There’s not much in the world that Danielle Kang enjoys more than a par-5 finishing hole. It just so happens No. 18 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club offers that type of excitement for the ANA Inspiration.
“The drama that the golf course has presented in the final stretches, especially with the 18th hole being reachable the final day, so you can get eagles or birdies,” said Kang, No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. “There is so much to learn on this golf course. I’ve played here numerous times and I still play practice rounds still trying to learn the golf course.”
In her eight starts at the ANA Inspiration, Kang is 2-under across 26 rounds at No. 18. This week, the longest it will play is 531 yards, while a possible Sunday forward tee could trim it down to 489 yards.
“I like when a score can alter [player position] on the last hole,” said Kang, who has two victories in 2020. “I like when there’s a little bit more to it, bunkers and water. I love the drama that it can bring. This is a three-shot hole. You can’t underestimate reachable par-5s because it’s not an automatic birdie, there is a bogey and a double out there. That’s the kind of things I look at in this hole specifically.”
PAST CHAMPION STACY LEWIS LOVES MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP GOLF
When she turns into Mission Hills Country Club off Dinah Shore Drive, 2011 ANA Inspiration champion Stacy Lewis lights up. The setting evokes different memories and feelings, but the 13-time LPGA winner embraces all of it.
Lewis has never missed a cut in her 12 starts at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, with her 2011 victory and five top-five finishes. All of those performances had a special moment, although perhaps the keenest result she recalls was her tie for fifth showing in 2007 to secure low amateur honors.
“That week really set me up for my career,” said Lewis. “I just get a smile on my face; I truly love it here. Such good memories from the start and just so happy when I pull in the gate. I love this event.”
The 12-year LPGA Tour veteran has made 52 career starts in major tournaments, dating back to her amateur days in 2007. A two-time major champion, Lewis owns 29 top-20 results over that span. There is something about major championship golf that brings out the best in the University of Arkansas alumna.
“I love that it’s hard and love the challenge of it,” Lewis said. “Different courses demand different things, but I love when a golf course plays hard, when it’s firm and fast, and you have to think a little bit. You can’t just bomb it around here, fly it to every pin and it stops. A golf course like this when the greens get firm, it’s very difficult and brings out the best in me. It kind of brings out the best in my personality and I just love the challenge.”
PERNILLA LINDBERG HOPES TO LEAVE A LEGACY LIKE HER IDOLS
In 2018, after an iconic eight-hole playoff win at Mission Hills Country Club, Swedish player Pernilla Lindberg won her first LPGA Tour event and first major. Special in numerous ways, that win was especially meaningful for reassuring Lindberg’s confidence.
“What it's meant to be able to call myself a major winner, to feel that I belong at the top, that I've left a mark in the history books, it makes my golf career, no matter what I do for the rest of my career,” said Lindberg, who is now in her 11th season on the LPGA Tour. “That's something I'm going to be able to look back at. Outside of golf, not a whole lot has changed. Probably a few more people that recognize my name, but, I'm still the same person.”
Lindberg grew up with many female Swedish Tour players to look up to, including 1993 ANA Inspiration winner Helen Alfredsson, 1988 U.S. Women’s champion Liselotte Neumann and 10-time major winner Annika Sorenstam. Their contributions to the game are immense, and incredibly inspirational to Lindberg
“That whole generation, and to be able to see that they were able to come out of Sweden and play at the level they did, that obviously made a young Swedish girl be able to believe that she could do it, too,” said Lindberg.
“I felt like they were the Swedish superstars when it came to golf, and to be able to put myself on that list is just really cool. I hope that I can kind of pass that on to the young girls at home now and give them that same kind of dream to be able to come out and do it.”