Words by Jason Butler – BGB
The desert heat of Rancho Mirage lies in wait for the LPGA Tour as the world’s best contest the second Major of an abridged 2020 campaign, the ANA Inspiration. While the defending champion Jin Young Ko has decided against making the journey over from Korea to the States due to COVID-19 protocols, compatriot Sung Hyun Park will make her first start since lockdown. She will be joined at the Mission Hills layout by eight of the Rolex Rankings top ten, and with temperatures set to hit 115 degrees, it promises to be hot on and off the course.

THE LINKS:
Desmond Muirhead designed the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, and the layout opened to the paying public in 1971. The feature hole is the 18th which measures a monstrous 646 yards. The par-five tests all facets of the players game, length off the tee, then accuracy off the fairway to find the island green, built into the famed Poppie’s Pond. Since 1988 – when Amy Alcott launched herself into the waters – the pond has become a welcome relief from the blazing hot temperatures for champions. The layout measures 6,763 yards this week and plays to a par of 72.

Jin Young Ko
 Jin Young Ko

DEFENDING:
Jin Young Ko carded a closing 70 overcome the challenge of compatriot Mi Hyang Lee by a three shot margin and secure a second Major title. The current world number one has decided against defending this week due to the COVID travel protocols. American Lexi Thompson shot an impressive five-under 67 to take third spot on six-under par, one shot clear of Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and Korea’s In-Kyung Kim.

PRIZE:
Purse – $3,100,000 (THB97,300,000)

ONES TO WATCH:
Californian Daniel Kang will be hoping that home state advantage will help bounce her back into the form that made her one of the Tour’s hottest properties post-lockdown. She recorded two wins and a tie for fifth in the first three weeks of August, but since then has struggled, finishing 49th and 32nd in her last two outings. A top-ten finish at last year’s event shows a liking for the Mission Hills layout.

Sei Young Kim has been somewhat conspicuous by her absence on Tour this season having only teed it up in three events so far this campaign. But she has posted top-ten finishes in all three, most recently a tie for fifth at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. The Korean player is still searching for a break-through Major victory and could be one to watch this week.

Another player looking for a maiden Major is Aussie Minjee Lee. She went close at the first Major of the season – the AIA Women’s Open – and has strong form at this event. The 24-year-old finished in 21st spot at last year’s event and was tied in third in 2017. Consistent form has seen her make cuts in all seven events played this campaign.

THAI PLAYERS:
Ariya Jutanugarn
Jasmine Suwannapura
Moriya Jutanugarn
Pornanong Phatlum
Pajaree Anannarukarn
Patty Tavatanakit

LOW SCORES: 
Dottie Pepper (1999) holds the tournament record of 19-under-par 269