10 Players to Watch at the ANA Inspiration
Originally scheduled for 2–5 April, the ANA Inspiration was among the first events directly impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown, but the LPGA Tour's journey towards normalcy edges another step closer through now staging the rescheduled major championship at Mission Hills in California.
The Dinah Hill Tournament Course has hosted the world's best for nearly 50 years, with the event holding major status since 1983. Since then, the likes of Amy Alcott, Juli Inkster, Dottie Pepper, Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko have won at this iconic venue, with another name set to take that triumphant leap into Poppie's Pond.
However, there are some notable absentees. Defending champion and world number one Jin Young Ko is not playing, while another former winner, So Yeon Ryu, is also not part of the field. Many would have expected to see Women's Open champion Sophia Popov, but her exemption for that brilliant victory at Royal Troon is not active until the 2021 ANA Inspiration, a situation that has certainly proved contentious.
Additionally, Solheim Cup star Charley Hull has withdrawn after testing positive for COVID-19.
Despite these misses, there remains a formidable group of leading contenders in search of major glory in the sweltering heat of the desert. We take a look at ten players who could be right there on Sunday.
The world number two has impressed since the restart, winning two consecutive events at the beginning of August, underlining her status as the big American hope. Despite not having the most sparkling record here - a T-6th last year is her only top ten at Mission Hills - the former Women's PGA Championship winner could be set to claim a second major title.
The legendary South Korean, arguably the golfer of the past decade, won the ANA Inspiration in 2013, the second of seven major victories, and remains a significant presence on leaderboards, having won in Australia at the beginning of the year and finishing 4th at the recent Women's Open.
Making her 31st major appearance this week, many observers would be surprised that the immensely talented Australian hasn't yet crossed the winning line, but there is no time like the present. The 24-year-old was 3rd at Royal Troon, which is coincidentally her best finish at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.
Three-time LPGA Tour winner Nelly Korda is still just 22, but is nonetheless fancied as a strong home contender. Sitting third in the Rolex World Rankings, the Solheim Cup player posted her best result of the season last week and should have high expectations at Mission Hills.
Champion here in 2016, the New Zealander has endured struggles in recent seasons, but has played solidly since the resumption of the LPGA Tour, including an agonising runner-up at the Marathon Classic. There are few more accomplished personalities in the game than the 23-year-old, and this could be the site of a major rebirth.
The 34-year-old Swede was a shock winner in 2018, but while she hasn't set the world alight since, results have been decent since the return, including a top ten at the Marathon Classic and a tie for 11th place in Arkansas, the most recent event. It may be time to spring another big surprise.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff
Despite a decade competing on the LPGA Tour, the Yorkshire born Solheim Cup player is yet to secure that breakthrough victory on the circuit, but she has played extremely well since the game returned and comes to a venue where she boasts a solid record. Could this finally be the 32-year-old's moment?
Sung Hyun Park
The two-time major champion is making her first LPGA Tour appearance of 2020 at the ANA Inspiration, so there will naturally be uncertainty around the South Korean's competitive readiness, but the 26-year-old is a brilliant swinger of the club, a powerful driver, which is an asset on this layout. In 19 majors, she has recorded 17 top 25 finishes.
It's been a while since the two-time major winner truly contended on the biggest stage, but her second-place at the recent Arkansas Championship was an indication that the 33-year-old Swede, a Solheim Cup stalwart, is ready to win again. Her best result at Mission Hills was 4th in 2015.
Sei Young Kim
Considering she is yet to claim a major title, it can sometimes be overlooked just how good the 27-year-old is, a ten-time winner on the LPGA Tour. With six top fives in the biggest events, the South Korean has knocked on the door several times. This could finally be the week when it opens.
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