As LPGA stars cranked up the heat midway through the second round of the ANA Inspiration, technical difficulties brought the desert party to a screeching halt. Golf Channel viewers were suddenly forced to watch reruns of the second round.
Nancy Lopez spoke for all of us when she tweeted: “Ridiculous!”
Mercifully, live golf came back after 20-plus minutes, and when the dust settled in the desert, the board at the ANA was a commissioner’s dream. Three of the most popular players in the women’s game are duking it out at the top: Brooke Henderson, Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson.
“I think this is exactly what everyone has been waiting to see,” said Golf Channel’s Karen Stupples.
LEADERBOARD: ANA Inspiration
The first major of the year delivered an unforgettable Cinderella Story with Sophia Popov’s unlikely victory at Royal Troon. (Regrettably, she wasn’t invited this week.)
Now the storylines shift from longshot to long-awaited, with co-leader Nelly Korda looking to break through for her first major title. She’ll be in a comfortable pairing alongside Brooke Henderson, a friend since junior golf. The winningest Canadian golfer won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship four years ago, and most would’ve predicted that she’d have a second by now.
Lurking two shots back in the penultimate group is Lexi Thompson, the 2014 ANA winner who still seeks vindication from that four-stroke penalty fiasco in 2017 at Dinah’s Place. As 1976 winner Judy Rankin says, “it’s like she owns this course.”
With brother Curtis leading on the Korn Ferry Tour, it could be a sensational Sunday for the Thompson crew.
Lexi recently went back to her childhood swing instructor, Jim McLean, and they spent time looking at old swing footage – the library goes back to around age 11. Thompson decided to stop fighting how she’s always naturally played: aim it up the right and draw it back.
“Basically what I saw is a lot of people always notice my foot movement and how I get off the ground,” Thompson, “and when I was little it might have been even more than it is now. There was no restriction, I just hit it hard and got off the ground and I knew it was going up the right and turning back … that confidence is what I’ve kind of changed.”
Korda will have dinner with her parents on Saturday night, as they always do, and she predicted that they’ll talk about everything but golf.
While her father, Petr, owns a Grand Slam tennis title, winning the big ones is no one-size-fits-all proposition, she said. They’ll remind her to take deep breaths and use her sun umbrella to stay out of the heat.
“Honestly, it’s just about experience and going through it yourself,” she said.
Karrie Webb owns the largest come-from-behind victory at the ANA. She holed out for eagle on the 72nd hole in 2006 and ultimately won in a playoff against Lorena Ochoa. Webb started the day seven back.
Among the notable chasers this year are No. 2 Danielle Kang, a two-time winner since the tour restarted its season. She trails by five. Stacy Lewis, the 2011 champion who recently won in Scotland, sits four back alongside 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Rose Zhang.
Katherine Kirk and Mirim Lee, two veterans looking for their first major title, are two back.
The only thing that seems certain about Sunday at the Dinah’s Place is that the giant blue wall that’s on the back of the island green on No. 18 will most assuredly be a factor. The forward tee is traditionally used in the final round, and with this year’s structure taking up a tremendous amount of space, players will bomb it at the wall like a backboard and hope for the best.
“Hopefully it doesn’t affect tomorrow’s outcome,” said Lewis.
One can only hope.