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ANA Inspiration

Round 4 - Eagle for Lincicome to win ANA Inspiration playoff

April 05, 2015

Brittany Lincicome dished up a near carbon copy Sunday of arguably her greatest shot ever Sunday at the ANA Inspiration to make an eagle on 18 and force a playoff with Stacy Lewis. It was nearly deja vu for Lincicome, who hit the exact same shot into the 18th six years ago here to six feet for an eagle to win the championship by one. This year’s version needed three more trips down the 18th fairway though before Lincicome had her second major championship and sixth careeer LPGA Tour victory with three straight pars in extra holes.

“I mean, to make eagle on any hole is pretty incredible, and then to do it on Sunday at a major, at this major where I did it in 2009,” Lincicome said, “it’s really surreal. I feel like if you would have bet me all the money in the world to see how many times you could do it, if I went back to the fairway now I probably couldn’t hit that shot again. So like I said earlier, today was my day. Somebody was looking out for me today.”

Even after Lincicome’s eagle at the 72nd hole, which sent the American in the air jumping for joy, Lewis could have still ended it in regulation with a birdie at the last. Playing in the final group, Lewis hit her approach on the par-5 in to just 10 feet but misread the birdie putt and narrowly missed it on the low side.

Both went back down the 18th fairway for the first of three times. After Lincicome left her putt from the fringe just inches short, Lewis had another shot to win it with a 10 footer, which nearly snuck and died in the hole but somehow managed to stay above ground.

So back they went down the 18th fairway, and after Lewis plopped her third down seven feet from the hole, Lincicome dropped hers just a foot behind Lewis’. Somehow Lincicome’s birdie putt stayed on the high side and didn’t fall in the cup despite dying with just the right speed. It looked like it was going to again be Lewis’ jump to be had in Poppie’s Pond. But somehow Lewis’ putt followed the same path as Lincicome and despite the perfect speed, never fell.

Off they went again to the 18th tee for the third playoff hole in which Lewis got an unlucky break with her layup falling in a divot. She didn’t quite get enough of it and left it just short of the green.

“Just right when the club came down, it just caught both sides of the divot, basically of the turf, and it just killed it,” said Lewis. “I got no good contact on the ball, killed all the momentum.”

Lincicome proceeded to drop her approach in to about eight feet and when Lewis left her chip 10 feet short and missed the putt, the championship was finally Lincicome’s. There on the green waiting when she tapped in her par putt were her future husband, dad and caddie, all ready to join Lincicome in taking her second plunge into Poppie’s Pond. The win breaks a nearly four-year winless drought and comes just eight months after losing in a playoff to Inbee Park at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

“We’ve been close so many times, and it’s just one of those where don’t let it get to you,” Lincicome said. “We’ll just keep feeding from it and something good is going to happen. Lo and behold here, 2009 I won on Easter Sunday, and today is Easter Sunday, so it’s pretty crazy to think about.”

Lincicome becomes the seventh player in the tournament’s history with more than one win, joining Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Betsy King, Amy Alcott, Dottie Pepper and Juli Inkster.

Oh so close: Stacy Lewis came up just short again at the ANA Inspiration after a bogey on the third sudden-death playoff hole. Since her last victory last June at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Lewis has now recorded five runner-up finishes and five additional top-10s.

“I guess the more times you do it, the easier it gets,” said Lewis. “I don’t know. That’s all you can do. You can’t sit and dwell on it. You just have to go out the next week and try to win. I’m doing a lot of really good things, so I just have to keep going forward.”

Lewis said she had a bit of solace having lost to close friend in Lincicome and said that she was glad to see three American flags finish 1-2-3 with Morgan Pressel finishing in solo third.

“We’re good friends. I don’t think she’s won in a while, so it’s a great win for her,” said Lewis. “I don’t know. If anything, I like seeing three American flags at the top of the leaderboard. I kind of went into it saying an American’s going to win this major. So I think it’s a win-win.”

Pressel's bad hop: Morgan Pressel had a first-hand view when Karrie Webb holed her wedge from the fairway here in 2006 to get into a playoff with Lorena Ochoa in one of the most dramatic ending in this storied championship’s history, and Morgan Pressel nearly did the same Sunday. Her wedge from a similar spot to where Webb holed it bounced twice before the pin and landed on the back edge of the hole before hopping out.

“It was crazy. I kind of sad to Rock, I said let’s just call this like Webby,” Pressel said. “I played it with Webby the year she did hole the shot from the fairway, and I can’t believe it basically hit the hole. I didn’t exactly see it, but it certainly looked like it did. So close. But I mean, I gave it four good days, and I can’t be too disappointed.”

Pressel would have forced a three-way playoff if the wedge shot, which ended up just six inches behind the hole, had gone down. But Brittany Lincicome one upped her in the group behind her with a beautiful five iron to six feet behind the hole and drained the eagle, meaning Pressel’s clubhouse lead only lasted about 10 minutes.

“She just hit such an incredible shot into 18,” Pressel said. “I certainly didn’t have my “A” game this whole weekend, but I kind of fouled it around, and ended up shooting, I think, 3-under on the weekend, so I’ll take it.”

The solo third-place finish is Pressel’s best finish in a major since a runner-up at the 2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship - a fact she’ll surely take considering she’s still working through swing changes.

“If you would have told me after Singapore I would have a chance to win ANA, I don’t know if I would have believed you,” Pressel said. “But that’s golf, I guess. I don’t know what else to say. It comes and goes.”

Numbers to know:
2 – victories in just 7 starts made by rookie Sei Young Kim, the first multiple w
3 – The three-hole playoff was the longest in the tournament’s history
6 – This is the sixth time this event has ended in a Playoff
9 – number of different players that have won a major in their rookie season.
10 – Lydia Ko’s streak of 10 straight top-10s came to a close this weekend.
10 – Lydia Ko will remain No. 1 in the world after this week and will spend her 10th week as the world No. 1.
11 - number of majors that have been won by an LPGA rookie (Juli Inkster and Se Ri Pak both won two)
17 – Snapped a streak of 17 straight events in which Lydia had finished under par for the week.
49 – Lydia Ko has never missed a cut in 49 LPGA Tour starts

Ko's historic streak ends at the ANA inspiration: Lydia Ko finally showed she’s indeed human this week, finishing outside of the top-10 for the first time in 10 events.

In her first major championship start as world No. 1, Ko conceded that her tie for 51st this week was indeed disappointing but said she simply didn’t hit the fairway enough and the putts didn’t drop either.

“Obviously a little disappointing, but I felt like I hit some good shots and some good putts, but just didn’t drop,” Ko said. “When that happens, you really can’t do much. I’m putting good strokes on them. Like yesterday, I left a couple short, so I was disappointed in that way, but today I got them to the hole and a couple of them lipped out where it felt like it was in but it didn’t end up being that way. That kind of really summarized my week.”

It was still a historic week for Ko, though. Her first-round 71 ensured that she tied Annika Sorenstam for the longest streak of consecutive subpar rounds with 29. It was just the first time in 17 starts that Ko did not finish with an under par score for the week.

But Ko might have learned something going forward – how to hit it out of the rough. Although Ko – a supreme driver of the golf ball – had an off week and only hit 30 of 56 fairways, she still managed to hit 15 greens in a final round in which she hit only three fairways.

“I feel like I was grinding a lot this week, but considering that I played pretty good for what positions I was sometimes in off the tee,” Ko said.

“I think I’ve learned how to play rough shots. That is one of the biggest things I’ve learned this week, and it was tough. It was really thick so I was learning something there.”

Ko now heads to the rest of the season with four majors left to break Morgan Pressel’s record as the youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history. She will take a break for the next two weeks before returning to action at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in two weeks, where she’s set to defend her first win as an LPGA professional – a date she has tattooed on her wrist.

“I’m going to take a good break and just enjoy that and be excited for my next one in San Francisco,” Ko said.

Trial by fire for Kim: It wasn’t the final round rookie Sei Young Kim wanted, but if there’s anything learned this week, it’s that she’ll surely be back. Kim, who already won the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, entered the day with a three-shot lead and she still held the lead entering the back nine. But it was Kim’s first back nine in a major championship with the lead on Sunday and it showed. She made four bogeys and a double to go with three birdies for an inward 3-over-par 39 and finished two shots back of a playoff in a tie for fourth.

