NELLY KORDA LEADS THROUGH 18 HOLES AT ANA INSPIRATION
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Nelly Korda’s game was as hot as the weather on Thursday in the Coachella Valley. With temperatures soaring into the upper 90s and expected to break 100 in the coming days, Korda carded a 6-under 66 on Thursday and holds a one-stroke lead over In Gee Chun and Madelene Sagstrom following the first round of the 2020 ANA Inspiration.
Korda made seven birdies and one bogey, bookending her round with birdies at holes 1 and 18.
“Obviously on No. 1, haven't played for a week, first day of a major, your nerves are definitely there, so birdieing No. 1 was nice,” said Korda, who bested her previous ANA career-best round of 67 on Thursday. “I would say the bunker shot on No. 11 was really nice, too. I love tap-in birdies.”
This is the first time that Korda has held the lead following any round at a major championship. Her best major finish is a tie for third at the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, with an ANA Inspiration career-best tie for 13th in 2018.
Chun’s 67, which featured six birdies and one bogey, is her lowest career round at the ANA Inspiration, besting the 68 she shot in the first round in 2018. Sagstrom also shot an ANA-career best 67, with seven birdies offset by two bogeys. Chun is aiming for a third major title to join her wins at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2016 Evian Championship, while Sagstrom is aiming for her second win of 2020, to go along with her trophy at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.
Five players are tied for fourth at -4, including Rolex Rankings No. 2 and two-time 2020 winner Danielle Kang and 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner Brooke Henderson. They are joined by a trio of players aiming for their first LPGA Tour victories: Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Kelly Tan and Yu Liu.
Rolex Rankings No. 4 Sung Hyun Park shot a 69 in her first LPGA Tour round of 2020 and is tied for ninth at -3. She is joined by nine players, including past ANA Inspiration champions Lydia Ko and Brittany Lincicome.
NELLY KORDA WITH EXTRA SUPPORT THIS WEEK IN RANCHO MIRAGE
Nelly Korda fired off the low round of the day with a 66 to record her lowest 18-hole score in her career at the ANA Inspiration. This week at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, she has some familiar faces following along for the first time since the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio as she attempts to bring home the first major title of her career: her parents, Petr and Regina.
“It's really nice actually. It's nice to get some clapping occasionally. Yeah, they're definitely our biggest fans, and we wouldn't be where we are without them, so it's super nice,” said Korda.
Korda said Petr flew to New York this past week to watch her brother Sebastian make his major tennis debut in the U.S. Open while her mom stayed home before they made the trip to Rancho Mirage to cheer on Nelly and sister Jessica. While appreciative of her parents as this week’s selective gallery, Korda is already thinking of keys for tomorrow’s second round.
“I actually heard it was a little chilly in the morning today, so I don't know what to expect tomorrow,” said Korda. “But it was definitely hot at the start of my round, then towards the end of it we got a little bit of cloud coverage, so that was really nice. And just drinking lots of water and staying really patient out there is key.”
MADELENE SAGSTROM GETTING BACK THE BOUNCE IN HER STEP
Since she captured four straight top-25 finishes to open the 2020 season, including her first LPGA Tour title at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, Madelene Sagstrom has failed to make the cut in each of her last four starts.
Nonetheless, she put the last month of competition in her rearview mirror by starting the ANA Inspiration with a 5-under par opening round. It included seven birdies around Mission Hills Country Club.
“Golf is so up and down, and I'm coming off a rough few couple months starting up again so I think just finding my way back into my rhythm has been my priority,” said Sagstrom, who hit six fairways and 15 greens to sit in a tie for second. “I'm happy to be under par, shooting a good score and I'm excited for what the weekend holds. I know what it feels like to be in those final groups, so I am hoping to be in contention when the weekend comes.”
NOW THAT IN GEE CHUN’S CAUGHT HER BREAK, SHE’S READY TO GET HER THIRD MAJOR WIN
Since her last win at the 2018 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, In Gee Chun has had some serious ups and downs. She has four top-10 finishes since that week in Incheon, but while she’s had her good rounds, the Korean star has also experienced the other end of the spectrum with five missed cuts. She admits that the past few years have been hard.
“I think I made stress for myself because my game wasn't perfect, and I wanted to perfect my golf game,” said Chun after her first-round 66 at the ANA Inspiration. “I ended up putting more pressure on myself.”
The unexpected break due to the COVID-19 pandemic actually came at a good time for Chun. The time to rest and regenerate gave Chun the opportunity to rediscover her love for the game.
“I was in Korea for four months. I had a big break with my family and my friends. Honestly, I struggled with my golf before, so I wanted to just have a big break and get ready to go out and play again. I tried to reset for everything. No matter what, just try and have fun from out there,” said Chun, who has two major wins to her name. “I really tried not to be hard on myself on the golf course. I wanted to have fun out there and it worked really well. I had a great round today.”
