Sure, you have horses for courses. But you also have those who come in running well.
With Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, you have both. Driving over the mountains from Carlsbad to Rancho Mirage for the first major championship of the 2021 season, the ANA Inspiration, Lewis and Thompson arrive at a golf course they know and love, and one where they have had remarkable success. And they get there playing well.
Just look at the numbers. Lewis, who won the ANA Inspiration at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course in 2011 for her first career victory, has had four top-10s at Mission Hills since then, including a playoff loss to Brittany Lincicome in 2015 and a fifth-place finish last fall.
In terms of coming in hot, Lewis reeled off eight birdies on Sunday at the Kia Classic, including two separate stretches on the back nine where she made three birdies in a row. Her final-round 65 was, in her words, “definitely the best round of golf I've ever played here.”
“I love being in San Diego,” Lewis said. “I have family out here, so it’s just a fun week for me. I love the weather this year, the weather was perfect this year, so that made it even better. And it was a really cool way to finish, just to have some momentum and start seeing the ball go in the hole.
“Obviously, I’m really excited for next week.”
Lewis’ last victory came in crisp temperatures at the 2020 Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open. Before that, she won in Portland.
Temperatures in Palm Springs on Sunday hit 88 and are expected to be in the 90s early in the week.
“I love it,” Lewis said of this two-week stretch in California. “I love the drive over. It's like my favorite time of year just knowing we're going to Palm Springs. Honestly, (Mission Hills) is probably one of my favorite golf courses we get to play all year, to be in the desert where it's hot, and the ball is bouncing, and it plays hard.
“I hope it's playing firm like it was here (at Aviara), and I think we'll have a pretty great leaderboard at the end of the week.”
Speaking of leaderboards, Thompson comes to the ANA even hotter than Lewis and with a better recent history in the desert. Since her ANA Inspiration victory in 2014, Lexi has only been out of the top-10 one time. And her last two trips to Mission Hills have resulted in a third and a fourth.
Throw in the fact that she will be driving over the mountains having tied for second with Amy Olson at the Kia Classic, and it’s hard not to put Lexi near the top of the favorites list.
“Absolutely love going to the ANA Inspiration,” Thompson said after shooting 66-69 on the weekend at Aviara. “It's my favorite golf course that we get to go to. There are some things that I need to tighten up in my golf game going into next week. But I have a full three days, practice rounds, and some practice time to get it ready.”
As for how riding momentum is different now than it was earlier in their careers, both players have thought the matter through.
“I think as you get older you just realize you’ve got to keep working on stuff. You just keep working on it and never know when one thing is going to click like it did today,” Lewis said. “I think you worry about things too much when you're younger. As you get older it's like, ‘just keep working on it, just keep working on it,’ and it slowly gets better. Hopefully it peaks at the right time.”
Thompson nodded and said, “When I first started out, I wasn't able to play a full schedule, so it was maybe play one week and then have off a lot of weeks. It was hard to gain momentum. As I play more and more weeks back-to-back it's definitely a lot easier. But it's important to also take some rest time as well because it is mentally draining, even on a regular week, not a major week.“So, I'll take tomorrow easy. I'll play nine but later in the afternoon - get some sleep, rest, and take it into next week.”