The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, September 10, 2020
ANA Inspiration storylines — Interview with Dr. Alison Curdt — Must-click links in women's golf
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ANA Inspiration Storylines
It’s a major week, friends.
The LPGA teed off today for its second major of the season—the ANA Inspiration, which is being hosted in Rancho Mirage, CA at Mission Hills Country Club. With a purse of $3.3 million, and the defending champion Jin Young Ko not in the field, there’s plenty at stake and a lot of opportunity. You can check out the leaderboard here or tune in for the coverage below all weekend long.
September 10 Golf Channel (ET) 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
September 10 Golf Channel (ET) 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
September 11 Golf Channel (ET) 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
September 11 Golf Channel (ET) 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
September 12 Golf Channel (ET) 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.
September 13 Golf Channel (ET) 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.
The early leader sits at 4-under, Xiyu Lin, with a lot of star power following close behind. We haven’t seen or heard much of players like Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson, so we will see if they make any moves over the next few days. There are few things being talked about in the lead-up to the event and now that play is underway, so let’s dive into some of the best storylines.
Hot and Smoky
As if 2020 hasn’t been difficult enough, add fires to the list for the state of California, which has made the air quality in Rancho Mirage less than ideal. The course has been blanketed in smoke all week, although watching coverage this afternoon, it has gotten better over the last couple days. And while the smoke might be lifting, the heat is here to stay. It’s supposed to get upwards of 100 degrees this weekend — so the LPGA is actually allowing caddies to use carts during play.
Between the dry air, poor air quality and hot temperatures, that’s definitely the right move on the LPGA’s part. I was just thinking how weird it would feel to ride in a cart during a major. Without fans, there’s already less of a major championship feel. But riding in a cart would almost make it feel like a casual practice round. I didn’t see many caddies use the carts during the morning wave, so we’ll see if that trend keeps up the next few days.
A major championship without the World No. 1 player seems strange to say the least. But at this point, are we really surprised by anything this year? I don’t blame players who have chosen to stay in their home countries, especially if there are a lot of playing opportunities and ways to make money without having to travel. It’s safe and probably nice to not have to travel all over.
Ko is currently at home in South Korea and hasn’t played in an LPGA event in almost a year. With women’s golf, and the support behind women’s golf, being massive in Korea, there’s plenty of opportunities to still stay sharp. Sung Hyun Park is another top player who has opted to do something similar to Ko, but she will actually tee it up this week for the first time this season.
Part of me wants to argue that without the World No. 1 player in the field, the door is wide open for someone else to make magic happen. But that’s honestly not really the case. Anyone can win any week on the LPGA. It isn’t uncommon for players who have never won before to win a major championship—like Sophia Popov at the British Open or Hannah Green at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last year. And it isn’t uncommon for proven players and Hall of Famers like Inbee Park to find themselves in the winners circle on Sunday of a major.
A Major Without Popov
There’s still a lot of talk surrounding Sophia Popov’s status on the LPGA this year and whether or not the LPGA should change the rule. The current rule is that she gets to play in every major for the next five years, but the ANA Inspiration this week is not included in that.
“…Popov wasn’t eligible for the tour’s five-year exemption as she was a non-member at the time of her victory. Instead, Popov is exempt for the remainder of 2020 and all of 2021. Her first eligible start is next week’s Cambia Portland Classic.
Popov, a four-time All-American at USC, isn’t in this week’s field because the criteria for the ANA Inspiration (originally scheduled for April) was set before the LPGA took a 166-day break due to the coronavirus. The winner’s five-year exemption into the ANA was slated to start in 2021.” (via Golfweek)
We know now that Mike Whan will not be making any exceptions, or changing the rules, in the middle of the season. He laid out how there have been a handful of other examples where non-members have won majors—and that the rule was the same. I understand why he doesn’t want to get in the business of shaking things up for one person. But this example definitely warrants further evaluation.
As BethAnn Nichols alludes to, why not allow more flexibility if they do decide to change the rules? Without Jin Young Ko in the field, and this is just one example, it would be a completely fair to let Popov in. Plus, there are a handful of other major champions not in the ANA field this year. Popov deserves to have one of those spots. If it was a full field without any major champions backing out, then fine. But I do agree that there should be more wiggle room in these situations.
