Course at ANA Inspiration set up for bombers to go big with drivers
By John Nicholson
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) – The rough is up a bit at the ANA Inspiration, though not enough to force the long-hitters to play it safe in the major championship.
"No, no, not really," 2014 winner Lexi Thompson said.
Defending champion Brittany Lincicome planned to blast away, too.
"Absolutely, driver is my favorite club," said Lincicome, paired with Thompson for the first two rounds Thursday and Friday. "I totally agree with her. ... The crowd will see some pretty long balls, I'm sure us trying to outdrive each other."
Count in Stacy Lewis.
"It's still sticking to the plan," Lewis said. "There's still going to be quite a few drivers. The golf course is still set up for bombers. With the trees being back and fairways being a little softer, it's set up to go out and give it a rip. You've got to play aggressive."
Last year, Lincicome eagled the final hole of regulation and beat Lewis on the third hole of a playoff. Lincicome also won in 2009, making an eagle on the final hole. She's trying to join Annika Sorenstam, Betsy King and Amy Alcott as the only three-time winners at Mission Hills.
"I don't think of the numbers, but it would be great to win this event three times," Lincicome said.
Lewis' playoff loss last year was the most-stinging setback in a 45-event victory drought. She has nine runner-up finishes since her last LPGA Tour victory in June 2014.
"Honestly, right now I'm just a little frustrated," Lewis said. "I feel like things are getting a lot better on the golf course. Probably had two of my best ball-striking weeks I've had in six months the last two weeks and the scores just haven't quite shown that, so it's been frustrating."
She won the 2011 event, tied for fourth in 2012 and was third in 2014.
"I love this week," Lewis said. "I love the golf course. I love just coming here. I think I get a little bit of a calmness just coming around this property."
The third-ranked Thompson won in Thailand in February.
"I've just been working on the mental side," Thompson said. "Not getting too hard on myself out on the golf course, and realizing it's just a game."
Top-ranked Lydia Ko is coming off a victory Sunday in Carlsbad in the Kia Classic. The 18-year-old New Zealander won the Evian Masters in September in France for her first major title.
"I can't believe it's already been six months since our last major," Ko said. "It just goes by so fast, and especially being the first major of the year you kind of want to put yourself in the right position going for the next few majors, too."
The winner Sunday will take the traditional victory leap into Poppie's Pond.
"Definitely crossed my mind," 18-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson said. "I think that's everybody's goal and dream once they've seen Poppie's Pond in real life and even on TV."
DIVOTS: Caitlyn Jenner played in the pro-am Wednesday in a group with former soccer star Abby Wambach. Wambach jumped into Poppie's Pond after the round. ... The tournament is the final event for countries to qualify for the eight-team UL International Crown in July in Illinois. South Korea, the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and England have wrapped up spots, and China, Australia and Sweden are fighting for the last two positions in points based on the combined rankings of the top four players from each country. The lineups will be decided after the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in June. ... U.S. Women's Open champion In Gee Chun is returning from a back injury that sidelined her for three events. She was struck by a hard-case suitcase that rival player Ha Na Jang's father dropped down an escalator at the Singapore airport.
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