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ANA Inspiration Preview, Pairings, and More

Before I start with this week's subject, let me give a big congratulations to Eun-Hee Ji for winning the Kia Classic. Ji aced the 14th hole to take a commanding 3 shot lead with just four holes to play, and coasted home to a two shot victory over Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas. For Ji it was the fourth victory of her career, and second in her last eight starts.
                Image result for 2018 ana inspiration
This week the LPGA moves to Rancho Mirage, California for the playing of the ANA Inspiration. This is the first Major Championship of the 2018 season.

I am sure everyone remembers last year's controversial finish, where Lexi Thompson was assessed a 4 stroke penalty and was defeated by So Yeon Ryu in a playoff.

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Lexi Thompson fought back tears after being told of four stroke penalty.

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So Yeon Ryu jumps into Poppie's Pond after winning ANA Inspiration.

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So Yeon Ryu kisses the ANA Championship trophy.

This will be tournament #7 of 33 on this year's LPGA schedule, and the first of five Major Championships.

Course:  Mission Hills Country Club: Dinah Shore Tournament Course

Location:  Rancho Mirage, California
Defending Champion:  So Yeon Ryu
Winning Score:  68-69-69-68 = 274 (-14) 

Final Field:  108 players

Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage: 6,763 yards
Purse:  $2,800,000

My strength of field rating is a very strong 87.5% (down from 89% last year), making it by far the strongest field of the year so far. Forty-eight of the top 50 players from the LPGA Priority List, and forty-three of the top 50 players from the Rolex Rankings (including the top 24) will be teeing it up this week. Players missing from this week's field include: Gerina Piller (maternity), Suzann Pettersen, and Karrie Webb. The field will also include some top names from other tours. They include: Hyejin Choi (#10 in Rolex Rankings), Ai Suzuki (#28), Ha Na Jang (#29), Jeongeun Lee (#31), and Ji-Hyun Kim (#61).

Here are the pairings for round 1:

Here are the television times:

Mar 29 - GC 12:00 PM-4:00 PM ET
Mar 29 - GC 7:00 PM-9:00 PM ET
Mar 30 - GC12:00 PM-4:00 PM ET
Mar 30 - GC 7:00 PM-9:00 PM ET
Mar 31 - GC 5:00 PM-9:00 PM ET
Apr 1   - GC 5:00 PM-9:00 PM ET

Players Most Likely to Win: (Top players in the field)
1- Shanshan Feng - Needs to play well here to keep the top spot in the rankings.
2- Lexi Thompson - Has won here before and a win will put her at #1.
3- So Yeon Ryu - Always plays well in majors. 

Players to Watch Out For: (I'm feeling it this week)
1- Michelle Wie - This course favors the big hitters, and she is playing well.
2- Brittany Lincicome - This course favors the big hitters, and she has won here twice.
3- Sung Hyun Park - Did I say that this course favors the big hitters?

Longshot Picks: (Not likely, but not impossible)
1- Angel Yin - Has been terrible so far this year, but I am sticking with the big hitters.
2- Sei Young Kim - Ditto
3- Carlota Ciganda - Playing well and long off the tee.

Other Tidbits:
Sung Hyun Park missed the cut this past weekend for the first time as an LPGA member. It stopped her cut streak at 34 straight. 

All six victories on the LPGA tour this year have been won by American (3) and South Korean (3) players.

Rolex Rankings Movers of the Week:
There was lots of movement this week. In Kyung Kim makes the most  important move jumping two spots into the top five at #5. Cristie Kerr moves back into the top ten with a move from #11 to #7. Eun-Hee Ji leaps up from #38 to #22, while Jane Park soars up from #86 to #64. On the downside, In Gee Chun falls out of the top ten, falling from #8 to #11. Ashleigh Buhai drops out of the top 100 and out of my field rating. She is replaced with Ally McDonald.

Race to the CME Globe:   (1 million dollars)
Jin Young Ko continues to lead with 790 points. She is followed closely by Michelle Wie with 728 and Brittany Lincicome with 720. Jessica Korda (620) and Ariya Jutanugarn (604) fill out the top five.

Who's Hot:
Jin Young Ko becomes the first LPGA player to finish in the top 10 four times in 2018.

Who's Not:
Sung Hyun Park has failed to finish in the top 20 in any of her four starts this year.
Angel Yin has not finished better than 39th in her 5 starts this year.

This Week's Trivia Question: 

Since the year 2000, only 1 player has won this major championship 3 times. Two other players have won it twice over that same period. Can you name those 3 players?

For the answer to this week's trivia question press here.

Here are the leaders after thr final round was called for darkness:
They played 4 holes of a playoff. Song was eliminated. Inbee and Pernilla will tee it up at 11:00AM ET on Monday morning.
1 Jennifer Song -15
1 Inbee Park -15
1 Pernilla Lindberg -15
4 Ariya Jutanugarn -14
4 Jessica Korda -14
6 Charley Hull -13
6 Moriya Jutanugarn -13
8 Ayako Uehara -12
9 Caroline Masson -11
9 Sung Hyun Park -11
9 Jodi Ewart Shadoff -11
9 Amy Olson -11
13 Nelly Korda -10
13 Ryann O'Toole -10
15 Pornanong Phatlum -9
16 Hannah Green -8
16 Sun Young Yoo -8
16 Brittany Altomare -8
16 Jeongeun Lee -8
20 Angela Stanford -7
20 Lexi Thompson -7
20 Lydia Ko -7
20 Azahara Munoz -7
20 Beatriz Recari -7

Be sure to check back here daily for any LPGA news or updates.  They will be posted here at the bottom of this blog. Tournament results will be posted here at the end of each round. Links to all Women's Tour scoreboards can be found on the right side of this page (or on pull down menu on mobile website).


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