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Ana Inspiration

Korda keeps lead, carries two-shot advantage into weekend at ANA Inspiration

NELLY KORDA LEADS THROUGH 36 HOLES AT ANA INSPIRATION

First-round leader Nelly Korda continued her solid play on Friday, carding a bogey-free 67 to take a two-stroke lead at -11 midway through the second round of the 2020 ANA Inspiration. After starting on No. 10, Korda recorded par saves at holes 2 and 3 from outside 20 feet to keep her scorecard clean. Saying she was “superbly happy” to return a bogey-free round, Korda pointed to those two putts as undoubtedly the highlights of her day.

“I did not know what I was doing on those two holes. My caddie Jason (McDede) just said, okay, just take a deep breath right now, so I was happy those two went in,” said Korda with a big laugh. “Golf is just all about momentum, so you roll one in here and there and it just makes it a lot easier.”

Until Thursday, Korda had never held a post-round lead at a major championship. Now, she is in prime position for her first major title heading into the weekend on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. She’s also doing it in near record-breaking fashion, as her 133 is just one stroke off the tournament’s 36-hole score record of 132 set by Pernilla Lindberg and Sung Hyun Park in 2018.

“I've been hitting it really good off the tee. Even off the fairway, I mean, I'm not missing it by much,” said Korda. “Like occasionally because it's so grainy out here you catch it a little fat or you don't catch it so clean, but honestly I've just been playing really solid golf.”

Three-time LPGA Tour winner Mirim Lee shot a bogey-free 65, the low round so far in the championship, and jumped into solo second at -9. Lee is aiming for her first victory since the 2017 Kia Classic. 2014 ANA Inspiration champion Lexi Thompson and Nanna Koerstz Madsen are tied for third at -7.

The cut came at +4 with 76 players advancing to the weekend. Notables to miss the cut include 2007 ANA Inspiration winner Morgan Pressel (+5), 2018 ANA Inspiration runner-up Jennifer Song (+6) and 2020 LPGA Tour winner Hee Young Park (+8)

Five amateurs made the cut, tied with 2013 for the most in ANA Inspiration history. 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Gabriela Ruffels leads the amateur charge in a tie for seventh at -5.

NELLY KORDA’S PUTTER SIZZLES IN THE DESERT SUN AT ANA INSPIRATION

After Nelly Korda signed her scorecard for a 67 in the second round of the ANA Inspiration, putting her in the lead at 11-under-par 133 through 36 holes, the first question she was asked was a clever inside joke:

“Who’s the best putter in the world?”

A smile burst across Korda’s face with the radiance of dawn in the desert and she answered with the confidence of a champion:

“I am.”

Certainly, nothing that has happened on the treacherous greens of the Championship Course at Mission Hills CC through the first two rounds of the second LPGA major of the year brings into question that assessment.

Korda, her confidence bolstered by the “who’s the greatest” mantra of swing coach Justin Sheehan, has wielded a magic wand.

On Friday, only 27 of her 67 strokes were on the green after needing only 26 putts on Thursday in her opening-round 66. While she rolled in five birdies on Friday, back-to-back par putts maintained her momentum.

For more from Ron Sirak for LPGA.com, visit www.lpga.com/news/2020/nelly-kordas-putter-sizzles-in-the-desert-sun-at-ana-inspiration

BLAST FROM THE PAST HAS LEXI THOMPSON FINDING GROOVE
Between a change to her putting grip and return to her old coach Jim McLean, Lexi Thompson is back in a groove. After an opening-round 70, Thompson caught fire this afternoon with a bogey-free, 5-under 67 performance to sit tied for third heading into the weekend at the ANA Inspiration.

Those tweaks to her game prior to venturing to Riverside County seem to have made a big difference for the 2014 ANA Inspiration champion.

“I wasn't too happy with how I played in Ohio even though I had some decent finishes and didn't hit it so well at the (AIG Women’s Open),” said Thompson. “I wanted to get more comfortable over my tee shots, go back to hitting it up the right side of the fairway and drawing it. I worked with Jim for about a week before I left (for the ANA Inspiration). He knew my swing better than anybody growing up, so I was like, let's just go back to maybe old Lexi and see him and we changed a few things. It was good, helped me a lot.