“Very disappointed,” Kim said through a translator. “Overall my shots really weren’t going the way I wanted to especially on the back nine. I think I still had a few opportunities where I had a chance to win it, but unfortunately the shots weren’t there.”

Kim said before the final round that she was used to coming from behind for the win and four of her five wins in Korea were along that tune. Experience like the final group on Sunday can’t be taught, though, and Kim’s sure to feel more comfortable next time she’s in this situation.

“I think what I’ll get out of this week is next time I’m in a similar situation I know what options I have,” she said. “I think I can learn from that and I can make better decisions.”

Low amateur honors for Moore: Haley Moore was the very last competitor to earn a spot in the field this week, having won the ANA Inspiration Junior Challenge on Monday afternoon by four shots. Moore, a resident of Escondido- about two hours from Rancho Mirage, was also the youngest player in the field at 16 years old. She was the only amateur out six in the field to make the cut, giving her low amateur honors.

“It was just so fun,” said Moore. “Every day I met new people, and I just had a great time. Friday was a little nerve-racking, but I was able to get it done to make the cut. So this weekend, Saturday and Sunday I just told myself go out there, have fun and just enjoy it as long as it lasts.”

Moore gave an emotional television interview after her second round and said she has seen quite a jump in her social media mentions this week.

“A lot, and I’ve been getting a bunch of messages from people I don’t even know,” said Moore. “So they’re just saying how proud they are of me, and, yeah, it’s really nice.”

Moore joins the likes of Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko as players to earn low amateur honors at this championship.

Eagles for warriors: Nine total eagles were made at the ANA Inspiration and players raised $9,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project as part of the season-long Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends. The nine eagles today pushes the season-total to $56,000.

Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends is a season-long charity program that will be tied into the Race to the CME Globe. Each Saturday and Sunday at LPGA tournaments, CME Group will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® for each eagle that is recorded. This amount will increase to $5,000 for each eagle during the weekend of the CME Group Tour Championship and a formal check will be presented to the Wounded Warrior Project® during the trophy ceremony at the CME Group Tour Championship. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.

Quotable: “The first time it felt fairly easy because I thought I was so far out of the tournament, that I never had a chance. Hitting the 5-iron into the hole the first time, I wasn’t nervous at all. I’m standing here, physically shaking like a leaf still, and it’s over and I’m still shaking.” - Brittany Lincicome after her win

Click here for full scores & prize money.

Round 3 - Kim holding on to lead ahead of Lewis and Pressel

April 04, 2015

As her competitors faltered down the stretch coming in, Sei Young Kim brought her best golf with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 and a par on 18 to take a three-shot lead into the final round of the ANA Inspiration at 10-under-par. Kim’s earliest golf memories are of watching this major championship from Korea when Grace Park jumped into Poppie’s Pond.

“If I were to win it tomorrow, it would be the biggest dream ever to come true for me,” Kim said through a translator. “You know, just because, I’ve watched this tournament since I was young. That’s why I feel I want it so much more, and I think the opportunity is there in front of me, and if I can, I definitely want to get my hand on it, and for sure it won’t be bad jumping into that pond tomorrow.”

Heading into the 15th hole Saturday it was actually Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis that had stormed into a one-shot lead at 9-under-par but Lewis bogeyed Nos. 15 and 17 and trails by three in solo second. Morgan Pressel also owned a share of the lead at 8-under-par at one point during the back nine but the closing stretch got the best of her, too, with bogeys on No. 16 and 17 coming in.

“Coming in there, I didn’t make some of the best swings ever,” Lewis said. “Definitely didn’t deserve bogey on 15, so I was pretty happy making bogey there truthfully. 17, just kind of misjudged the wind and hit a wrong club there, and then the green is really bumpy down there by the hole. But all in all, it was a good, solid day. Didn’t really have to work too hard, which is good.”

Lewis will have to work hard tomorrow though to earn her second robe and third career major championship. In her 2011 victory here, her first major win, Lewis came from two strokes behind to beat Yani Tseng. It’s a familiar position for Lewis to find herself in - chasing on a Sunday. Sei Young Kim can’t say the same. Kim said she does her best work chasing from behind and has never led at a major championship, this being only her third appearance in a major ever.

“I feel a bit pressured right now,” Kim said through a translator. “Back in Korea when I was playing on the Korean Tour, I was known for coming from behind and winning tournaments. But to be in the lead going into the final round on the LPGA is fairly new for me. So yeah, I feel some pressure there.”

It’s an interesting position the rookie Kim finds herself in playing in the final group of a major with one of the players she remembers watching from Korea jump into Poppie’s Pond here. It’s only her 13th LPGA start and she leads at a major championship after already winning earlier this year in a playoff at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

But Kim came from behind in the Bahamas. This time she’s got Lewis on her heels.

“You know, it’ll just be – she’s just a dominating force out there,” Kim said through a translator. “I’d probably even chicken out in starting a conversation. But you know, just to be able to play with her on the final day, it’s an honor.”

So would a jump into Poppie’s Pond come Sunday.

Fighting off the young guns:
Stacy Lewis spoke about her final-round showdown with rookie Hyo Joo Kim two weeks ago like it was fresh in her mind, saying she gave the teenager everything she had Phoenix but came up short on Sunday.

“I threw everything I had at her in Phoenix and she kept responding by making putts and hitting shots,” said Lewis. “They’re not scared, not scared at all.”

Lewis will face another South Korean rookie on Sunday and trails third-round leader Sei Young Kim by three shots. The duo will be the final pairing on the first major championship Sunday of the year. Lewis touched on the heavy-with-talent rookie class, specifically the young South Koreans.

“We knew they were coming. Inbee and some of the girls were kind of telling us that there were some young Koreans coming that were pretty good,” said Lewis. “We didn’t really know what to expect, but they’ve been there. You can tell they’ve got a lot of experience from playing in Korea, and they know how to win. They know how to putt, which is most important, and I mean, they’re impressive.”

Another day, another streak extended for Ko:
Although Lydia Ko snapped her consecutive sub-par round streak yesterday in the second round after a1-over 73, the 17-year wunderkind extended another impressive statistic stretch on Saturday. With her only birdie of the day coming from an 8-foot putt on the 18th hole, Ko has now recorded a birdie in every single round she has played in which now total 191 rounds. The New Zealander said she wasn’t aware of that streak either and jokingly thanked the media for bringing it to her attention.

“No. Thanks, guys,” said Ko. “It’s always some statistic that’s going to get in my tail. But yeah, I didn’t know that. Lucky thing that I birdied the 18th. It happened to me last year, too. I hadn’t birdied all day and then made a birdie on 18 to kind of get that going. It’s good that I’m at least counting a couple strokes off the scorecard today.”

Ko was 3-over through 17 holes and with her lone birdie got back to 2-under par for the day. She currently sits 12 shots off the lead and in a tie for 48th at 2-over par. Ko said she hasn’t been able to see as many putts drop as she’d like so far.

“Hopefully for more putts to drop tomorrow,” said Ko. “I think obviously I would love to hit it closer and hit more fairways and all that, but it’s not going to be perfect. Even if I just carry on my long game and just hope for a couple more putts to drop, I know that I’ll be reducing a couple shots from today.”

Sister, Sister:
There have been a few sister duos who have competed in events together on the LPGA Tour but there have been very few opportunities for sisters to do what the Jutanugarn sisters can do on Sunday at the ANA Inspiration.

Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn will try to become only the third set of sisters to each record a top-10 finish in the same major championship. The last time it happened was here at Mission Hills in 1999 when Charlotta Sorenstam finished fifth and Annika Sorenstam finished seventh.

After shooting a 66 on Saturday, Ariya Jutanugarn enters Sunday’s final round in a tie for third at six-under-par while her sister, Moriya, is one shot back in a tie for sixth at five-under-par.

