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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Will a true green island create more drama at ANA Inspiration? It is up for debate.

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RANCHO MIRAGE, California – ANA Inspiration celebrates 50 yearse anniversary this week, and the 18th green went retro. No platform. No Great Wall of Dinah. Just a dramatic island.

Or will it be?

“Honestly, I find it a bit boring,” said Madelene Sagstrom, who thinks not many people will go for the green in two, even with a forward tee. Tournament officials typically move the tee for two days during ANA Inspiration.

Mel Reid will probably go with a 5 iron in hand because she’s that kind of aggressive player, but she also thinks fewer players will take the risk with greens as firm as they are and the grass mowed in the back and nothing. there to stop it. Not to mention the issues of yellow danger.

For years there was usually a grandstand behind the green for VIP hospitality. In the absence of fans at last September’s ANA, organizers opted instead to put up a giant blue wall – closer than the usual grandstands – with ANA written in lowercase at the top. As for the billboards, it was not really effective.

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Unsurprisingly, the wall came into play in a big way when Mirim Lee threw a 5 wood at it, betting on the wall to keep his ball from going into the water. It worked, and Lee proceeded to chip for eagle to fight his way into the playoffs against Brooke Henderson and Nelly Korda which Lee quickly won. Henderson’s second shot in regulation got stuck under the wall and his sister / caddy Brittany crawled inside the blue net to retrieve it.

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The blue wall behind the ANA Inspiration 18th green on a Golf Channel show. (Beth Ann Nichols / Golfweek)

“Time that the boys hit the stands and get away with shots and bounce off the greens,” Reid said, “and then they just made a fuss because we didn’t have a crowd. I mean, it’s been like this for years. I don’t think they needed to change it, but I understand why they did it because it looks a little silly without a crowd, but it’s difficult.

Stacy Lewis, a former champion of this event, appreciates the fact that the hole now plays as it was originally designed. (It’s also played that way on the first leg of the LPGA Q-School.) Lewis never accepts that two-green, so nothing really changes for her.

“I hit the 5 iron yesterday, landed in the middle of the green and went through the water,” said Ryann O’Toole.

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The same happened to Jennifer Kupcho with a 4 iron.

Nelly Korda hit a just short 6 iron and he rolled into the middle of the green. His 5 iron went over the green. Korda said she wasn’t sure whether or not she liked the change.

Last year, Lexi Thompson had a 7 iron between the front tee and a back pin. It’s the shortest she’s seen play. This morning Thompson hit a 4 iron which worked really well. If it’s more than a 6 iron, Thompson said she likely won’t do it in competition.

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“It would have to be a perfect number honestly, with any club, to get the full maximum height to be able to stop it,” said Thompson. “But it’s good, it’s a major. This should be a challenge and require more thought. “

Mirim Lee

Mirim Lee

Mirim Lee hits his third shot on the 18th green during the ANA Inspiration second round at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. On September 11, 2020 (Photo: Jay Calderon / The Desert Sun)

Brooke Henderson said it’s no longer an automatic green light with 3 woods in hand, but if she has a hybrid or a 7 wood, she definitely goes for it.

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If Maria Fassi finds the fairway, she probably will. From the back tee Monday, she hit the 5 iron with a helping wind on the green. On Tuesday she hit the 7 iron from the front tee.

“It makes you think a bit more,” Fassi said. “It also requires a better golf shot. I think it’s fun.

Yani Tseng, 2010 ANA laureate, says the island’s raw green is a great finish: “It’s real golf.”

To ensure more drama over the weekend, Katherine Kirk thinks softening green is the way to go.

Sue Witters, LPGA vice president of rules and competition, said they had already started adding water to the greens after a particularly firm Monday played.

“The Greens were tough on us yesterday,” Witters said Tuesday.

With temperatures set to reach 99 degrees over the weekend, players expect the Dinah Shore tournament course to get more cooked as the week goes on.

Judy Rankin, senior analyst for Golf Channel this week, enjoys seeing the LPGA’s most iconic hole return to its original form. That’s how the closing par-5 went when she won in 1976.

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“You’ve found a way to reward a shot that’s hit well,” said Rankin, making sure the green is receptive throughout the week.

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