KO BACK FOR MORE
Lydia Ko’s journey to the first major championship on the LPGA Tour this season has been a good one with four top-10 finishes and one victory in five starts.
The win last week at the Kia Classic was her 11th career LPGA victory and moved her to 42nd on the official career wins list joining Shirley Englehorn with 11 wins and 1 major championship.
Not even 19 years of age, Ko has spent 42 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world.
“I can’t believe it’s already been six months since our last major, and I know I’m obviously really looking forward to this week,” Ko said. “It just goes by so fast, and especially being the first major of the year you kind of want to put yourself in the right position going for the next few majors too.”
Lydia Ko’s Finishes at ANA Inspiration
- 2015: T51
- 2014: T29
- 2013: T25*
*earned low amateur honors
HUNTING FOR THAT NO. 1 SPOT
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Lexi Thompson is currently the top-ranked American on the LPGA Tour, but her ultimate goal is to be No. 1 in the world.
From a statistical perspective, she leads the tour in average driving distance (258.8 yards) and greens in regulation (83.1%) and is shooting 70 percent of her rounds under par.
Over the last 10 months, Thompson said that she “has played very consistent overall, a lot of top 10 finishes and a few wins. I’ve just been working on the mental side of golf and being more positive on the course. With the off-season, I just worked a lot on the short game.”
As someone who has already jumped into Poppie’s Pond in 2014, she knows the amount of attention and detail it takes to win a major championship.
“I’m pretty tired at the end of the day, but that’s golf,” said Thompson. “You just have to learn to let it go and go into the next shot or the next hole and just forget about it.”
Lexi Thompson’s Finishes at ANA Inspiration
- 2015: T10
- 2014: Win
- 2013: T48
- 2012: T22
- 2010: T24
- 2009: T21
KNOWS WHAT’S COMING
Brooke Henderson comes into the year’s first major riding a wave of confidence and a game to support it after posting five top-10 finishes in her first six starts of the 2016 season. Henderson, who is making her second appearance at the ANA Inspiration, said that her debut as an amateur in 2014 helped her understand what to expect. She tied for 24th in her first appearance at Mission Hills two years ago and was just a stroke off sharing low amateur honors with Minjee Lee.
“I think coming into this week I kind of knew more what the atmosphere was like,” said Henderson. “Kind of knew what more to expect, which I think has really helped. My confidence level is definitely up a little bit from being the No. 6 ranked amateur to the No. 7 ranked pro in the world. It’s definitely a little bit of a difference.”
“But those memories that I made two years ago have really prepared me for this week,” said Henderson. “I was so excited to get here. It’s been something that I’ve been really looking forward to over the last couple months, even, to get here to Dinah Shore and get to play this course.”
The Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills sets up for the teenager’s power game but she thinks the key will be accuracy off the tee. Henderson currently ranks 13th on Tour in average driving distance (269.854 yards).
“I think hitting fairways is definitely key,” said Henderson. “I’m normally a pretty straight driver of the ball which I think will be helpful. You’ve just really got to play smart here. There are a lot of holes that can jump up and bite you or you can make birdies if you’re playing well and hitting it to the right spots.”
Henderson has exploded onto the professional scene since turning pro in December 2014. She started last season in 2015 ranked No. 202 in the Rolex Rankings and ascended to No. 18 by the start of the 2016 season. The 18-year old has moved up to No. 7 in the world after a strong start this year and says she’s getting all the more comfortable with being a regular in front of the media.
“Yeah, a little bit. If you play well and you get to the big stage, you hope to have things like this come along with it,” said Henderson. “I think being in a top amateur, top junior, you kind of get ready with the media, and then the better you play, the more practice you get. I’m really enjoying it up here, and hopefully I’ll be up here for the next four days.”
Brooke Henderson’s Best Career Major Finishes
- ANA Inspiration* 2014: T26
- KPMG Women’s PGA Championship 2015: T5
- U.S. Women’s Open 2015: T5
- RICOH Women’s British Open 2015: T61
- The Evian Championship 2015: T25
*as an amateur
OLYMPIC GLORY RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER
After more than 100 years, golf will return to the 2016 Summer Olympics for a third time in the sport’s history.
Shanshan Feng and Sandra Gal joined LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin and International Golf Federation Executive Director Antony Scanlon for a press conference at the first major of the season, to discuss golf taking center stage this summer.
Feng, who is currently the top-ranked player from China, mentioned that she has been looking forward to participating in the Olympics since the announcement took place seven years ago.
“I’m really happy that golf is back in the Olympics,” said Feng. “But, also excited at the same time be-cause I’m really excited to meet all the other athletes like Missy. We only see golfers like each other, but now maybe I’ll get a chance to see male golfers like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.”
Gal, who is currently the top-ranked player from Germany in the Rolex Rankings, echoed Feng’s sentiment and added, “We’re lucky to be in this position to experience the Olympic Games for golf where it’s going to feel like it’s going to be the first time.”
The women’s event, which will be held on August 17-20, will feature a 60 player field with the top 15 in the Rolex Rankings automatically qualifying with a maximum of four players qualifying for a single country. The remaining 45 spots will be based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two players from each country.
Franklin, who made her Olympics debut in London in 2012, provided some advice for the golfers and others who end up making it to Rio de Janeiro.
“I think first and foremost the amount of attention any Olympic sports gets. Being out there, being able to compete for your country on an Olympic stage when there’s billions of people watching, it’s an in-credible feeling,” Franklin said. “That is the best part about it. It’s going to give you such a big platform to inspire.”
“They have to do exactly what they’ve done their whole careers which is just do your best and have fun,” Franklin added.
As the game of golf continues to grow and evolve, Alcott spoke to the honor of being able to help de-sign and build a world-class golf course for the Olympics. Alcott assisting the Gil Hanse designed course which made its competitive debut earlier this month at the test event.
“It’s been a labor of love,” said Alcott. “We’ve built it from the ground up. We had a beautiful piece of land, and I think we’ve built something that’s very challenging for all levels of golfers and really will be left in perpetuity for a generation of young Brazilians to really learn about the game and play the game.”
“I mean, last week was probably the most solid I’ve hit to what I can remember. But in saying that I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, so there goes my memory.”
-Lydia Ko on whether her ball striking is the best is has ever been in her career
“The Canadian support is unbelievable. When I go home and even every week out on Tour I see big Canadian flags, I see the support all around me, and it’s awesome. But I’m building fans in all different countries and including the U.S.”
-Brooke Henderson on her rising star power
KEY NUMBERS TO KNOW1 – Annika Sorenstam is the only player to win this major in back-to-back years (2001 and 2002)
2 – Ha Na Jang and Minjee Lee have each hit a hole-in-one on a par-4 this year; the first two players in history to do so
5 – The last five winners at this major have all come from the United States or South Korea
8 – Eight former champions will be competing this week at the ANA Inspiration which includes Rolex Rankings No. 2 Inbee Park, No. 3 Lexi Thompson and No. 4 Stacy Lewis
21 – Americans have won 21 of the 33 times this major has been contested at Mission Hills Country Club since 1983
126 – Haru Nomura has made 126 birdies through seven tournaments this year and is on pace to eclipse last season’s birdie record of 407 set by Stacy Lewis
130 – This season’s tournament winners have shot a combined 130 under par through seven events; 20 strokes better than 2015 winning scores