Top-10 finishes by sisters in the same major:
1952 U.S. Women’s Open – Marlene Bauer Hagge (T2) and Alice Bauer (8)
1957 U.S. Women’s Open – Marlene Bauer Hagge (T6) and Alice Bauer (T6)
1999 Nabisco Dinah Shore – Charlotta Sorenstam (5) and Annika Sorenstam (7)

Numbers to know:
3 – number of times two sisters have finished in the top 10 in a major.
9 – Morgan Pressel was tied for ninth – four shots back – heading into the final round here in 2007 when she won this event. She’s currently four shots back with 18 holes to play.
2001 – The last time a pair of sisters finished in the top-10 in an LPGA Tour event.
191 – Consecutive rounds that Lydia Ko has recorded a birdie which is every single round she has played on the LPGA
2 – Sei Young Kim trailed by two in her win in the Bahamas heading into the final round.
2 – Stacy Lewis came from two shots back to win her first major at this event in 2011.
7 – Largest come-from-behind victory was by Karrie Webb here in 2006
11 – How many under par the leaders were here a year ago heading into the final round.
14 – The number under par that it took to win this tournament a year ago.
15 – Numbers of players who won this event for their first major championship
75 – Highest final round by the eventual champion, by Betsy King in 1990
65 - Lowest final round by an eventual champion, by Karrie Webb in 1996

Round 2 - Korean rookie leaps ahead of Pressel

April 03, 2015

Sei Young Kim smoked a beautiful high-arching hybrid into the peninsula-protected par-5 18th green at Mission Hills Country Club to five feet and rolled the putt in for eagle to vault to the top of the leaderboard at 7-under-par Friday at the ANA Inspiration. Kim’s 7-under-par 65 is the round of the tournament thus far by two shots and was seven shots better than her first-round 72. She leads American and first-round leader Morgan Pressel (72) by two shots.

“I feel really great because I was 7-under today,” Kim said. “I really hit the ball good and putting really good, everything really good. I’m very happy.”

As for how the 22-year-old LPGA rookie plans to stay atop the leaderboard come Sunday, she turned to a famous company slogan.

“Just do it,” Kim said. “Just do it!”

Kim’s round Friday was a ball-striking masterpiece on a day she hit 17 of 18 greens. She hit it to within 15 feet on each of her four birdies on the front nine and was out in 4-under 32. She had short-range birdies on Nos. 11 and 15 with her only blemish coming on No. 16, where she hit her tee shot in the rough and hit her approach way to the back of the green for a three putt. But she saved her best for last, making eagle on the last to take the 36-hole lead.

Only once before has Kim held the 36-hole lead, the 2015 Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, which she ended up closing out for her first LPGA win in a three-player playoff. She’s one of those players that doesn’t seem to be bothered by any pressure and won four of her five KLPGA Tour victories in playoffs.

This is her third appearance in an LPGA major and her best finish at one is 46th at the U.S. Women’s Open last year. She tied for 61st at this event a year ago.

Pressel, the 2007 champ, had three birdies and three bogeys in her even-par round. Three players are in a tie for third at 4-under par including the 2009 winner Brittany Lincicome, Jenny Shin of South Korea and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew.

End to the Streak: Lydia Ko’s record-tying streak of 29 consecutive sub-par rounds came to a close Friday, ending in a tie with Annika Sorenstam’s record of 29 after Ko shot a 1-over-par 73. Ko, the 17-year old world No. 1, was disappointed for the streak to end but won’t be upset to see the hype around it go.

“I mean, it was pretty awesome that I was near Annika’s record last week and even yesterday, and then I tied it,” Ko said. “It was so cool that I’m tying with someone amazing and as great as her. I was like, man, I would love to reach 30 in a way. But as I said before, I’m relieved that this question is not going to be asked, but I think 29 – I wasn’t counting and 29 under-par rounds is pretty good in my book.”

Ko headed to the 17th hole at even par for the day with a solid chance to keep the streak rolling after hitting her approach to 10 feet on the par-3 17th with a hybrid. But the putt just slid by the hole. All eyes were on her as she approached the par-5 18th tee with a chance to make a birdie to continue the streak. She missed her drive just to the right, though, off the tee, leaving it in the rough. She couldn’t go for the green as a result and got a bit aggressive with her 6-iron layup and dunked it in the water in front of the green. Ko was so shocked the layup went in the water that she asked a volunteer when she got up to the pond where her ball was.

“It was like 160 something to the end of the fairway, and then there was like 20 yards of rough, so I’d say it was 190 approximately,” Ko said. “I just hit a three-quarter 6 iron, and I would have never guessed that I was going to hit a 6-iron 190, not even if I was Lexi. Yeah, so obviously that was the wrong club at the end of the day, but I thought it was 6-iron even if it flew out of there, it would have at least stopped.”

Instead, that unexpected flyer caromed into the drink and stopped her streak.

“I applaud Lydia and her play over the last few months,” Sorenstam said. “I am impressed with the composure she shows at such a young age and I think we’ll be hearing a lot about her in the years to come.”

With the record complete, Ko can now focus on chasing down the leaders. She’s seven shots back heading into the weekend at even par, but it hasn’t been for a lack of birdies. Ko’s nine birdies through two days are just one shy of the amount of leader, Sei Young Kim, but Ko’s struggled with her driver and made more bogeys through two rounds – nine – than she made through the first two rounds in the three prior events combined.

“I just wasn’t hitting fairways, and then it just kind of becomes no fun,” Ko said. “It’s fun because you’re trying to hit hook shots and low shots out of the trees. In that way it’s fun, but no, I just really couldn’t get my driver going, and when you’re in that kind of position, it’s not easy around this course.”

Ko typically hits 82 percent of fairways – good for 28th on Tour – but she only hit 6 of 14 fairways Friday. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that Ko shot her first over-par round since November 15th, 2014 – the third round of the 2014 Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Cheers to the Weekend: The cut this week fell at 73 players at 3-over par 147. Notables to miss the cut: Jessica Korda (+5), Lizette Salas (+6), Beatriz Recari (+6), Yani Tseng (+8).

Let's Go Low: Sei Young Kim’s round of 65 on Friday was one of the best rounds recorded in the past five years at this event. Since 2010, only four other players have shot 65 or better on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Here are the four other players:

Player
Year
Round
Score
Lexi Thompson
2014
2nd Round
64
Gerina Piller
2014
2nd Round
65
So Yeon Ryu
2013
4th Round
65
Natalie Gulbis
2012
4th Round
65

Numbers to Know:
1 - # of amateurs to make the cut – Only Haley Moore made it. Moore is the youngest player in the field at 16 years old and earned a spot in the field on Monday at the ANA Inspiration Junio Challenge
3 – This is Sei Young Kim’s third appearance in an LPGA major championship.
4 – Catriona Matthew was 4-under-par after two rounds a year ago here as well.
7 – 7-under also led here a year ago after two rounds (Lexi Thompson & Se Ri Pak).
9 – Lydia Ko’s 9 bogeys through the first two rounds this week is more than her first two rounds in her last three events combined.
46 – Sei Young Kim’s best finish in a major before this week.
64 – Lexi Thompson shot a second round 64 here a year ago in her win.
29 - Players under par through 36 holes.

Free it Up: Morgan Pressel wasn’t particularly pleased with her even-par 72 Friday, but she’s certainly OK with only being two shots back of the lead at 5-under heading into the weekend.

“I’ll be close to the lead,” Pressel said. “I give myself a chance for the weekend, and that’s all these two days really that I can do.”

Pressel’s second round got off to a rookie start immediately, snapping her drive off the first tee into the left woods. She punched out and proceeded to hit her third to just a few feet to save par. It was that type of day throughout for Pressel in a three birdie, three bogey performance as she looks for her second win at this tournament.

“It was a little sloppy all around,” Pressel said. “My swing wasn’t quite as sharp as it was yesterday, and I kind of made some sloppy bogeys and some really good pars, so it was kind of backwards.”

She did feel like it got better, though, late in the round. It’s going to be a process for Pressel going forward. She was without an instructor for the first time since she was eight for the last eight months. She wanted to gain some feel and understand her golf swing better and not quite be as technical. That’s helped after she decided to go back to her instructor because now she can just focus on her one swing thought.

“Kind of being able to free it up on the golf course,” Pressel said, “but still when I hit a poor shot know why, why did I do that and how can I correct going forward. Kind of golf course self correction I think was a big thing that was helpful in just getting out there and trying to do it on my own.”

World No. 3 Stacy Lewis was an amateur paired with Pressel on the final day in 2007 when Pressel won here, and Lewis said she’s seen Pressel’s game turn for the better in recent weeks.

