Lexi Thompson is returning to the scene of the crime — the ANA Inspiration, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California — where last year many believe she was robbed of a title that was justly hers.

Lexi Thompson
Lexi Thompson walks off green after losing in a playoff at last year’s ANA Inspiration. (Image: Jeff Gross/Getty)

The 23-year-old American golfer who turned pro at age 15 is a +1100 favorite to win the ANA Inspiration, the first of five major championships in the LPGA season, and an event she won in 2014. South Korea’s Inbee Park, who won in 2013, is also +1100.

Thompson thought she had her second ANA Inspiration title in the bag last year. She was leading the tournament by two shots on Sunday with six holes to play when a rules official informed her she was being penalized four strokes.

A television viewer had emailed tournament officials saying they had seen a rules violation the day before. Rules officials agreed and assessed two strokes for incorrectly marking her ball and two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard. Thompson went from a two-shot lead to being behind by two. She rallied to force a playoff, but lost to So Yeon Ryu.

“It was April 1st earlier that week,” Thompson said. “I’m like, ‘Is this a joke right now?’ I wasn’t expecting that at all.”

By the end of last year, the LPGA changed their rules so that phone callers or e-mailers could not affect the outcome of a tournament.

Recovery Shots

As Thompson enters this week’s ANA Inspiration, last year’s outcome seems liken ancient history. She said she is ready to win the historic event that entertainer and actress Dinah Shore made famous.

“I feel really good with where my game is at right now,” she said. “I’ve played four events so far, two good, two bad, but I feel very good about where my game’s at. I feel solid.”

The two bad tournaments were her most recent. She finished tied for 58th at last week’s Kia Classic and tied for 31st on March 1 at the HSBC Women’s World Golf Championship.

But Thompson has always played well at the Palm Springs, CA tournament. She won in 2014 and has finished second, fifth and seventh her last three years.

“I would say it just fits my game because I do get to play it pretty aggressively,” she said. “I get to hit a lot of drivers.”

Long Ball Hitters

The course has always favored bombers off the tee. Hall of Famer and Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin told the Desert Sun that won’t change this week.

“The difference in being an average-length driver and long driver at Mission Hills is enormous,” Rankin said. “It takes it from quite a difficult golf course to a lot of birdie holes.  Anybody who has some length and drives the ball well, you have an advantage anywhere you play. But the difference is if you are in the average or shorter range, it is a very difficult golf course.”

Another golfer who should benefit from her length is Michelle Wie. The former teen sensation is 24th in driving distance and has had several top-10 finishes at ANA Inspiration. She won earlier this year and finished sixth at this event in 2017. She is +2800 to win.

Another longshot is Brittany Lincicome at +2200. She is fourth in driving distance and has won this event twice, most recently in 2015.

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