March 3, 2019
No fewer than 11 former champions will be vying for repeated success when they tee it up in the golf’s first major of the season this week, the ANA Inspiration.
Swede Pernilla Lindberg is the most recent to triumph over the par-72, 6834-yard Dinah Shore course at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, California, coming through an eight-hole playoff in 2018 to claim her debut LPGA title.
She is joined in the elite field by fellow winners So Yeon Ryu, Lydia Ko, Brittany Lincicome – who is pregnant with her first baby – Lexi Thompson,
Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Yani Tseng, Morgan Pressel, Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster.
With every one of the top 25 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings also present, Lindberg has a tough task ahead to successfully defend her title – a feat only Annika Sorenstam has achieved since the event earned major status in 1983.
However, she is just enjoying the status her remarkable victory 12 months ago has given her.
“I have so many good memories, and being here now they all come back kind of at once,” said the 32-year-old.
“It was almost too big for me to believe, and especially in the fashion I did it. That’s what I reminded myself of yesterday when I was out here playing a practice round. This place is so special, and out of all of the events on our tour, this is the one I won? That’s pretty cool.
“When I told myself that it kind of gave me chills. I was seeing how putts roll on the greens earlier and it brought back some really good memories. That’s my favorite thing about this golf course, how well the greens are rolling. The rough is juicy. I know it’s been a wet winter out here. It’s going to be a good test, a good challenge. You want to stay in the fairway, that’s for sure.”
World no. 1 Sung Hyun Park has yet to take the traditional winner’s leap into Poppie’s Pond, but the Korean is in form after finishing tied second in last week’s Kia Classic.
“After last week’s finish I’ve been anticipating this week, and so I’m very, very excited,” she said. “It’s the first major of the year, so I’m a little nervous. It’s a tough course, but that’s what will make it a fun challenge this week.
“Of course my goal here is to win. Last year I learned a lot and overall I did well (top 10), but there were one or two places where I made mistakes and kind of fell from there.”
England’s Georgia Hall is hoping similar circumstances to her Women’s British Open win last summer can help spur her to a second major title this week.
The 22 year old has her parents with her for the first time since that brilliant win at Royal Lytham and St Annes, her father, Wayne is caddying again and her boyfriend, Harry, is also present.
“My mum and dad have always come to this event – it’s the only event they’ve always come to,” said Hall. “We’ve rented a house and it’s a nice atmosphere. It’s great for them all to be here.
“I’m really excited to be back here, it’s my third time playing ANA and I love the area, the golf course. It’s in really good condition, so I’m really excited to tee off on Thursday.
“The conditions are amazing. You’ve got to be good off the tee because the rough is very thick. I took last week off to be fresh coming into the tournament and to really get used to these type of greens was very important. The greens are very fast and firm, so I think just on the putting side of things just getting more confidence on the greens will help.”
The tournament begins at 7.15am on Thursday 5 April.