Dramatic ANA Inspiration finish without fanfare feels hollow, but is very 2020

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Mirim Lee stood over a tricky 6-foot putt to win a major championship.

If she made it, she would win a dramatic three-way playoff to capture the 2020 ANA Inspiration, her first major victory. She stood over it, analyzed the break, hit the putt and it went right in the middle of the cup.

And then silence.

Everything about this year’s ANA Inspiration has been different and weird. Playing in September, no fans, 100-degree heat, but nothing was more strange than watching a player make a clutch putt to win a major and have there be no noise when the ball went in the cup.

SCORES: ANA Inspiration

Because of safety measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, no fans were allowed at the course this week. It was the correct decision, but also, it was a bummer. That’s because this finish was full of drama and deserved some fanfare.

There were about 100 people watching the climactic playoff hole, but they either didn’t understand that Lee had just won, or didn’t know if they were supposed to cheer.

And, Lee herself also didn’t let out a roar, or raise her arms to the heavens or anything. She made the putt, pulled her ball out of the cup, smiled and looked around. Finally, Nelly Korda offered her a congratulatory hug, which she accepted. That’s when some applause finally trickled in from the volunteers, workers and other players who were watching.

The post-victory ceremony also was muted.

Under normal circumstances, it involves an interview with the player, a trophy presentation, a photo shoot, and then the famous signature leap into Poppie’s Pond in front of thousands of fans roaring and clamoring to take video of it.

Mirim Lee celebrates winning the 2020 ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Golf Club. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

On Sunday, almost none of that happened. There was a quick interview inaudible to the people in attendance. There was no trophy presentation per se. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, tournament director Teo Sodeman and Shigeru Hattori, the senior VP of ANA, each stood six feet apart to the left of the trophy. Then they sort of pointed at it and told Lee to grab it. She grabbed it, first trying to lift it by the handles, and then holding onto the base. She held it up and smiled, turning in all directions not knowing which photographers and video cameras were most important.

Then Lee placed the trophy back on the pedestal and did the customary emptying of her pockets as she readied for her leap into Poppie’s Pond.

She was nervous. Some golfers plan, maybe even test out, some leaps at home on the off chance they one day win the ANA Inspiration. It was clear Lee had not thought that far ahead.

She tepidly walked toward the pond, hesitantly approached the edge and daintily dropped in. The word “leap” is kind to describe her effort. On the other hand, her caddie Matt Gelczis channeled Greg Louganis and flew into the lake with a dive. Then he threw his hat in celebration as Lee smiled and again swam around a little before finding the cameras and waving.

She got out, put on the winner’s robe, took a few set up photos and that was it.

Lee’s win was amazing. A chip-in eagle on the 18th hole in regulation to force a playoff, which she won with a birdie. Wow!

In any of the other 48 versions of this tournament, she would have been showered with applause and hugs and doused with water by her friends on tour. But this wasn’t like the other 48. Let’s face it, this is 2020. And nothing goes the way you want it to in 2020.

It deserved so much more fanfare. But as we learned Sunday, you can’t have fanfare without fans.

Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at shad.powers@desertsun.com.

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