“He has a lot of videos, lot of notes and it was great to see. I worked with him when I was 12 or younger, so it was great to see those old swing videos. Basically, what I saw is a lot of people always notice my foot movement and how I get off the ground, and when I was little it might have been even more than it is now. There was no restriction, I just hit it hard and got off the ground and I knew it was going up the right and turning back. Kind of getting to that, like that confidence, is what I've kind of changed.”

Since her debut at the ANA Inspiration in 2009 as an amateur, Thompson has not missed a cut across 11 starts, with a win and five total top-10 results. Thompson will look to continue using her length off the tee to her advantage with 36 holes remaining at Mission Hills Country Club.

“I would definitely say it's an advantage, especially if you do miss the fairway you can get it down there a little bit closer and have a little bit shorter of a shot out of the rough,” Thompson said. “The greens are firmer so it's definitely a little bit of an advantage to have a shorter shot in to these greens and some of the tucked locations. I would say keeping it in the fairway here is the biggest thing with how deep the rough is.”
 

MIRIM LEE’S MESSAGE TO HERSELF: “YOU CAN DO IT”

“You’re doing great. Let’s endure some more work and hardship for just two more rounds.”

That bit of positive self-talk describes how three-time LPGA Tour winner Mirim Lee is pushing herself as she finds herself in contention for her first major title at this week’s ANA Inspiration. With a spectacular bogey-free 65 on Friday, Lee jumped 17 spots up the leaderboard and holds solo second heading into the weekend at Mission Hills.

Coming off the pandemic-related Tour shutdown, the South Korean player missed the cut at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. After Friday’s great round on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, Lee finds herself back in her happy place, especially after a long time away from golf.

“When I was in Korea during the break, all I did was practice. It feels so good to be back out here and playing competitive golf,” said Lee, whose last win came at the 2017 Kia Classic. “I think that as long as I keep the feeling and momentum of these past few days, I’ll be able to get good scores.”
 

NANNA KOERSTZ MADSEN FIGHTS TO STAY PATIENT AT MISSION HILLS
Nanna Koerstz Madsen, who bites into lemons to keep her emotions calm, only had to take out one slice today on the first tee. She chalked it up to nerves, as any major championship can do that to the best of them. But in her third ANA Inspiration appearance, Koerstz Madsen forged on to finish with a second-round 69, to sit tied for third at -7.

“I was feeling pretty good after the second round. I had some fairways missed yesterday, so I would have liked to go in and hit some balls on the range, but it was closed. Then I came this morning and it wasn't either. Actually only hit five fairways today. So yeah, I'm just happy that I kept it going, yeah,” said Koerstz Madsen, who despite missing nine fairways carded three birdies and coasted through bogey-free.

Koerstz Madsen thinks of herself as an aggressive player, but credits her caddie and boyfriend, Nicki Hansen, for reminding her to be patient on the course and not attack every pin. After an exceptional day with her irons, she said she knows what she must work on heading into tomorrow.

“I have to work on my driver. I need to get more fairways than four,” joked Koerstz Madsen. “Yeah, if I can get more fairway hits, then I'm sure I will be fine because my iron game is really good.”


GABRIELA RUFFELS MAKES RUN UP THE LEADERBOARD
One of six amateurs in the ANA Inspiration field, Gabriela Ruffels is playing beyond her years at Mission Hills Country Club, just 120 miles from her collegiate home. The University of Southern California senior is -5 overall at the halfway point of the second LPGA Tour major in 2020, thanks to a 4-under 68 in the second round.

“I kind of struggled my first couple holes yesterday, but ever since then I’ve been able to get it back and feeling pretty solid out there,” said Ruffels, who recorded five birdies on Friday. “As an amateur, there’s always going to be some nerves. I was excited to get this week going and definitely happy where I stand after two rounds.”

The 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion followed her title with a runner-up performance last month and is making her third start in a LPGA Tour major championship. As Ruffels continues to gain experience, she still relishes the opportunity of playing against the top female professionals in the world.