“She was just kind of the next teen sensation,” Lewis said. “I remember that year because it played so hard, and she just hung around and she hung around, and that’s who Morgan is. She’s a grinder. She’s not going to go out there and wow you with anything, but she’s just going to keep hanging around.”

Waiting For A Sweet Return: Brittany Lincicome has been waiting for the LPGA’s return to the desert since the start of the 2015 season and said that her game hasn’t matched up well to many courses on the schedule to open up the year. Lincicome has only one top-10 finish in six starts this year, a fourth place in the Bahamas.

“Some of the golf courses that we’ve had so far just don’t really fit my game, unfortunately, so it’s kind of like Missy and I were waiting and waiting for the next couple events to come,” said Lincicome.

“Just kind of getting the practice and momentum and just trying to keep it together out there and not fall apart and keeping the nerves under control, just kind of getting ready for a golf course like this one that kind of fits my game a little bit better,” she added. “It’s unfortunate that I have to wait so long into the year for something that kind of fit my game, but yeah, it’s nice to be here, and obviously playing well, it’s really fun.”

Lincicome only missed three fairways on Friday in her round of 68 which bumped her up the leaderboard from T26 to T3. The Florida native, who won her first and only major here in 2009, said that she felt like she even left a few birdies out on the course on Friday.

“Yeah, for sure. I missed like two five-footers and one 10-footer for sure that could have gone in. But yeah, felt like I was hitting it really well,” said Lincicome. “I knew exactly where the ball was going all day, which obviously on this golf course the rough is so thick, if you hit it in the rough, you’re pretty much dead, so that’s nice at least driving it well, which is really fun.”

Quotable: “Her feel wasn’t so hot yesterday. She wasn’t feeling it, which is fine. That happens. And then today she came out and just found the feel and just went with it and played within herself and made it look easy.” – Sei Young Kim’s caddie, Paul Fusco, on his player’s turnaround on Friday

Round 1 - Morgan takes lead in ANA Inspiration

April 02, 2015

Rolex Rankings No. 56 Morgan Pressel (-5)
Rolex Rankings No. 120 Ai Miyazato (-4)
Rolex Rankings No. 163 Juli Inkster (-3)
Rolex Rankings No. 33 Charley Hull (-2)
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko (-1)
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis (E)
Rolex Rankings No. 9 Lexi Thompson (E)

All eyes are on Lydia Ko this week as she eyes becoming the youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history. But the current holder of that record, Morgan Pressel, may have something to say about Ko taking that from her just yet after firing a 5-under-par 67 in the afternoon to storm into the lead. Pressel became the youngest major champion at the age of 18 when she took the leap here into Poppie’s Pond in 2007 and is hoping to add another plaque to the Walk of Champions.

“I think every player dreams of having their name up on that wall, and the fact that mine is up there, it’s very, very special,” Pressel said. “I have so many great memories here, but I’d love to put it up there again.”

Pressel leads Japan’s Ai Miyazato (68) by one shot and a group of four players that includes 54-year old Juli Inkster, American Alison Walshe, South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu and LET member Gwladys Nocera by two shots.

Although Pressel’s hoping to deter Ko this week, she said she’d be surprised if Ko didn’t break her record in one of the five shots she has at it this year. Ko, for her part, was the talk of the golfing world in the morning wave for nearing a different record. Could the 17-year-old Ko tie Annika Sorenstam’s streak of 29 in a row? It looked in major doubt as she headed to the eighth tee – her 17th hole of the day – at even par, her streak of 28 subpar rounds in serious jeopardy.

If Ko has a greatest asset in a game seemingly free of weaknesses, it may be her mind. The ability to completely ignore how absurd it is the things she’s accomplishing at 17. Again, she tuned out any of the outside noise and stiffed a 6-iron on the par-3 from 158 yards to two feet and tapped in for birdie. Just like that with a par on the ninth, she secured her 29th consecutive rounder under par, tying Annika on a day in which she got the tougher draw having to play in the morning wave.

“Today I was so busy trying to make up-and-downs, or trying to make a good two-putt or make some birdies, because I really wasn’t hitting my driver well, and here the rough can get pretty thick,” Ko said. “When you’re in that position a record was the last thing I was thinking about. But, yeah, Lexi [Thompson] and I made two really good birdies on 8, and I got back to under par.”

Ko’s streak seemed in serious limbo on a morning in which the wind ripped through Mission Hills, and Ko went out in 1-over-par 37. But the wind calmed down a bit on her inward nine and Ko steadied herself with a bogey-free 2-under 34 on a day she said she didn’t quite have her best stuff.

“I think probably on my 1st hole, which was my 10th, I read a little note that David [Leadbetter] gave me prior to my round,” Ko said, “and I just went back. Just put myself back another step and just said this is a whole new nine. There are some birdie opportunities there, so I just try to keep it simple. But it wasn’t as simple as I would have liked.”

As for the record, well, Ko didn’t even think about that when she was signing a red number for the 29th straight time.

“The record wasn’t really in my head. I guess, post round, now that you guys are asking. Here it is,” Ko said. “But, no, not when I was playing. But I think because I was spraying it a little bit, it made me think less about the records and the after results.”

However, don’t confuse that for anything other than shock and admiration that she’s become associated with a legend like Sorenstam.

“I would love to play with her one day!” Ko said. “That would be really cool. Just growing up I read some of her books and some of the videos we saw.

“I mean, she’s legendary, and everybody pretty much looked up to her.”

With another under-par round tomorrow, everyone will be looking up at Ko.

Lost but not found: Morgan Pressel was admittedly lost as she headed to the Singapore airport on her way to the States a month ago. She had finished in a tie for 46th in a 63-player field and wasn’t exactly sure where or why her game had gone awry. And as she headed back to the States to prepare for the West Coast Swing, she wasn’t entirely sure she knew how to get it back to where she wanted it.

“I was just kind of lost after Singapore this year. I knew where I wanted my swing to get but I was having trouble getting it there,” Pressel said.

So she turned to an old friend, calling up her old coach, Ron Stockton, and had him take a look. What he saw wasn’t the swing he used to know. She was getting the club too far inside on the way back and ripping it over the top to compensate. They’ve worked on getting her club more on plane on the way back and got her posture back to where it was. The backswing feels more outside and out in front of her, but she has seen the results immediately. She fired a second-round 64 to climb into the lead at the Kia Classic a week ago before finishing in a tie for 15th, and is atop the leaderboard heading into the second round here at the season’s first major.

“I have a lot less movement on my golf ball which has been helpful,” Pressel said. “Where I can now aim pretty much right down the center of the fairways. Really, honestly, I had no idea where the golf ball was going early this year, so it’s a big change.”

Shorter, not worse: The Dinah Shore Tournament Course has been historically known to suit long hitters off the tee, but Morgan Pressel and Ai Miyazato dispelled that idea on Thursday after the duo finished atop the leaderboard through the first 18 holes of the first major of the year. Pressel, who averages 243 yards off the tee and ranks 92nd on Tour, and Miyazato (244 yards, 86th) both said they think accuracy on this course trumps distance.

“I think for a long hitter out here who can take advantage of some of the par-5s, which is helpful, there are places no matter how hard you hit it, you’re behind a tree in a tough spot in a bunker,” said Pressel. “So I’ve always looked at this golf course as consistency as the tee. Yeah, Lexi hits it a long way, but if you watched her last year, she hit every fairway. So I think the big key out here is just keeping the ball in play. And knowing sometimes on some holes which side of the fairway you need to be on so you can hit and have a good angle through your approach shot.”

Miyazato agreed.

“I’m not a long hitter, not just this golf course, I think it’s a really good set-up, and it doesn’t matter the distance,” said Miyazato. “It’s all about position and where you are, wherever you hit, you are.”

Age is just a number: The morning wave of the ANA Inspiration was all about youth with 19-year-old Charley Hull shooting a 2-under 70 to lead the way and 17-year-old Lydia Ko continuing her impressive sub-par streak with a 1-under 71.
But leave it to 54-year-old Juli Inkster to show Thursday afternoon that age really doesn’t matter when it comes to shooting a low round at a major championship.

