RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif .– The ANA Inspiration is meant to be a longtime hitter’s paradise, with the LPGA’s biggest hitters enjoying the par-5s on the Dinah Shore tournament course at Mission Hills Country Club.
Which doesn’t explain how Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, one of the tour’s shortest hitters, found her way to the top of the table midway through Friday’s second round.
Jutanugarn, ranked 131st on the LPGA average driving distance statistics at a fraction of under 204 yards, shot a 3 under 69 on Friday to go down to 7 under for the tournament. She took the lead in the first major championship of the year on her own as the morning wave of starts ended their round. Jutanugarn had four birdies in the round, but only one on a par-5, which was the second hole on the Shore Course.
“It’s just a matter of the patient there,” Jutanugarn said. “I mean, I’m not a longtime hitter so I just have to take what I can and try to play smart and put myself, you know, like places where I can have a good chance.”
ANA inspiration: Ranking | Pictures
Jutanugarn hit 8 under for the tournament before a bogey on the 15th par 4, but held the round with an eight-foot clutch putt on the 16th hole.
She finished her round moments before the leader of the day, Patty Tavatanakit, started her second round. Jutanugarn had 6 cents at the start of the round, but two other players, Shanshan Feng and Anna Nordqvist, were also 6 cents.
Nordqvist’s 70’s round came when the winds were gusting in the morning. The breeze calmed down by mid-morning. Feng hit his first two holes in the afternoon to reach 7 under, but then lost a shot on the third hole.
“I feel like we’re always going to play with the wind here,” said Jutanugarn. “You know, like every time, every year we come, there will always be a little wind.”
Major champions who rise on the plateau
2020 ANA Inspiration Champion Mirim Lee, 2019 ANA Champion Jin Young Ko, and Sophia Popov, AIG Women’s Open 2020, made their first start in the Coachella Valley, all at 5 cents.
“Obviously, for now everything is fine,” said Popov, whose absence from the tournament last year after winning the AIG Women’s Open prompted the LPGA to change its rules regarding entering major winners. automatically in tournaments. “You know with a good game you really have fun, so so far it’s been great. This is kind of what I was hoping for. I have watched this tournament so many times. I’ve been here, watched my old (USC) teammates play. “
Popov was not on the pitch because the tournament and the LPGA froze the ANA Inspiration field to its April status, even though the tournament was postponed to September, after the opening of the AIG Women’s, due to of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ariya’s older sister Jutaqnugarn is on the hunt for her second LPGA victory and first major championship. His sister has 10 wins, including two majors.