MISSION HILLS: OLSON’S HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Amy Olson (-7) has the lowest score of any American player through 36 holes at the 2018 ANA Inspiration in just her second career appearance in the event (T67 in 2015). However, to think that Olson hasn’t spent much time at Mission Hills could be misleading.
“I played Q-school out here, I’ve played some smaller events and then this is where I stay when I train in like January, February,” said Olson, who finished T9 at 2013 LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage I on this property. “I actually stay in the complex here, so I come out here in the evenings and just chip and putt on the greens of the tournament course, so I’ve gotten to know some of the different deceptive areas.”
Olson could be poised for a career-changing result this week. The Rolex Rankings No. 218 player has two career top-10 finishes in 87 LPGA starts, with her best result being T7 at the 2014 LPGA Lotte Championship. Her career-best finish in a major championship is T52 at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open.
TALKING ABOUT THEIR GENERATION
England’s Charley Hull and Jodi Ewart Shadoff both climbed their way up the leaderboard on Friday at the ANA Inspiration. Ewart Shadoff fired a 5-under 67 while Hull a carded 4-under 68, and both find themselves tied for fourth at 7-under par heading into the weekend at the season’s first major championship.
Ewart Shadoff’s 67 on Friday was a career-best mark for the event as is her 36-hole score of 137, and she said the course conditions had something to do with her career day at Mission Hills.
“The conditions of the course is probably the best I’ve ever seen it,” Ewart Shadoff said. “The greens are like perfect, probably the best greens I’ve ever played on. The weather’s helping out too. Sometimes it can get windy around here, but the past couple days it’s been absolutely perfect.”
Hull’s 36-hole score of 137 is not only her best at the event, but also her best score through two rounds at any major championship. Hull is making her sixth career start at the ANA Inspiration and said her experience playing Mission Hills has helped her this week.
“I played it since I was 15 or 16,” Hull said. She’s making her sixth career start at the ANA Inspiration this week, with her first appearance coming back in 2012. “That was my first year as a pro and as an amateur. And I just enjoy it. I think I have good memories of this whole place.”
Ewart Shadoff’s best career finish at the ANA Inspiration is T7 in 2013, while Hull was the runner-up in 2016.
WIE SHALL OVERCOME
Michelle Wie got off to a rocky start at Mission Hills on Thursday, nearly knocked off balance by a nasty dizzy spell that sent multiple golf balls across her line of sight.
“I just definitely was not feeling that great,” said Wie of her surprise malady, which led to a first-round 75. “I just talked to the doctor last night, and he said it’s definitely some kind of ear virus thing, and definitely having a little bit of vertigo going.”
Battling the intense desert heat on Friday, Wie relied heavily on her caddie, Matt Galloway, and the energy from the crowd to stay grounded throughout the second round. She bounced back remarkably, notching a bogey-free 67 and easily reaching the weekend at the season’s first major.
“My caddie does a great job of keeping me going,” said Wie of Galloway, a professional golfer who has been on her bag for just over a year. “I asked him to read every putt because I was like I don’t trust my eyes right now. So he did a great job reading the greens. It’s really great when the fans kind of keep you going as well too. They definitely give you energy out there.”
Despite not feeling 100%, Wie is self-assured about how much gas she’s got in the tank to prep for her weekend play.
“I think that’s the confidence kind of getting me through,” said Wie, who will tee off at 11:31 a.m. with Chella Choi on Saturday. “I think I set myself up nicely for the weekend. I’m just excited to play the weekend, honestly and live to play another day.”
Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela (-6, T8) broke the ANA Inspiration record for the lowest 36-hole score by an amateur with her two-day total of 138, besting the previous mark of 141 set by Michelle Wie in 2004 and matched by Angela Park in 2006.
“I think it helps knowing how the crowd works,” said Valenzuela, who is playing in her sixth major championship this week. “Just kind of like the atmosphere. So I definitely feel more comfortable with that. Yeah, it’s always hard when you get into a major. Every week is hard. So I’m just happy that I had this experience, and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Valenzuela is one of four amateurs to make the cut this week at Mission Hills, falling one shy of the record five amateurs to make the cut in 2013.