Inkster fired a 3-under 69 at Mission Hills and sits in a tie for third after the first round of the ANA Inspiration. A two-time winner of this event, Inkster is very familiar with this golf course and knows what it takes to win here. With her golf swing feeling good after some work earlier this week with her longtime instructor Mike McGetrick and the putter finally heating up, Inkster was able to put together a low number.

“I enjoy the game and I enjoy working at it,” Inkster said. “I like the process of it. But these girls are our future. You know, I’m just lucky I can still come out here and compete a little bit.”

Tied for the most major wins by an active players, Inkster would love nothing more than to add another one to her illustrious career. She came close to adding another victory to her resume last year at the U.S. Women’s Open, when she sat in a tie for third through three rounds. And it’s the set-up of major championship golf courses that makes Inkster feel like she can still compete in them.

“What I like about the majors is you don’t have to shoot 20-under or 18-under to win,” Inkster said. “If you can come in around par, 1, 2, 3-under and come Sunday you’ll have a shot. So that’s kind of why I like majors.”

Feels like home: Charley Hull was looking forward to returning to Rancho Mirage this week, the site of her debut in a professional golf event as a 15-year old amateur in 2012. The LPGA Tour rookie from England has good memories at Mission Hills Country Club and has played well in the championship in her first two appearances. She tied for 38th in her first go around in 2012 and then tied for seventh last year.

“It’s amazing because I first played this competition three years ago, and it was my first ever pro event and it was a major, and I was an amateur at the time because I had an invite,” said Hull. “I played a pretty good first round, and I finished like 30-something in the end. So it was pretty good. Then coming back last year was a lot of fun. Yeah, I do like this golf course. Who wouldn’t? The atmosphere around here is beautiful with the mountains and everything.”

Hull, who earned Category 17 status on the Priority List this year thanks to her T28 finish at Q School last December, has been playing well on the Ladies European Tour circuit to start off the 2015 season. A more compact swing from a coaching change since January has seemed to make the difference. She’s recorded three LET top-10s this season and tied for 7th at the LPGA/LET co-sanctioned ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in February.

She has liked the way her game has taken form and likes the way it sets up on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. She’s three shots off the leads and in a tie for seventh.

“I like everything. I like the way it’s laid out,” said Hull. “I like the greens because usually on a Sunday they get really quick, so you’ve got to be in the right positions on the green. So it’s good if you can stop the ball also because they can roll on coming on to the green. So if you spin it coming into the greens, you have a good chance for birdies.”

Hull already has a win on the LET (2014 Lalla Meryem Cup) and with a victory this week would become the fourth Rolex First-Time Winner in LPGA Tour history at the ANA Inspiration, joining Helen Alfredsson (1993), Nanci Brown (1995) and Morgan Pressel (2007).

Quotable: “It’s huge for Japan too because I’ve seen the ANA Airlines since when I was little, and it was always there when I would travel. It just felt very special especially for the Japanese players. For sure everyone is happy about it, and especially this tournament it has so much history, and I just really appreciate the ANA because they kept the traditions of this tournament. Just everything’s going well, and it’s a very happy thing.” – Ai Miyazato on the new title sponsor of the event, Japan-based All Nippon Airways

“She doesn’t seem to pay any attention to that kind of pressure. It’s pretty unbelievable to watch her play. Too much too soon? I don’t know. I was a cocky young kid who thought that I could win. I mean, I did. I think the time commitment that came after that, I don’t know if I was quite prepared for that, and I don’t know if I had been taught necessarily to say no enough.” – Morgan Pressel on comparing her early success to Lydia Ko’s

Scores

Pos. Player Scores Total Dif. Prize Money
1 Brittany Lincicome 72 - 68 - 70 - 69 279 -9 $375,000.00
2 Stacy Lewis 72 - 69 - 68 - 70 279 -9 $231,449.00
3 Morgan Pressel 67 - 72 - 71 - 70 280 -8 $167,900.00
4T Carlota Ciganda 74 - 71 - 68 - 68 281 -7 $106,653.00
4T Anna Nordqvist 71 - 72 - 69 - 69 281 -7 $106,653.00
4T Sei Young Kim 72 - 65 - 69 - 75 281 -7 $106,653.00
7 Lexi Thompson 72 - 69 - 71 - 70 282 -6 $71,595.00
8T Suzann Pettersen 76 - 68 - 72 - 67 283 -5 $56,812.00
8T Mi Hyang Lee 74 - 68 - 70 - 71 283 -5 $56,812.00
8T Shanshan Feng 71 - 70 - 70 - 72 283 -5 $56,812.00
11T Angela Stanford 72 - 69 - 76 - 67 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Karine Icher 74 - 72 - 70 - 68 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Hyo Joo Kim 71 - 74 - 70 - 69 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Christina Kim 73 - 70 - 72 - 69 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Catriona Matthew 71 - 69 - 74 - 70 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Inbee Park 74 - 69 - 70 - 71 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Mirim Lee 71 - 70 - 72 - 71 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Moriya Jutanugarn 71 - 70 - 70 - 73 284 -4 $37,606.00
11T Jenny Shin 71 - 69 - 71 - 73 284 -4 $37,606.00
20T Gerina Piller 75 - 72 - 73 - 65 285 -3 $26,632.00
20T Austin Ernst 70 - 75 - 74 - 66 285 -3 $26,632.00
20T Pernilla Lindberg 71 - 71 - 75 - 68 285 -3 $26,632.00
20T Stephanie Meadow 76 - 68 - 70 - 71 285 -3 $26,632.00
20T So Yeon Ryu 69 - 72 - 71 - 73 285 -3 $26,632.00
20T Ariya Jutanugarn 71 - 73 - 66 - 75 285 -3 $26,632.00
26T Danielle Kang 75 - 67 - 77 - 67 286 -2 $22,429.00
26T Paula Reto 74 - 73 - 70 - 69 286 -2 $22,429.00
26T Charley Hull 70 - 72 - 73 - 71 286 -2 $22,429.00
29T Mika Miyazato 74 - 73 - 73 - 67 287 -1 $18,754.00
29T Eun-Hee Ji 73 - 70 - 74 - 70 287 -1 $18,754.00
29T Amy Yang 71 - 72 - 73 - 71 287 -1 $18,754.00
29T Na Yeon Choi 70 - 72 - 74 - 71 287 -1 $18,754.00
29T Ilhee Lee 76 - 68 - 70 - 73 287 -1 $18,754.00
29T Karrie Webb 74 - 72 - 67 - 74 287 -1 $18,754.00
35T Paula Creamer 76 - 69 - 73 - 70 288 E $14,657.00
35T Ayako Uehara 72 - 73 - 72 - 71 288 E $14,657.00
35T Q Baek 76 - 70 - 70 - 72 288 E $14,657.00
35T Brittany Lang 73 - 72 - 70 - 73 288 E $14,657.00
35T Alison Lee 71 - 71 - 73 - 73 288 E $14,657.00
35T Teresa Lu 76 - 69 - 69 - 74 288 E $14,657.00
41T Cristie Kerr 75 - 70 - 75 - 69 289 1 $11,683.00
41T Ai Miyazato 68 - 74 - 78 - 69 289 1 $11,683.00
41T Sakura Yokomine 73 - 72 - 74 - 70 289 1 $11,683.00
41T In Gee Chun 71 - 74 - 72 - 72 289 1 $11,683.00
41T Ha Na Jang 72 - 72 - 71 - 74 289 1 $11,683.00
46T Jennifer Song 73 - 74 - 75 - 68 290 2 $9,630.00
46T Caroline Hedwall 75 - 67 - 76 - 72 290 2 $9,630.00
46T Katherine Kirk 76 - 70 - 71 - 73 290 2 $9,630.00
46T Sandra Gal 75 - 68 - 74 - 73 290 2 $9,630.00
46T Pat Hurst 71 - 71 - 70 - 78 290 2 $9,630.00
51T Mina Harigae 76 - 71 - 75 - 69 291 3 $7,983.00
51T Mo Martin 74 - 72 - 73 - 72 291 3 $7,983.00
51T Lydia Ko 71 - 73 - 74 - 73 291 3 $7,983.00
51T Haeji Kang 71 - 74 - 72 - 74 291 3 $7,983.00
51T I.K. Kim 75 - 70 - 71 - 75 291 3 $7,983.00
51T Marina Alex 73 - 71 - 69 - 78 291 3 $7,983.00
57T Jodi Ewart Shadoff 74 - 73 - 73 - 72 292 4 $6,445.00
57T Michelle Wie 73 - 73 - 74 - 72 292 4 $6,445.00
57T Meena Lee 71 - 73 - 74 - 74 292 4 $6,445.00
57T Maria Hernandez 74 - 70 - 73 - 75 292 4 $6,445.00
57T Wei Ling Hsu 73 - 70 - 74 - 75 292 4 $6,445.00
57T Katie Burnett 72 - 71 - 74 - 75 292 4 $6,445.00
57T Caroline Masson 72 - 73 - 71 - 76 292 4 $6,445.00
64T Juli Inkster 69 - 75 - 77 - 72 293 5 $5,702.00
64T Mariajo Uribe 74 - 73 - 73 - 73 293 5 $5,702.00
64T Pornanong Phatlum 72 - 72 - 75 - 74 293 5 $5,702.00
67T Amy Anderson 74 - 70 - 77 - 73 294 6 $5,450.00
67T Haley Moore 73 - 74 - 73 - 74 294 6 $0.00
69T Lee-Anne Pace 77 - 69 - 76 - 73 295 7 $5,195.00
69T Candie Kung 72 - 75 - 73 - 75 295 7 $5,195.00
69T Kris Tamulis 74 - 72 - 72 - 77 295 7 $5,195.00
72 Mi Jung Hur 75 - 72 - 78 - 71 296 8 $5,006.00
73 Thidapa Suwannapura 74 - 73 - 74 - 76 297 9 $4,941.00
CUT Minjee Lee 76 - 72 148 4 $0.00
CUT Ji Young Oh 76 - 72 148 4 $0.00
CUT Sun Young Yoo 76 - 72 148 4 $0.00
CUT Kelly Shon 75 - 73 148 4 $0.00
CUT Laura Davies 74 - 74 148 4 $0.00
CUT Amelia Lewis 74 - 74 148 4 $0.00
CUT Yueer Cindy Feng 73 - 75 148 4 $0.00
CUT Andrea Lee 73 - 75 148 4 $0.00
CUT Belen Mozo 73 - 75 148 4 $0.00
CUT Alison Walshe 69 - 79 148 4 $0.00
CUT Chella Choi 77 - 72 149 5 $0.00
CUT Kim Kaufman 77 - 72 149 5 $0.00
CUT Sarah Jane Smith 77 - 72 149 5 $0.00
CUT Jennifer Johnson 76 - 73 149 5 $0.00
CUT Alena Sharp 76 - 73 149 5 $0.00
CUT Jessica Korda 75 - 74 149 5 $0.00
CUT Se Ri Pak 75 - 74 149 5 $0.00
CUT Paz Echeverria 74 - 75 149 5 $0.00
CUT Beatriz Recari 74 - 75 149 5 $0.00
CUT Dewi Claire Schreefel 74 - 75 149 5 $0.00
CUT Gwladys Nocera 69 - 80 149 5 $0.00
CUT Jane Park 78 - 72 150 6 $0.00
CUT Yoon Kyung Heo 77 - 73 150 6 $0.00
CUT Tiffany Joh 76 - 74 150 6 $0.00
CUT Lizette Salas 75 - 75 150 6 $0.00
CUT Nelly Korda 77 - 74 151 7 $0.00
CUT Haru Nomura 76 - 75 151 7 $0.00
CUT Hee Young Park 75 - 76 151 7 $0.00
CUT Jee Young Lee 74 - 77 151 7 $0.00
CUT Yani Tseng 74 - 78 152 8 $0.00
CUT Laura Diaz 78 - 75 153 9 $0.00
CUT Julieta Granada 77 - 76 153 9 $0.00
CUT P.K. Kongkraphan 76 - 77 153 9 $0.00
CUT Mika Liu 77 - 77 154 10 $0.00
CUT Sydnee Michaels 72 - 82 154 10 $0.00
CUT Bethany Wu 81 - 74 155 11 $0.00
CUT Dori Carter 75 - 80 155 11 $0.00
CUT Celine Boutier 81 - 75 156 12 $0.00
CUT Jaye Marie Green 80 - 76 156 12 $0.00
CUT Giulia Sergas 80 - 76 156 12 $0.00
CUT Amy Alcott 82 - 82 164 20 $0.00
WDC Xiyu Lin 72 72 E $0.00

