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.