DANIELLE KANG’S EYES SET ON THIRD LPGA WIN OF 2020
There’s a reason why Danielle Kang is second in the Women’s Golf World Rolex Rankings: She’s been consistently shooting in the low 70s and 60s. The only player with two 2020 victories, with wins coming in back-to-back events, Kang has her eyes on a third win of 2020 and a first victory at the ANA Inspiration.
“It’s more than a major for me, to win this specific tournament, the ANA Inspiration just because it's in California, in Palm Springs, and it's a tournament I've been playing since I was an amateur and I was invited here,” said Kang, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs. “I think it would just be a little bit different than winning different majors.”
Kang’s run at Win No. 3 got off to a good start with a first-round 68 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. But the veteran player knows better than to put too much pressure on herself.
“Every golf tournament I play and compete in, I want to do the best I can, and I don't think that will differ just because it's a different tournament,’ said Kang, who finished an ANA-career best T6 in 2019. “Every week in, week out I try and prepare the best I can and play the best I can possibly play and see where I end up."
BROOKE HENDERSON CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY IN 4-UNDER FASHION
Nine-time LPGA Tour champion Brooke Henderson opened her desert quest for a second major title with a 4-under 68 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club. Henderson recorded five birdies today as she celebrated her 23rd birthday. The lone blemish was bogey on No. 1 as she made the turn.
“That was just a tough three-putt, but it kind of fueled me to quickly put it in the past and focus on the next hole,” said Henderson, who hit 16 greens. “I made a lot of pars on my first nine and felt like I was really close to making a lot of birdies, so I was happy they started to fall. It was a nice way to spend my birthday.”
With the scorching temperatures in SoCal, 25 caddies elected to use the modified LPGA Tour policy allowing them to take electric carts this week in the ANA Inspiration. That included Henderson’s caddie and sister, Brittany.
“Normally I would never agree to taking carts, but under the circumstances with it being so hot I felt like since the LPGA was allowing us to use them, it is definitely an advantage,” said Henderson, No. 9 in the Rolex Rankings and the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner. “She was able to zoom along, get to my ball fast, calculate some numbers, get a feel for the conditions, and then by the time I arrived she had everything set out and we could discuss more specifics. That was nice and I think we’ll continue to do it the next three days.”
YU LIU FEELS CLOSE TO CLAIMING HER FIRST TOUR VICTORY
With two top-10 finishes so far in 2020 and a career-high seven in 2019, Yu Liu hopes that a breakthrough first win is close on her horizon. If she could get that elusive first victory at this week’s ANA Inspiration, that would be an absolute dream come true. The 23-year-old from Beijing is well on her way with a good start on Thursday, carding a 4-under 68 and sitting tied for fourth heading into the second round.
“I'm definitely very happy about my start. I think I stayed within my process well. I communicated well with my caddie,” said Liu. “Even though my game was feeling pretty off to be honest during the practice rounds and coming off from two missed cuts for the last two weeks and my expectations pretty low, I was able to stay within my process well and I'm really proud of myself.”
Liu raved about the relationship she has with her caddie Axel Bettan, who has been on her bag on and off for the last year.
“He's great. I feel like his personality really fits with what I need because I tend to get very anxious and a bit impatient sometimes,” said Liu. “He's pretty chill, so I think from a mentality standpoint, he's a huge help for me.”
HINAKO SHIBUNO STRONG IN U.S. DEBUT
The first round of the 2020 ANA Inspiration marked 2019 AIG Women’s Open champion Hinako Shibuno’s competitive debut on American soil. Shibuno took the golf world by surprise when she won 2019’s final major in her first competition outside of her native Japan. Fast forward a year and Shibuno’s first round in the States was another success, a 2-under 70 that puts her tied for 19th heading into Friday’s second round.
“I was pretty nervous on the first tee, but after I hit the fairway with my tee shot, my second was perfect and then I made it, I was fine,” said Shibuno, nicknamed the Smiling Cinderella due to her ever-present grin. “It’s been a while since I made three good shots in a row. This made me confident out there.”
After disappointing missed cuts at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the AIG Women’s Open, Shibuno spent the last two weeks in Los Angeles focusing on her putting, even changing her grip heading into this week’s major.
“I asked my coach if I should change it to a left-hand low grip and he said that’s a really good idea. So I practiced it the last couple of weeks in Los Angeles before I came here,” said Shibuno. “This was the first time to try it at a tournament and it really worked out for the green speeds and I had no three putts, which really helped too.”
KELLY TAN SIMPLY THANKFUL TO BE COMPETING ON MAJOR STAGE
Having played in every tournament since the LPGA Tour restart in July, Kelly Tan is just happy to be out on a golf course competing these days. That mentality led to a 4-under 68 on day one at the ANA Inspiration.