 

Preview

DATES:  April 02-05
SITE:  Mission Hills Country Club, California
PRIZE MONEY: 2,500,000
Click here for tournament stats & info

New intro, same person: Lexi Thompson took a celebratory leap into Poppie’s Pond – and subsequently golf history - a year ago here at Mission Hills, becoming the second youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history. The achievement changed the way Thompson is announced on the first tee, adding major champion to her intro. It also meant she had added plans to her tournament agenda this year with an invitation to the champion’s dinner on Monday, but largely she remains unchanged, she says.

“I’m still the same person, but winning the ANA Inspiration has given me so much confidence,” Thompson said. “Just even coming back to the tournament I remember the shots I hit every day, and it brings back so many great memories. But going into every tournament, I go in with extra confidence now knowing I’ve won this one.”

While Thompson says she’s the same as last year, this championship has evolved. The 2015 edition comes with a new name – the ANA Inspiration – but the history of this championship remains the same. The winner on Sunday will still jump into Poppie’s Pond and will be donned with the iconic white robe on the 18th green Sunday.

“This tournament has so many traditions. Whether it’s jumping into Poppie’s Pond, putting that robe on after you jump into the pond, there are so many traditions and so much history behind this tournament,” Thompson said. “I think that’s what makes this tournament so special and inspirational is that. But just the past champions that have won it, like I said, have been huge role models to me. I’ve always looked up to them. It was very important to keep this tradition going at this tournament here at Mission Hills. We’re very grateful for ANA coming in and picking up the tournament and keeping that tradition going.”

Annika Sorenstam is the only player to defend at this championship (2001-2002), but Thompson feels like her game is in a place to potentially do so this week. She finished in a tie for 10th last week at the Kia Classic and feels like if she’s in contention on Sunday that she’ll be more comfortable there after last year’s final-round triumph.

“It’s something I really learned when I first turned professional, and I struggled a few Sundays when I had the lead or was close to it. I just got really quick and just everything, my routine was quick. I didn’t really focus on that, and that’s huge,” Thompson said. “It’s important to just slow down everything and take your time, breathe, and just focus on doing your routine before every show.”

Race for the RAMA starts here: The second-year of the race for the ANNIKA Rolex Major Award will start this week in the desert. Michelle Wie, the award’s inaugural winner last year, said getting a good start in the points standings is definitely on her mind. Wie was runner-up here last year and won the U.S. Women’s Open to win the award by eight points over Inbee Park.

“It was a really great honor. Just such a prestigious award with Annika’s name on it,” said Wie. “If you think about the past and what she’s done in the majors and how consistently well she’s played and how many majors she’s actually won, it’s amazing that I can win such an award. It was really great, and definitely it’s in the back of my mind for this year, especially this being the first major of the year. It’s definitely something you think about for sure.”

Wie was asked on Tuesday how she ranks certain accomplishments and whether she would win majors or earn other awards. The four-time LPGA Tour winner said she’s at the point in her career where she’ll be happy with a win in any form.

“I’ll take anything (laughing). I’m not picky at all,” said Wie. “For me I think the most important thing is I want to give myself the best chance every week, whether it’s a major or not. There is that added extra pressure that you want to win the majors, especially in tournaments like these which have so much history.”

Rolex rankings scenarios:
The fight at the top of the Rolex Rankings continues this week in the desert with Inbee Park being the only player to have a chance to unseat Lydia Ko at No. 1. Here are the scenarios:

Inbee Park would become No. 1 if:
• She wins AND Lydia Ko finishes in a tie for third or worse.
• She wins AND Ko finishes in a five-way tie for second
• She finishes solo second and Lydia finishes 33rd (not counting any ties) or worse

Embracing her role: For Lexi Thompson, the blessings that professional golf have brought to her life go beyond the money or the fame. It’s beyond being able to travel the world, experiencing different cultures while playing a game she loves. All those are blessings, but the real blessing is the smiles.

