ANA Inspiration - R1

Ally McDonald grabs opening lead in first major of the year

April 04-07
Mission Hills CC, Dinah Shore Course, Rancho Mirage, California
$3,000,000
Round 2, Round 3, Round 4


Ally McDonald birdied the 18th hole Thursday to seize a one-shot lead over a quartet of players after the first round of the ANA Inspiration, the first major championship on the LPGA calendar.

McDonald had broken loose atop the crowded leaderboard before a bogey at the 14th, and she managed to get her nose in front again with her seventh birdie to cap a four-under par 68 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.

“I played the par fives really well today, which is exciting,” said McDonald. “On a major championship golf course you have to take advantage of par-5s.”


In just their second week as a re-found player/caddie relationship, Lexi Thompson is already singing the praises of Benji Thompson. The pair, who are not related, worked together from 2013 to mid-2016, including during her 2014 ANA Inspiration victory, and joined forces again starting at last week’s Kia Classic. 

As the duo considered Thompson’s approach to the 18th green, Benji convinced Lexi that she was likely being too aggressive in her club selection. The player adjusted from a 50-degree wedge to her 47-degree wedge and a deft chip onto the final green gave Thompson a closing birdie and ultimately a tie for second after the first round.

“I was like, thank you so much, Benji,” said Thompson. “That’s what a great caddie does. He’s there for me to play aggressive and call me off shots that need to be called off.”

Thompson is always in her element here on the Dinah Shore Course. The 24-year-old Floridian, known for her explosive power off the tee, has three other top-10 finishes to go with her win and has never finished worse than 48th.

This may be LPGA Tour rookie Linnea Strom’s first ANA Inspiration appearance, but it isn’t the first time she’s played well at Mission Hills Country Club. Strom carded a 3-under 69 in the first round of the ANA Inspiration, and she had similar success at Mission Hills during Stage I of the 2019 LPGA Q School. She opened with 69s across the club’s Palmer and Player Courses and closed shooting 67-66 on the Dinah Shore Course that annually hosts the ANA Inspiration.

“Since I played good at Q-School here I just have good memories from here,” said Strom, who won Stage I to advance to Stage II. “I reminded myself of that today. I know it’s a tough course, but there is some birdies out there. Just stay patient and let them come to you and not get ahead of yourself and I think it’s good.”

Strom made five birdies against two bogeys in her first round and finds herself in a great spot, just one shot back of first-round leader Ally McDonald . 

“I think I just tried to be relaxed and take one shot at a time,” said Strom. “I knew that the wind was going to pick up a little bit more the further I was going in the round, so I just tried to not get ahead myself. I just focused on every shot and try to take one hole at a time and make some birdies. I got some putts dropping, yeah, so it was good day.”

It’s always a massive bonus to bring red-hot form into a major championship and Koreans Jin Young Ko and Hyo Joo Kim took full advantage of that as they moved into early contention. Rolex Rankings No. 5 Ko, who has won once and finished second twice in her first five starts on the 2019 LPGA Tour, racked up four birdies and a lone bogey for an opening 69 on the Dinah Shore Course. Kim, who tied the Kia Classic’s 18-hole scoring record on Sunday by firing a sizzling 10-under 62 to vault into a share of seventh place, matched Ko at Mission Hills with a 69 that included an eagle at the par-5 second.

“I played really well in the last round at the Kia Classic,” said Kim, who has recorded top-10 finishes in her last three starts on the LPGA Tour. “That really elevated my confidence level, and I wanted to be able to take that level into this week of a major. Just wanted to be able to maintain that throughout the whole week. Over those last three weeks, I had a lot of great results, and I think those low scores are because of my confidence level. When I do make mistakes and they come up, that confidence has taken me through and helped me get through that.”

Ko, who clinched her third LPGA Tour victory at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup two weeks ago, has been one of the hottest players in the women’s game this season while adopting a strategy of staying as happy as possible on the golf course without feeling any self-imposed pressure.

“This is a major, but I don’t want to put any pressure on myself for the first major of the year,” Ko said. “I don’t like pressure on the course. I just like to relax. My goal is happiness, to be a happy golfer on the course. I am praying on the course and hopefully the ball will go straight and I will hit the fairway. That makes me happy. I don’t like thinking about the future. Nobody knows about my future or your future, so I’m just trying to have a good finish on the course.”


Former world number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand was in a group of 10 players on 70, while current world number one Sung-hyun Park headed a group of 13 on one-under 71.