The lone Malaysia native on the LPGA Tour finished T20 at 2019 LPGA Q-Series presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to earn LPGA Tour Membership for 2020. Even though this season has played out differently than she originally thought it would, Tan has maintained a positive outlook.
“I’m just very grateful to be playing golf right now,” Tan said after recording seven birdies in Thursday’s first round. “I told myself that I'll take what this year gives me, try to play hard and see where that puts me. I didn't really have too many expectations on how many events I was going to get in, but I knew if I played well, I would play my way into the ANA Inspiration and major championships like this.”
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Nelly Korda (66)
- Korda’s 66 is her lowest career round at the ANA Inspiration; her previous best was a 67 in the fourth round in 2018
- She hit 10 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
- 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. 54 In Gee Chun (67)
- Chun’s 67 is her lowest career round at the ANA Inspiration; her previous best was a 68 in the first round in 2018
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- This is Chun’s fifth season on the LPGA Tour; she has three career victories, including major wins at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2016 Evian Championship
- This is Chun’s eighth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for seventh at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the AIG Women’s Open
- This is Chun’s sixth appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for second in 2016
- Joined Nancy Lopez (1978) as the only LPGA rookies in history to win the Vare Trophy in 2016, the same year she captured Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors
- Two-time member of Team Korea at the UL International Crown (2016, 2018), posting a 6-2-0 overall record
- Has nine career wins on the KLPGA and was Player of the Year in 2015
- Represented the Republic of Korea at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, finishing T13
Rolex Rankings No. 62 Madelene Sagstrom (67)
- Sagstrom’s 67 is her lowest career round at the ANA Inspiration and her first round in the 60s; her previous best was a 70 in the first round in 2018
- She hit six of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 28 putts
- This is Sagstrom’s fourth season on the LPGA Tour; she has one career victory, coming at the 2020 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio
- This is Sagstrom’s ninth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; she won the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio and has three other top-25 finishes
- This is Sagstrom’s third appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for 52nd in 2019
- She was a member of the 2017 European Solheim Cup Team, posting a 1-2-0 record
- Sagstrom was a member of Team Sweden at the 2018 UL International Crown, posting a 1-3-0 record
- She was the 2016 Symetra Tour Player of the Year and Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year with three wins and 12 top-10 finishes
- Sagstrom is a 2015 graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in psychology
Rolex Rankings No. 9 Brooke Henderson (68)
- Today (Sept. 10) is her 23rd birthday
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 30 putts
- This is Henderson’s sixth season on the LPGA Tour; she has nine career victories, including a major win at the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and has won twice for the last four consecutive seasons
- This is Henderson’s fifth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for fourth at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
- This is Henderson’s sixth appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for 10th in 2016, and she has never missed the cut
- Became the winningest Canadian golfer in the history of the LPGA and PGA Tours with her ninth career win, coming at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give
- Represented Canada in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, finishing T7
Rolex Rankings No. 39 Yu Liu (68)
- She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, with 29 putts
- This is Liu’s third season on the LPGA Tour; her best finish is a tie for second at the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup
- This is Liu’s ninth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for fourth at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
- This is Liu’s second appearance in the ANA Inspiration; she tied for 21st in 2019
- Spent 2013-14 at Duke University, where she earned a victory at the Darius Rucker Invitational and was a member of the 2014 National Championship-winning team
- In 2019, Liu ranked second on the LPGA Tour in greens in regulation (76.6%) and third in birdies (390)
Rolex Rankings No. 2 Danielle Kang (68)
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 26 putts
- This is Kang’s ninth season on the LPGA Tour; she has five career victories, including the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship and the 2020 Marathon LPGA Classic
- This is Kang’s eighth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; she won the LPGA Drive On Championship and the Marathon LPGA Classic, and has three other top-five finishes
- This is Kang’s ninth appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for sixth in 2019
- In 2019, Kang ranked in the top 10 on Tour in Rolex Player of the Year (eighth), Race to the CME Globe (eighth), Official Money (eighth) and greens in regulation (ninth)
- A two-time member of the USA Solheim Cup Team (2017, 2019), with a 4-4-0 overall record
Rolex Rankings No. 270 Kelly Tan (68)
- Tan’s 68 is her lowest career round at the ANA Inspiration; her previous best was a 69 in the third round in 2016
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- Tan is in her seventh year on the LPGA Tour; her best finish is a tie for fourth at the 2014 Marathon LPGA Classic
- This is Tan’s eighth event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for ninth at the Marathon LPGA Classic
- This is Tan’s second appearance at the ANA Inspiration; she tied for 50th in 2016
- Represented Malaysia at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, where she finished 51st
- She has one victory on the Symetra Tour at the 2019 Florida’s Natural Charity Classic