“I think the biggest thing that I enjoy the most is just putting a smile on people’s faces that watch me play,” Thompson said. “ I’m a part of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program now and an ambassador for that. It’s incredible to see how much the game is growing on the women’s side and to see all the little girls growing up in the game at such a young age, it’s amazing to see.

“But just the amount of fans that we get at our tournaments now, it’s incredible. Even on practice rounds we have people out here watching us, and always supporting us and cheering us on between holes. There is nothing like that feeling, getting rooted on by fans. It’s the best.”

Part of the growth of the women’s game is because of players like Thompson. They embrace their role in pushing the game forward and do their part to bring young girls into it. The results speak for themselves in recent years. The LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program has grown from 4,500 participants in 2010 to 50,000 girls that will be introduced to the game in 2015. Thompson, for her part, might sign more autographs than any other player on recent year. And her selfies taken with fans quotas is up there as well.

“I love taking pictures and signing autographs. No matter what I shoot, I stay for every autograph and every picture because the fans took time out of their lives and watched me come out and play bad golf sometimes,” Thompson said.
“So why not take extra time and sign their autographs, take their pictures? It means the world to them. It doesn’t mat­ter what you shoot. You’re a role model to them. So take the time and stay with them, take pictures.”

Let's get it started:
ANA officials were on site at the ANA Inspiration on Tuesday to officially kick-off the first major of the year with a traditional Japanese ceremony, a kagami-baraki. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and defending champion Lexi Thompson assisted in breaking a barrel of sake open as a symbol of opening to harmony and good fortune. The ceremony signified the new era for the championship with a new sponsor, new journey for ANA together with the LPGA.

“The first time I met ANA I knew we had the right partner, because what they asked me is how can we build on the traditions that already exist?” said Mike Whan. “A lot of partners will ask how do we create new traditions, but few ask how do we build on the traditions that already exist?

“I asked them for two things. No. 1, Dinah Shore, let’s play for the Dinah Shore Trophy, let’s play on the Dinah Shore Championship course, let’s play on Dinah Shore Drive, let’s continue to play with and for Dinah Shore,” Whan added. “That was about a 30-second conversation when they said we completely agree. I knew we were onto something special. The second thing we challenged them with is the robe. We really feel like the robe, just like the leap in Poppie’s Pond has become something truly special. And we wanted the robe to continue to grow just like the tradition of the leap. From there, the ANA executives said we’ve got it. Let us take it from there and take this tradition to a whole new level.”
The ceremony also included the unveiling of the new and improved champions robe. ANA will now use renowned and luxury towel company, the Imabari Towel Company, to annually create the robe which now features blue stripes and new tournament logo. ANA were inspired by the tournament’s sense of history and tradition to produce an upgraded robe ‘fitting for the new champion’ in partnership with the renowned Imabari Towel brand – a Japanese trademark symbol of the highest quality.

“ANA is very excited and humbled to partner this wonderful championship,” said Takashi Shiki, Executive Vice Presi­dent, Marketing & Sales, CS & Products Services at All Nippon Airways. “To be associated with its unique history and tradition is a true honor for our organization. We respect and value all that this event represents as the leading event in ladies golf worldwide and we hope even more people can be inspired by the golf on display this week.”

Inspired by it all:
Twenty-two past champions gathered at the Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage on Monday night for the ANA Inspiration Champions Dinner. The collection of Hall of Famers and current stars was a who’s who in women’s golf and the conversation of the night turned to who inspired them to become a champion of this major. Defending champ Lexi Thompson spoke about how fellow winners Nancy Lopez and Juli Inkster have mentored her and mo­tivated her to becoming the player she is today.

“It was a huge honor being there last night,” said Thompson. “Be­ing inducted into the champions club of the tournament is a huge honor. But to be there last night with all the past champions and just to be in a room full of inspirational and role models, I’ve always looked up to Nancy Lopez, especially, and it’s just, it was a special night. I had my mom there to be there with me last night, and it was a dream of mine. Hopefully I’ll get a few more wins here and keep on showing up at a champions dinner.”

Six more years for Whan:
The LPGA today announced the contract extension of LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan through 2020. Under Whan’s leadership over the past five years, the LPGA has seen increases and improvements in numerous areas of the business:

• A 50% increase in purse money, up to $60M from $40M increase in official events from 23 to 33
• From 200 hours of TV coverage per year with the majority tape-delayed to 400 hours of coverage with more than 90% live
• Addition of new mega-events: Race to the CME Glove, UL International Crown, Founders Cup, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, sponsorship of the ANA Inspiration, televised Rolex Awards Celebration, addition/return of locations such as the Bahamas, Hawaii, Naples, NYC, Australia

“I was honored to be asked,” said Whan. “I always say in board meetings I’m proud to be part of this crazy family, because that is what it is. It’s kind of a crazy traveling family. I feel like I’m part of the family, and I feel like we’ve got a long way to go. I’ve said many times I don’t want to be remembered as the team that brought us from 23 to 33 events. That seems incredibly underwhelming and unfulfilling. It just seems there is a lot more we can do. A lot more we have done. I think some of the stuff we’ve done outside of the Tour is just as exciting as what is going on with purses and tournaments. “

Key numbers to know:
19-under - tournament scoring record held Dottie Pepper in 1999
2001 and 2002 - years that Annika Sorenstam became the only player to defend her title at this event
3 - out of the last four years the winner has been a first-time major winner
62 – low scoring record set by Lorena Ochoa in the first round in 2006
30- Juli Inkster will extend her record of starts made to 30 this week
26 – cuts made by Juli Inkster at this event
11 – Top-10s by Karrie Webb at this event
1 - number of defending champions who have missed the cut (Sun Young Yoo in 2013)
8 – Most top-five finishes by one player here is by Karrie Webb with 8
10 – Largest margin of victory was by Karrie Webb here in 2000

Quotable: “I’m not a big fan of status quo, so I wouldn’t say any of those five do we want to say we’re there. This event will get bigger and better. I have zero doubt about that. Let’s talk in June how great the first KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is. But knowing both of those partners, they won’t allow ‘16 to be the same as ‘15. I think Evian championship is only going to get better each year knowing how much stuff we’ve changed in the course of that transition. So I don’t worry so much about the financial stability of those events. But I said this in a player meeting in Ocala, I’m not going to leave with our five majors being exactly the same when I leave as they are today. I feel like that’s a commitment any commissioner has to make to his players.” – Mike Whan on the future status of the Tour’s five major championships

“That’s very good. I wish I had that (laughing). I got to play with her last week, and it’s just incredible. Her game is very consis­tent. There is not a weakness in her game. She’s very straight off the tee, and has a great short game. You can’t ask for any­thing better than that. But it’s great to play with her because she has a great attitude on the golf course, and probably the best tempo I’ve ever seen on a golf swing or a putting stroke. So it’s good to see what she’s doing. I hope all the best for her.”
– Lexi Thompson on Lydia Ko’s recent streak of 28 consecutive sub-par rounds

Forever and ever: Lydia Ko’s age has likely never shone through a media interview more than it did on Wednesday at the ANA Inspiration. Asked about her current 28-consecutive sub-par round streak, Ko referenced Taylor Swift song lyrics and counting sushi rolls instead of sub-par rounds. The precocious 17-year old from New Zealand said she wasn’t aware of the historic run she’s making until television broadcast talent brought it up last week in San Diego. Her coach, David Leadbetter gave her a trick to not over think her chance at history.

“Yeah, forever and ever. It’s like a lyric off a Taylor Swift song,” said Ko. “Yeah, 28 consecutive rounds under par, I wasn’t really counting until Golf Channel told me that was going on, and yeah, I’ve been just trying to have fun out there, and David keeps telling me don’t worry about the record, just think of it as how many sushis can you have, and he said, I’ve had 28 right now. Hopefully we can continue that on.”

Ko’s amazing play has been the talk of the Tour this year since her ascension to the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings after the season-opening Coates Golf Championship. She said she’s becoming more in tune with how much attention her accomplishments are getting and the more she hears it being talked about, the more likely she’ll have it in the back of her mind.

“Obviously because I’m so close, it will be at the back of my mind because there’s been so much talk about it,” Ko said. “I’m sure that thought is going to come up within those 18 holes, but I’m just going to try and have fun.

