ANA Inspiration: Smoky skies, low scores and a wall of strategy and confusion

The second day at the ANA Inspiration began with a smoky haze which lingered and kept the temperatures lower than predicted, although it did eventually reach 100 degrees.

Also lower than predicted? The scores. Nelly Korda is 11 under through two rounds. Mirim Lee is 9 under. Either one would’ve led the tournament through 36 holes last year. In 2019 only nine golfers shot better than 2 under through 36 holes. This year, there is a whopping 30 golfers at 3 under or better entering Saturday.

The course is getting harder, physically harder that is, so that makes it more difficult to control the ball. We’ll see what that means for the weekend.

Here were other sights and sounds and smells from Day Two at the LPGA major championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage:


Wall of confusion

The tees were moved way up on the 18th hole Friday, making the par-5 hole only 485 yards, so many golfers were going for the island green in two. That led to several balls winding up against the blue wall that has replaced the grandstands to the left of the 18th green as players use it as a safety net and backstop much like they used to with the stands. The wall has been nicknamed The Great Wall of Dinah around the grounds.

The end result, though, was a lot of confusion about how to gain relief from the wall, which is closer to the green than the grandstands were. Almost every other group had to call for the rules official to assist with the drop. Some dropped it near where they were against the wall, some were told they had to drop it in an area behind the green no closer to the hole.

Poor Amy Olson, along with a rules official, measured the distance from her ball to the cup, then walked off the distance from the cup to the back-of-the-green drop area, then went back to where her ball was. Then, Olson pointed at the ground. The whole ordeal took about 12-15 minutes, and she finally chose/had to drop at the back of the green. Then, after all that, she chipped up and two putted for a par.

The point is there seemed to be more confusion than normal this year. I would suggest a rules official just stationed back there to help move the operation along, instead of having to call one every time a question arose.

The blue wall behind the 18th green at the ANA Inspiration during a Golf Channel broadcast. (Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

Bank shot

The only person I saw reach the green in two shots was Nasa Hataoka, whose second shot actually hit the wall in the air and bounced off of it onto the edge of the green. The golf gods were on her side, but like the golf gods often do, they left her side quickly. She four-putted for bogey.

The reward part of the risk-reward shot just didn’t seem to be there on this day. No one in the field recorded an eagle on 18.

The sound of no hands clapping: One of the more comical side effects about not having fans is the very official announcement of the players’ names on their opening tee shot resulting in absolutely no applause.

“Now on the tee, 2018 ANA Inspiration champion, from Bollnas, Sweden, Pernilla Lindberg.” And then no applause. Followed by a sheepish wave from the player.

Usually, anyone around gives a polite clap just so it’s not dead silence. The walking scorer, the opposing caddie, the person dishing out water and Gatorade, perhaps even a nearby media member like myself, joins in with some clapping and light whistling to try to match the gravitas of the players’ name announcement.

Smoking section

As the first groups teed off around 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning, the sun rising in the east was an eerie glowing orange perfect sphere as it shone through a layer of smoke. Winds shifted overnight, and smoke from the nearby El Dorado fire hung over the Coachella Valley. The smoky smell faded quickly, but a haze remained throughout Friday.

Positive attitude

In Gee Chun, who is tied for fourth at 6 under, was asked what is there to work on going into Saturday’s round. Her response? “I heard the temperature is going up tomorrow, so try drinking a lot of water and trying to enjoy the nature sounds out there.”

I like that In Gee. I, too, promise to take some time Saturday to listen to the nature sounds. Until then.

Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at

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