“I’m used to watching these girls on TV,” said Ruffels, who also competed in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open and 2020 AIG Women’s Open. “I actually got to play with [fellow Australians] Hannah Green and Su Oh on Tuesday, then Nelly and Jessica Korda on Wednesday. It was nice to get to know them, see their ball flight and how they hit it, how they manage their way around the course. I think that is something I can improve on, but always learning.”

PLAYER NOTES

Rolex Rankings No. 3 Nelly Korda (66-67)

  • Her 36-hole 133 is her lowest 36-hole score at the ANA Inspiration; her previous best was 138 in 2017, when she ultimately tied for 42nd
  • She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, with 26 putts
  • This is Korda’s fourth season on the LPGA Tour; she has three career victories, most recently at the 2019 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA
  • This is Korda’s eighth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for third at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
  • This is Korda’s sixth appearance at the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for 13th in 2018
  • A member of the 2019 U.S. Solheim Cup Team, posting a 3-0-1 record
  • With sister Jessica, is one of three sister duos to both win on the LPGA Tour, along with the Jutanugarns and the Sorenstams
  • Nelly and Jessica’s parents, Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtová, were both international tennis stars and younger brother, Sebastian, is a professional tennis player

Rolex Rankings No. 94 Mirim Lee (70-65)

  • Her second-round 65 is her lowest career round at the ANA Inspiration; her previous best was a 69 in the third round in 2018
  • Her 36-hole 135 is her lowest 36-hole score at the ANA Inspiration; her previous best was a 141 in 2015
  • She hit nine of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, with 25 putts
  • This is Lee’s seventh season on the LPGA Tour; she has three career victories, most recently at the 2017 Kia Classic
  • This is Lee’s third event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; she missed the cut at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
  • This is Lee’s seventh appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for 11th in 2015
  • In 2019, finished 12th on Tour in eagles made with nine
  • Has three victories on the KLPGA Tour, coming at the 2013 KG-Edaily Ladies Open, 2012 Korean Women’s Open and 2011 S-OIL Champions

Rolex Rankings No. 12 Lexi Thompson (70-67)

  • She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 29 putts
  • This is Thompson’s ninth season on the LPGA Tour; she has 11 career victories, including the 2014 ANA Inspiration
  • This is Thompson’s sixth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour Season; her best finish is a tie for seventh at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
  • This is Thompson’s 11th appearance in the ANA Inspiration; she won in 2014 and has four other top-10 finishes
  • Has won an event in each of the past seven seasons, the longest active streak on the LPGA Tour
  • Ranked in the top 10 in several key performance categories on the 2019 LPGA Tour, ranking fourth in greens in regulation (76.06%) and fifth in average driving distance (275.96)
  • A four-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup Team (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019) with a 5-4-6 overall record
  • Represented the United States in the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing T19
  • A three-time member of Team USA at the UL International Crown (2014, 2016, 2018), posting a 7-3-1 overall record
  • 2017 Vare Trophy and Race to the CME Globe winner

Rolex Rankings No. 66 Nanna Koerstz Madsen (68-69)

  • Her 36-hole 136 is tied for the second-lowest 36-hole score of her career; she shot 134 at the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup and the 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic, and shot 136 at the 2019 HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open
  • She hit five of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens, with 26 putts
  • This is Koerstz Madsen’s third season on the LPGA Tour; her best finish is second at the 2017 ISPA Handa Women’s Australian Open and the 2019 Indy Women in Tech Championship
  • This is Koerstz Madsen’s fifth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for fifth at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open
  • This is Koerstz Madsen’s third appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for 66th in 2019
  • Represented Denmark at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, finishing T13
  • Won three times as a Symetra Tour rookie in 2017 to become the 12th player in Tour history to earn a “Battlefield Promotion” to the LPGA Tour
  • Won the 2016 Tipsport Golf Masters on the LET
  • Attended the University of South Carolina, where she won one collegiate tournament
  • Carries lemons in her golf bag that she sucks on to stay calm on the course and focus on playing
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Blake Arthur

Sports Director Blake Arthur joined the KESQ/CBS Local 2 team in August of 2015. Learn more about Blake here.

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