang are the current co-favorites at 10/1. The world No. 8 Park won the ANA in 2013 and owns five other top-10 finishes at the event. She also enters this week with back-to-back top-7s. Kang, the world No. 2, won the first two events of the LPGA’s return but recently has failed to crack the top 30 in each of her past two starts. She did, however, tie for sixth last year at Mission Hills, her first top-10 here in eight trips. Further down the odds sheet are Minjee Lee (11/1), Sei Young Kim (12/1), Nelly Korda (13/1), Lexi Thompson (18/1) and Lydia Ko (20/1).
What amateurs are playing?
In total, there are six, five college players and one junior. The list of collegians includes Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey, Texas’ Kaitlyn Papp, Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio, Stanford’s Angelina Ye and USC’s Gabi Ruffels, who nearly successfully defended her U.S. Women’s Amateur title last month. Of course, Ruffels lost in the final to Stanford commit Rose Zhang, who is also in this week’s ANA field.
How can I watch it?
Golf Channel will televise 20 hours of live action beginning Thursday. The live telecast will run noon-4 p.m. ET and 7-9 p.m. ET for Rounds 1 and 2. On the weekend, airtimes will be 2-6 p.mm. ET for the final two rounds.