Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow take their chance in the year’s first Major later today [Thursday] at the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage in California.
Both players played all four rounds at the event which was delayed until September last year with Maguire recording her best Major finish of T18 at Mission Hills Country Club. The Cavan professional returns to the Dinah Shore Tournament Course having already enjoyed her best LPGA Tour result on U.S. soil this season with a tied-sixth showing at the Drive On Championship.
The 26-year old is hitting the ball further than ever this year, 61st on the average driving distance charts at just over 253 yards and if she can get her putter rolling, like she did to lead last year’s putting stats on Tour, then who’s to say Maguire, who won all around her at amateur level and twice on Symetra, won’t take a leap into Poppie’s Pond come Sunday?
Meadow, meanwhile, hasn’t quite hit the heights of Maguire this term but she’s enjoyed plenty of game-time since missing the cut at the season-opening Gainbridge LPGA. A tied-34th result at the Drive On was followed by a share of 66th at last week’s Kia Classic where she opened with a 68 in Carlsbad before fading thereafter.
No stranger to being in contention on Major week having finished third on debut at the US Open in 2014, Meadow enters the first Major of the year off the back of her most consistent campaign on the LPGA Tour and will be full of confidence with her fiancé Kyle guiding her ‘round as caddie.
There are eleven past champions teeing up this week as well as the full top-15 from the Rolex Rankings. Defending champion Mirim Lee is ranked 31st on those standings but she holds the honour of staging her defence in the 50th edition of the tournament.
“It does seem that it puts me in a little bit of a unique position, given that this is the 50th anniversary and I am the defending champion entering the 50th anniversary and I think for that reason, I’m looking forward to playing even a little bit more of a solid round and more professionally this week for my fans and all the viewers out there,” said Lee.
Nelly Korda, who lost out in a play off last year on the set-up here this week, said, “It’s amazing. Honestly we all love coming here. Unfortunately the past two years we haven’t had fans but the atmosphere here is always great. The views are great, and as we said, the history, too. I’ve always said, it’s kind of like the Masters for us in women’s golf, so it’s definitely something you as a professional golfer, you want to win.”
Korda, after coming so close to winning her first major title last year before losing out at the first playoff hole, added, “I’ve always said when you put yourself into those positions, you get more comfortable being in those in the future. I’ve said this so many times, but the more I put myself into that position, the better. So I feel like the more I get out of each kind of time I put myself into that position, I feel the more I grow as a player.”
Brooke Henderson who finished tied second last year alongside Korda, said, “This tournament is so special, and to think it’s 50 years old is really neat. To be a part of it for the last few years is really cool to me. Growing up, this is the tournament as a little girl that you dream of playing in and watching and hopefully winning sometime. For the men, it’s the green jacket. For us, it’s to jump into Poppie’s Pond. It’s just great to be a part of and I just — yeah, it’s just special to be out here and hopefully one day I’ll be able to make that jump.”
Tee times (Irish time)
- 15.32 – Stephanie Meadow
- 21.17 – Leona Maguire
- Full scoring HERE