Early in her first round, things were not looking good for Michelle Wie . The fan favorite, making just her fourth start since she withdrew from the AIG Women’s British Open last August, made double bogey at No. 14 (her fifth hole) and added bogeys at 16 and 17 to start 5-over through eight holes. But her breadth of experience was invaluable to the 11-year LPGA veteran.

“I knew that I just needed to just get the rust out and get my confidence back up and see what the little white ball is doing again,” said Wie.

That patience paid off, as Wie carded four consecutive birdies at 18, 1, 2 and 3, finishing the day at +2 and in a tie for 56th. Wie has been battling a recurring hand injury for the last few seasons. She opened her 2019 schedule with a tie for 23rd at the Honda LPGA Thailand but withdrew from the following week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore after 14 holes, citing the injury.

Player Notes

Rolex Rankings No. 106 Ally McDonald (68)

This is the first time in McDonald’s career that she has held the lead after any round of an LPGA Tour event

McDonald’s first-round 68 is tied for her best round at the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she shot a 68 in the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand

Her 68 is also tied for her best round at a major; she previously shot 68 four times at a major, most recently in the first round of the 2018 Evian Championship

She hit 11 of 14 greens and 13 of 18 fairways, with 27 putts

This is McDonald’s fourth year with LPGA Tour status (she primarily played the Symetra Tour in 2016); her best finish is a tie for third at the 2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G

This is McDonald’s sixth event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is T29 at the Honda LPGA Thailand

She is competing in her second ANA Inspiration; she missed the cut in 2018

In 2016, she finished the Symetra Tour season with $110,359, the second highest total in Tour history; she had eight top-10 finishes, including four runner-up showings

Also in 2016, she won the Symetra Tour’s Heather Wilbur Spirit Award, which honors the player who best exemplifies dedication, courage, perseverance and love of the game and spirit toward achieving goals as a professional golfer

She was a two-time First Team All-American during her four years at Mississippi State University

Rolex Rankings No. 5 Jin Young Ko (69)

Ko’s first-round 69 is her career-best round at the ANA Inspiration and her first-ever round in the 60s on the Dinah Shore Course; her previous best was a 70 in the first round in 2017

She hit 11 of 14 greens and 16 of 18 fairways, with 31 putts

Ko is in her second season on the LPGA Tour; she won the 2018 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in her Membership debut and won the 2017 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship as a non-Member

This is Ko’s sixth event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, finished second at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and tied for third at the HSBC Women’s World Championship

She is competing in her fourth ANA Inspiration; her best finish is T64 in 2018

Ko won the 2018 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors, an award she clinched with four events remaining in the season

Rolex Rankings No. 222 Linnea Strom (69)

Strom’s first-round 69 is tied for the third-lowest round of her LPGA Tour career; she shot a 65 in the second round of the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup and has two 68s

She hit six of 14 greens and 13 of 18 fairways, with 27 putts

Strom is a 2019 LPGA Tour rookie; she earned her Tour card via the Symetra Tour’s 2018 Volvik Race for the Card, where she finished fifth

This is Strom’s fifth event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is T18 at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

She is competing in her first ANA Inspiration

Strom spent 2018 on the Symetra Tour, where she earned Gaelle Truett Rookie of the Year honors thanks to her 10 top-20 finishes, including a win at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge

She turned professional in December 2017 after two years at Arizona State University, where she led the Sun Devils to the program’s eighth NCAA Division I National Championship in 2017

Rolex Rankings No. 9 Lexi Thompson (69)

Thompson’s first-round 69 is tied for her second-lowest round of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she shot 67 twice and 69 three times, most recently in the final round of last week’s Kia Classic

She hit seven of 14 greens and 11 of 18 fairways, with 26 putts

Thompson is in her eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has 10 victories, including a major win at the 2014 ANA Inspiration

This is Thompson’s fifth event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is T10 at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions

She is competing in her 10th ANA Inspiration; she won the tournament in 2014, finished second in a playoff in 2017, has two other top-10 finishes and has never missed the cut

Thompson won the 2017 Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average and also captured that year’s Race to the CME Globe

She has won an event in each of the past six LPGA Tour seasons, the longest active streak on Tour

She represented the USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she finished T19, and is a three-time member of the USA Solheim Cup and UL International Crown Teams


