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ANA Inspiration preview: LPGA Tour hosts season’s first major

Preview — LPGA Tour – ANA Inspiration— Mission Hills Country Club (Dinah Shore Tournament Course) — Rancho Mirage, California—

Golf’s first major championship of the season tees off Thursday with the LPGA Tour’s ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, California near Palm Springs.

Most eyes will be on Rolex Ranking World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who is trying to become the youngest major champion.She is also riding a streak of 28 consecutive rounds of competitive golf. Ko captured the ISPS Handa Women’s Australia Open earlier this season.

The LPGA Tour season has yet to produce a repeat champion. Headliners Ko and Inbee Park have wins in 2015 along with Hyo Joo Kim, Na Yeon Choi, Amy Yang and Sei Young Kim.

A two-time event champion, Karrie Webb is always a threat to win at Mission Hills along with Cristie Kerr, who rallied for her 17th career victory last week at the Kia Classic.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson, who finished T-10 last week at the Kia Classic, plays with Ko in the opening round. Lexi hasn’t won on tour since this event in 2014. Stacy Lewis, with a string of Top 10s, is searching for her maiden 2015 victory in this spot.

Look for the winner to be grinding it out through late Sunday. Those players leading at the Greens In Regulation (GIR) statistics tend to showcase some success at Mission Hills.

FANTASY: Long hitters tend to score well at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, which can stretch to more than 7,200 yards. Pettersen is due for another big victory. She was T-3 here in her last appearance in 2013. Michelle Wie, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, would fit the mold here but she has yet to really contend in 2015.

BETTING: Ko is the betting favorite at 5 1/2-to-1 odds at www.skybet.com. But, consider Lexi at 25-1 and Webb at 66-1. Lewis was second to Ko in the Race to the CME Globe finale last fall. But, at 9-1 odds, take a pass on Lewis this week as she continues to push but come up short.

Golf Channel has the television coverage all week including the winner’s jump into Poppie’s Pond.

Other Golf News:

  • On the men’s side, U.S.-born players account for five the Top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Bubba Watson, the defending Masters champion, is the top-ranked American at No. 3.
  • Scott Piercy is lighting up The Golf Club of Houston to the tune of 8-under through 16 holes in the opening round of the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open. He leads at the moment by two shots. Most of the afternoon wave has yet to tee off. Phil Mickelson is apart of a group at T-2. He scattered just one bogey on his round and shot 66.
  • Mickelson opened 25-1 at www.ladbrokes.com this week to capture the Shell Houston Open, while Piercy was listed at 100-1.