Pernilla Lindberg, Sweden (132, -12), on coping with major championship pressure
“I was actually more nervous yesterday than today. I kind of just felt a little unease yesterday all day, but I was very proud at how I handled that, and I still played great, obviously. But first day of a major, you’re going to feel some nerves. So I just actually, because I felt that yesterday, I felt calmer today. But, yeah, I slept good last night. Just did my normal routine last night. Had a nice, quick dinner with my family and my parents are here, then went back to the room. Had my cup of tea, some chocolate and a TV show. And that’s pretty much what every night looks like.”
Sung Hyun Park, Republic of Korea (132, -12), on breaking the 36-hole tournament record
“I had no idea. I just was so focused on my game today, I didn’t even know I was 8-under, so it was a good round.”
Lexi Thompson, USA (140, -4), on Mission Hills
“You just have to hit it on the fairways out here, but they’re putting some hard pin locations. They’re tucking them a lot more than they usually do. There were actually a few Sunday pins from last year that they put today. But you just have to hit it in the fairway and go after the pins. The greens are a little receptive, they are a little firmer, but the course is in great shape, so you can definitely attack it if it’s no wind like this.”
Sung Hyun Park is playing in her third ANA Inspiration; she finished T6 in 2016 and T14 in 2017
Pernilla Lindberg is playing in her seventh ANA Inspiration; her best finish is T18 in 2016
Park and Lindberg’s 36-hole score of 12-under 132 is a tournament record, breaking the mark of 11-under 133 set by Lorena Ochoa in 2006; it is also tied for the lowest 36-hole score of Park’s LPGA career, joining the 2017 LPGA Volvik Championship and 2017 CME Group Tour Championship, and is the lowest 36-hole score of Lindberg’s career, besting the 11-under 133 she shot at the 2015 Manulife LPGA Classic
Park’s second-round 64 is the lowest round of her ANA Inspiration career and is tied for the third-lowest round of her LPGA career
Park is the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion; the only players to win the U.S. Women’s Open and ANA Inspiration in consecutive years are Betsy King (1989 U.S. Women’s Open and 1990 ANA Inspiration, the only player to win in that order), Annika Sorenstam (2005 ANA Inspiration and 2006 U.S. Women’s Open) and Karrie Webb (2000 ANA Inspiration and 2001 U.S. Women’s Open)
Lindberg is the only player to go bogey-free through 36 holes at the ANA Inspiration, returning 12 birdies and 24 pars
This is the first time in her LPGA career that Lindberg has been in the lead following 36 holes, her best career major finish is T5 at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open
Lindberg is looking for the first victory of her nine-year LPGA career; four players became Rolex First-Time Winners at the ANA Inspiration – Helen Alfredsson (1993), Nanci Bowen (1995), Morgan Pressel (2007) and Stacy Lewis (2011)
Lindberg is trying to join Helen Alfredsson and Annika Sorenstam as players from Sweden to win the ANA Inspiration; Alfredsson won in 1993, while Sorenstam took the title in 2002 and 2005
Amateur Valenzuela shot a 6-under 138 to lead the amateur contingent; the previous low 36-hole score for an amateur was 3-under 141, returned by Michelle Wie in 2004 and Angela Park in 2006
Sydnee Michaels made a hole-in-one at No. 8, from 175 yards and with a 6-iron; it was the second hole-in-one of this week’s ANA Inspiration, making this the fourth tournament to have two aces, joining 2012, 1999 and 1997 (no ANA Inspiration has had more than two aces)
Defending champion So Yeon Ryu birdied her final hole to make the cut on the number at 1-over 145
The cut fell at 1-over 145, with 76 players reaching the weekend
Three of the seven 2018 LPGA rookies who teed it up this week made the cut, led by Emma Talley at -2, 142
In the history of the ANA Inspiration, there has been three wire-to-wire winners (including ties) – Pat Bradley (1986), Betsy King (1987) andPat Hurst (1998)
Major champion Paula Creamer made her first cut of the 2018 season on Friday (T34, -2) in her third start after she had season-ending wrist surgery last year
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 62 (-10) Lorena Ochoa, first round, 2006
36 holes: 132 (-12), Pernilla Lindberg and Sung Hyun Park, 2018
54 holes: 203 (-13), Amy Alcott, 1988; Dottie Pepper, 1999
72 holes: 269 (-19), Dottie Pepper, 1999