Since she captured four straight top-25 finishes to open the 2020 season, including her first LPGA Tour title at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, Madelene Sagstrom has failed to make the cut in each of her last four starts.
Nonetheless, she put the last month of competition in her rearview mirror by starting the ANA Inspiration with a 5-under par opening round. It included seven birdies around Mission Hills Country Club.
“Golf is so up and down, and I'm coming off a rough few couple months starting up again so I think just finding my way back into my rhythm has been my priority,” said Sagstrom, who hit six fairways and 15 greens to sit in a tie for second. “I'm happy to be under par, shooting a good score and I'm excited for what the weekend holds. I know what it feels like to be in those final groups, so I am hoping to be in contention when the weekend comes.”
DANIELLE KANG’S EYES SET ON THIRD LPGA WIN OF 2020
There’s a reason why Danielle Kang is second in the Women’s Golf World Rolex Rankings: She’s been consistently shooting in the low 70s and 60s. The only player with two 2020 victories, with wins coming in back-to-back events, Kang has her eyes on a third win of 2020 and a first victory at the ANA Inspiration.
“It’s more than a major for me, to win this specific tournament, the ANA Inspiration just because it's in California, in Palm Springs, and it's a tournament I've been playing since I was an amateur and I was invited here,” said Kang, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs. “I think it would just be a little bit different than winning different majors.”
Kang’s run at Win No. 3 got off to a good start with a first-round 68 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. But the veteran player knows better than to put too much pressure on herself.
“Every golf tournament I play and compete in, I want to do the best I can, and I don't think that will differ just because it's a different tournament,’ said Kang, who finished an ANA-career best T6 in 2019. “Every week in, week out I try and prepare the best I can and play the best I can possibly play and see where I end up."
BROOKE HENDERSON CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY IN 4-UNDER FASHION
Nine-time LPGA Tour champion Brooke Henderson opened her desert quest for a second major title with a 4-under 68 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club. Henderson recorded five birdies today as she celebrated her 23rd birthday. The lone blemish was bogey on No. 1 as she made the turn.
“That was just a tough three-putt, but it kind of fueled me to quickly put it in the past and focus on the next hole,” said Henderson, who hit 16 greens. “I made a lot of pars on my first nine and felt like I was really close to making a lot of birdies, so I was happy they started to fall. It was a nice way to spend my birthday.”
With the scorching temperatures in SoCal, 25 caddies elected to use the modified LPGA Tour policy allowing them to take electric carts this week in the ANA Inspiration. That included Henderson’s caddie and sister, Brittany.
“Normally I would never agree to taking carts, but under the circumstances with it being so hot I felt like since the LPGA was allowing us to use them, it is definitely an advantage,” said Henderson, No. 9 in the Rolex Rankings and the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner. “She was able to zoom along, get to my ball fast, calculate some numbers, get a feel for the conditions, and then by the time I arrived she had everything set out and we could discuss more specifics. That was nice and I think we’ll continue to do it the next three days.”
YU LIU FEELS CLOSE TO CLAIMING HER FIRST TOUR VICTORY
With two top-10 finishes so far in 2020 and a career-high seven in 2019, Yu Liu hopes that a breakthrough first win is close on her horizon. If she could get that elusive first victory at this week’s ANA Inspiration, that would be an absolute dream come true. The 23-year-old from Beijing is well on her way with a good start on Thursday, carding a 4-under 68 and sitting tied for fourth heading into the second round.
“I'm definitely very happy about my start. I think I stayed within my process well. I communicated well with my caddie,” said Liu. “Even though my game was feeling pretty off to be honest during the practice rounds and coming off from two missed cuts for the last two weeks and my expectations pretty low, I was able to stay within my process well and I'm really proud of myself.”
Liu raved about the relationship she has with her caddie Axel Bettan, who has been on her bag on and off for the last year.
“He's great. I feel like his personality really fits with what I need because I tend to get very anxious and a bit impatient sometimes,” said Liu. “He's pretty chill, so I think from a mentality standpoint, he's a huge help for me.”