The flurry of names at -5 includes three notable Korean compatriots who have all made the jump into Poppie’s Pond – defending champion Mirim Lee, who won the 2020 championship in a playoff; Jin Young Ko, who took a three-stroke win in 2019; and Inbee Park, a four-stroke winner in 2013.
A second ANA Inspiration title could vault Park back to the top of the Rolex Rankings, a position she has held for 106 cumulative weeks over her illustrious career. It would move her past Ko, who has held that spot for all but four weeks since she hoisted the Dinah Shore Trophy in April 2019. As expected, Park is not remotely focused on Sunday’s outcome. She has her eyes on the course and the temperature, which could reach triple digits over the weekend.
“It's just the heat that we have to watch out for,” said Park, who shot 69 on Friday. “The course is going to play firm and fast, which is a good thing, and obviously you just going to have a lot of energy to play in this heat.”
The temperatures have firmed up a perfectly groomed Dinah Shore Tournament Course and also garnered Ko’s full attention as she heads into the weekend. “It's going to be firmer than last two days,” said Ko. “I will focus on my game, on the course and I will just enjoy.”
For Lee, a strong finish would go far in helping her qualify for Team Korea at the Tokyo Olympic Games in August. Currently No. 31 in the Rolex Rankings, Lee needs to pass at least six of her countrywomen to potentially lock in a spot on what is perhaps the toughest team to make in the entire Games. It would seem that her second-round 70 was a step toward both a successful title defense and a trip to Tokyo, but Lee was focused more on how she could continue to improve heading into weekend action.
“My downswing is a little bit behind,” said Lee. “That's why ball is going left to right and right to left. So might fix it today.”