“I’m going to be concentrating on that moment, and at the end of the day, my goal is to try and play well for this week. If I break the record or if I tie it or if I don’t break it, I’m so happy that I can get so close to it even. No, I’m sure I’ll be thinking about it in some way, but I think it’s just going to be hard enough trying to concentrate on that putt going in the hole.”

Always in the hunt: It has been no surprise to see Stacy Lewis’ name near the top of the leaderboards in every event on the LPGA’s schedule so far in 2015 but the queen of consistency hasn’t won since last June at the Tour’s stop in Arkansas. She’s come very close so many times since then with nine top-10’s and four runner-ups. Asked if she has any frustration about the close calls, the Texan had no hesitation in saying so.

“Oh, yeah, totally,” said Lewis. “Knowing just me and my personality, there’s frustration. I felt Phoenix was tough, just because I felt like I played well enough that final round to win a golf tournament, and she just played a little bit better. There’s definitely frustration, but there’s also -- I’ve done so many good things that I can’t be frustrated coming into this week. You know, those tournaments are done, they’re over with, and it’s on to the next.”

Lewis has had a terrific record at Mission Hills Country Club. In seven starts here, she’s recorded four top-5 finishes including a third-place finish last year. When it was pointed out to her that her final-round scoring average was the best among all four rounds, Lewis didn’t sound shocked, more pleased. It would be no surprise to see the American in the mix come Sunday.

“I like that, yes,” said Lewis. “I think in a major you learn the golf course every day a little bit better. But I love being in contention on Sundays in majors. That’s where you want to be. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve played my best golf then. I don’t know what to attribute it to. I don’t know what it is, but I think you should. In theory you should be playing your best golf by the end of the week because you should be learning the golf course as the week goes on.”

Less than perfection good enough for Park: Inbee Park’s historic three-major stretch – one of the greatest in golf history – began here at the ANA Inspiration.

Park recalled among a stretch that also included wins at the U.S. Women’s Open and Wegmans LPGA Championship that it was here in Rancho Mirage where the world got to see her best golf.

“That week my game was nearly perfect,” Park said. “I mean, some weeks I get my game to that level, and even this year, as well, but that year, that week in 2013 my game was perfect. Right now I don’t think I’m as good as that right now. I think I will get to that point sometime this year.”

Of Park’s 13 Tour wins, she felt like her game was the best here and then earlier this year during her win at the 2015 HSBC Women’s Champions. She can still win without the perfect game, she says, but needs an exemplary week in one of the four phases of the game – driving, iron play, chipping or putting.

“I definitely played the best at this tournament in 2013 and probably the worst at Wegmans, but I putted really good,” Park said. “I’ve won tournaments without the perfect game before.”

Although Park felt she had that perfect game only a month prior in Singapore, she didn’t see it last week in her return to the States at the Kia Classic. And she even had a four-putt, which she said was the first time that’s happened in two or three years.

She still finished fifth. That’s how good Park is these days. If she’s far off of her prime in 2013, the disparity is minimal, and Park’s hoping it’s enough to recreate a feeling she’ll remember forever.

“I think this tournament ANA Inspiration is about the history, and I think everybody really – this is one of the tournaments that really everybody wants to win,” Park said. “And I think jumping into Poppie’s Pond is very special for everyone, and looking at every past champions going in the pond, you want to be in there. I know exactly how it feels because I’ve done that before. I know how good it feels. I think that’s what makes this tournament special.”

Poppie's pond redemption: Stacy Lewis made the leap into Poppie’s Pond after her first major win in 2011 alongside her caddie, sister and parents. Asked if she would change up anything about her jump, Lewis said she’s a bit superstitious when it comes to thinking about celebrations ahead of time.

“I don’t know, you don’t think about the jump because you don’t want to jinx yourself,” said Lewis. “It’s one of those spur of the moment things. I know my mom would have to jump again because she needs to redeem herself. That’s the part of it I’ve thought about, but you definitely don’t think about it because I don’t want to jinx anything.”

Lewis’ own leap was outshined by her mom, Carol, who ended up fracturing a bone in her leg when she landed in the pond. Lewis said she and her mom have had the conversation about giving the jump another shot and this time escaping without any injuries.

“Oh, yeah, she already knows she’s going,” said Lewis. “Oh, I think she’s ready to redeem herself, too, because she’s tired of being the one that broke her foot in the pond. I think she’s ready to redeem herself.”

Blue & improved: World No. 3 Stacy Lewis didn’t know what to expect when she pulled into Mission Hills Country Club earlier this week. But the 2011 champion immediately new that the first major of the year had entered a new era.

“When I first drove up, I actually was -- I was shocked about the blue tents and the blue everywhere really,” said Lewis. “You come to this event the last few years and we’ve seen red with Kraft Nabisco. I was afraid coming to this event everybody would be calling it the old names and everything like that, but as soon as I came on property this was the ANA Inspiration. It didn’t even feel like the old sponsor. That was actually my initial thought when I came here.”

In addition to the rebranding of the championship, there will be several other changes to the spectator experience too. Fans will have the unique opportunity to “upgrade” their tickets to the 18th green suites by visiting the ANA exhibit in the fan zone. Ticket holders who tweet a photo sitting in the ANA business class seats at the Fan Zone using the tags @ANAinspiration, @FlyANA_Official and #ANAinspiration will be entered to win one-day upgrades to the hospitality suites adjacent to the 18th green.

Key numbers to know:
486 – LPGA victories among the 115 player field this week
4 - runner-up finishes by Stacy Lewis since her last victory in June of 2014 at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
$2.5 million – total purse this week, up $500,000 from last year
24 – countries represented in this year’s field
18 - age of youngest champion, Morgan Pressel, in 2007. Lydia Ko could become the youngest this week at age 17
16 - age of ANA Inspiration Junior Challenge winner and youngest player in the field, Haley Moore of Encidido, Calif.

Quotable: “I don’t think motivation. I think we have lost the last two, and we’ve got to find a way to maybe dig a little deeper and play a little harder. For me so far, as Carin says, it’s the day-to-day stuff, the little piddly stuff, like menus. Just give them some food and let them go out there and play, or outfits or gifts, all that little stuff. That was really never huge on my list. I just couldn’t wait to get my bag and get out there and play. Maybe we need to get back to just playing golf and see where that takes us.” – Juli Inkster on her motivational tactics for the U.S. Solheim Cup Team

“Gosh, Poppies Pond, I think it’s the greatest celebration in golf. I really do. I think it’s something that as a little kid you see these players just so genuinely excited, acting like you. They’re acting like a little kid, just jumping in a pond. I think it’s something that everybody can relate to, everybody can -- they just genuinely see how excited you are, which I don’t think you always see in golf.” – Stacy Lewis on the tradition of leaping into Poppie’s Pond

Rounding into form: For a month there, Juli Inkster had to be watching her United States Solheim Cup team with her eyes closed. After opening the season with four in the top-10 in back-to-back events at the Coates Championship and Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, Inkster’s Americans seemed to go on hiatus with only four top-10s combined in the next four events. Three of them were by Stacy Lewis.

However, Inkster started to see a return to form last week at the Kia Classic with the first American winner of the 2015 season – Cristie Kerr – and eight Americans in the top-15, tying the most at an event this season.

“Well, my team is rounding into form. The last couple weeks they’ve played well,” Inkster said.

Inkster hasn’t seen as much movement among the standings as she thought she might to start 2015 but has her eye on a couple of young players that are trying to fight their way on the team. She’s noticed a couple players that are playing well – Austin Ernst, Kim Kaufman, and Alison Lee – but the only player inside the top 12 that wasn’t on the 2013 team is Mo Martin currently. But only 10 guarantee entry, a daunting fact for Inkster who would prefer to just take the 12 that earn their way.

“It’s kind of a wimpy way out because then I don’t have to make anybody mad or anything, I just take the 12 and go play,” Inkster said.

European captain Carin Koch actually has four captain’s picks to make, and although she’s not looking forward to the day she has to inform the players who didn’t make it, she actually embraces the chance to make the picks so she can ensure the personalities all fit.

“You get a chance to pick people that you know are going to work with a lot of the players, and they’re going to be able to play with a lot of the players,” Koch said. “It’s not only stats and who makes more birdies and who plays well, it’s also a lot of personality that goes into the picks.”





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