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Lexi tops crowded leader board at Missions Hills

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

Golf’s first major championship of the season is in full swing at the LPGA Tour’s Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, California near Palm Springs.

American Lexi Thompson, the Rolex Rankings No.3 ranked player in women’s golf, tops the leader board alongside former World No. 1 Ai Miyazato at 7-under through 36 holes at Mission Hills Country Club.

Thompson, the 2014 ANA Inspiration champion, captured the Honda LPGA Thailand just a few weeks ago in late February to win the fourth tour event of the 2016 season. Miyazato is more than a year removed from her last victory. The due tees off in the final pairing Saturday at 2:01 p.m. local time in California.

The crowded leader board should make for a dramatic weekend.

LPGAtour logoNEWSuzann Pettersen, who shot 67 in round two, headlines a group at T-3 and 6-under. She is in the second-to-last pairing with Sung-Hyun Park. In Gee Chun and Lee-Anne Pace are also at T-3 along with World No. 1 Lydia Ko and Lizette Salas.

Ko plays with Salas, who carded a 5-under-67 Friday, in the 2:41 p.m. pairing. Ko, who won her first major last season, triumphed for the first time in 2016 winning the Kia Classic in California last week by four shots. It marked her 11th career LPGA Tour title.

Inside the Top 10 at 5-under and just two back is Charley Hull, Michelle Wie, Minjee Lee and Ha Na Jang. Jang might be the player to watch with two earlier-season victories. She won the second event of the year in Florida and then the fifth event in Singapore.

Stacy Lewis, the 2012 champion here, sits T-14 but just three back.

Lexi looks confident, but a full leader board could put some advantages to players just a few groups ahead of the leaders come Sunday.

Other Golf News:

  • Charley Hoffman (10-under) leads the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open by a shot heading into the weekend. Long-hitting Dustin Johnson is just two back. Hoffman entered the week as a 60-to-1 long shot at golfodds.com.
  • Annika Sorenstam was named the 2017 Solheim Cup captain for Team Europe. Juli Inkster will lead the U.S. team. Annika won 72 times on the LPGA Tour.
  • The World Golf Hall of Fame is making some changes to its induction processes. Players will now need to be 50 years of age (instead of 40) or be out of competitive golf for at least five years in order to be considered. Jack Nicklaus also replaced Arnold Palmer on the selection committee.