Pos.
Player
To Par
R1
1
Ally McDonald
-4
68
T2
Linnea Strom
-3
69
T2
Lexi Thompson
-3
69
T2
Jin Young Ko
-3
69
T2
Hyo Joo Kim
-3
69
T6
Xiyu Lin
-2
70
T6
Jing Yan
-2
70
T6
Mi Hyang Lee
-2
70
T6
Lauren Stephenson
-2
70
T6
Lizette Salas
-2
70
T6
Lydia Ko
-2
70
T6
Jessica Korda
-2
70
T6
Cristie Kerr
-2
70
T6
Amy Yang
-2
70
T6
Jane Park
-2
70
T16
Alison Lee
-1
71
T16
Katherine Kirk
-1
71
T16
Jeongeun Lee6
-1
71
T16
Sung Hyun Park
-1
71
T16
Brooke M. Henderson
-1
71
T16
In-Kyung Kim
-1
71
T16
Mo Martin
-1
71
T16
Stacy Lewis
-1
71
T16
Gaby Lopez
-1
71
T16
Austin Ernst
-1
71
T16
Angel Yin
-1
71
T16
Hee Young Park
-1
71
T16
Megan Khang
-1
71
T29
Chella Choi
E
72
T29
Charley Hull
E
72
T29
Eun-Hee Ji
E
72
T29
Jenny Shin
E
72
T29
Beatriz Recari
E
72
T29
Marissa Steen
E
72
T29
Madelene Sagstrom
E
72
T29
Mariajo Uribe
E
72
T29
Carlota Ciganda
E
72
T29
Danielle Kang
E
72
T29
Azahara Munoz
E
72
T29
Mi Jung Hur
E
72
T29
Mirim Lee
E
72
T42
Ashleigh Buhai
1
73
T42
Inbee Park
1
73
T42
Ryann O’Toole
1
73
T42
Nasa Hataoka
1
73
T42
Haru Nomura
1
73
T42
Jodi Ewart Shadoff
1
73
T42
Yu Liu
1
73
T42
Lindy Duncan
1
73
T42
Pernilla Lindberg
1
73
T42
Caroline Masson
1
73
T42
Wei-Ling Hsu
1
73
T42
Anna Nordqvist
1
73
T42
Minjee Lee
1
73
T42
Jennifer Song
1
73
T56
Sarah Jane Smith
2
74
T56
Moriya Jutanugarn
2
74
T56
Michelle Wie
2
74
T56
Nelly Korda
2
74
T56
Georgia Hall
2
74
T56
Jacqui Concolino
2
74
T56
Sandra Gal
2
74
T56
Haeji Kang
2
74
T56
Nanna Koerstz Madsen
2
74
T56
Jaye Marie Green
2
74
T56
Peiyun Chien
2
74
T56
Kristen Gillman
2
74
T68
Ayako Uehara
3
75
T68
Albane Valenzuela (a)
3
75
T68
Brittany Lincicome
3
75
T68
So Yeon Ryu
3
75
T68
Marina Alex
3
75
T68
In Gee Chun
3
75
T68
Jiyai Shin
3
75
T68
Laura Gonzalez Escallon
3
75
T68
Patty Tavatanakit (a)
3
75
T68
Ariya Jutanugarn
3
75
T68
Mariah Stackhouse
3
75
T68
Emma Talley
3
75
T80
Alena Sharp
4
76
T80
Sarah Schmelzel
4
76
T80
Annie Park
4
76
T80
Amy Olson
4
76
T80
Maria Torres
4
76
T80
Brittany Altomare
4
76
T80
Aditi Ashok
4
76
T80
Morgan Pressel
4
76
T80
Sarah Kemp
4
76
T80
Mamiko Higa
4
76
T80
Kim Kaufman
4
76
T80
Sakura Yokomine
4
76
T92
Anne van Dam
5
77
T92
Juli Inkster
5
77
T92
Jeong Eun Lee
5
77
T92
Gerina Piller
5
77
T92
Pornanong Phatlum
5
77
T92
Celine Boutier
5
77
T92
Su Oh
5
77
T99
Angela Stanford
6
78
T99
Jasmine Suwannapura
6
78
T99
Karrie Webb
6
78
T99
Yani Tseng
6
78
T99
Sei Young Kim
6
78
T99
Brittany Lang
6
78
T99
Bronte Law
6
78
T106
Charlotte Thomas
7
79
T106
Shanshan Feng
7
79
T106
Rachel Heck (a)
7
79
T109
Hannah Green
8
80
T109
Frida Kinhult (a)
8
80
111
Xin Kou (a)
10
82
112
Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras
12
84