I don’t know why my gut is telling me Amy Olson, but it is! She’s found her way into the Top 10 and been in contention a couple times since the season restart. When I was watching the skins charity match last night, which she played in, she talked about how happy she is with her game right now. She’s gone through some swing changes and for the first time in her professional career is starting to find some consistency.
The other two I have my eye on are Danielle Kang and Lydia Ko. Danielle is a pretty obvious pick given she’s won two events already and is in the hunt nearly every week. She has a feisty-ness to her, especially during major championships, that is unmatched. She alway seems to step up with the lights are the brightest. I remember sitting at one of her press conferences at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last year where she talked about how much she likes a tough setup. The rough is thick and the fairways are slim this week. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she steps up to the challenge.
Lydia is one of those players long overdue for another win. She’s won this event before so we all know what she’s capable of. This year she has played a lot better than in 2019; much more consistent. Not long ago she had the chance to win, but ended up losing to Kang in a playoff. She is on the cusp of being reunited with the winner’s circle. It’s only a matter of time. If she can’t get it done this week, I really have a feeling she will win an event or two in 2020.
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This Week in Women’s Golf
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Lexi Thompson launched her new brand. (via Golfweek)
LPGA moms are continuing to prove that anything is possible. (via LPGA.com)
Charley Hull withdraws from ANA after positive COVID-19 results. (via Golfweek)
Thicker grass, fewer trees won’t change the character of the ANA Inspiration. (via Desert Sun)
It’s a major championship week on the LPGA and Sophia Popov won’t be there. (via Golfweek)
In retirement season, Natalie Gulbis gets exemption in ShopRite LPGA Classic. (via Press of Atlantic City)
Jin Young Ko will not be defending her ANA Inspiration title this week. (via LPGA.com)
Danielle Kang offers up some solid advice to junior golfers. (via Golf.com)
LPGA is set to announce second Drive On Championship, probably in October. (via Golf News Net)
It’s going to be a hot one in Palm Springs—so the LPGA is shaking up the rules to allow caddies in carts. (via Golf Channel)
PGA Professional Samantha Morrell will tee it up at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next month. (via Providence Journal)
The greatest all-sport athlete who helped revolutionize women’s golf. (via CNN)
With six years in between LPGA wins, Austin Ernst is having a strong 2020. (via The State)
Major championship golf gives us something other than the coronavirus to focus on. (via Desert Sun)
One year out, U.S. Captain Pat Hurst eagerly awaits the Solheim Cup. (via Toledo Blade)
Leona Maguire speaks to the inequality she has faced in golf. (via The 42)
It will be hot and smoky in Palm Springs for the ANA Inspiration. (via USA Today)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Dr. Alison Curdt
I. Can you give us a quick introduction of who you are? My name is Dr. Alison Curdt and I am the Director of Instruction at Wood Ranch Golf Club in Los Angeles, California. I split my time between coaching players in golf during the day. And at night, I am a licensed psychotherapist in the state of California and I help individuals in all sports with their mental game. I still enjoy playing too; I’m a player by heart and love competing in my own events.
II. What was your college experience like? The recruiting process was exciting and exhilarating and fun. It was certainly an ego rush to see what kind of school wanted me on their team. When I saw my first palm tree at Florida State, I thought this is it. I’m getting away from the snow and all this Missouri weather. I was lucky to have an assistant coach who knew me from junior golf…it felt safe. My teammates were amazing. Now being in my 30’s, when I look back at my college experience, I think ‘wow it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through and how I’ve grown from that.’ It’s made me into the woman I am today that I’m so grateful for.
III. What lead you down the route of going into Psychology? I had a couple different pathways figuring out what major to complete. I enrolled as a nursing major because I thought it’s what my family wanted and it was safe. Within my first two weeks, I was sitting in an honors lecture where they talked about discovering your passion. That was my turn right there to switch to psychology. My passion was always figuring out the why. Why do people do the things they do? Why do things happen in life? Why am I the way I am? And maybe if I understood my own questions more, I could figure out other people too. I finished that degree by my sophomore year and had nothing to study after that. My mom encouraged me to check out the golf management program so I did that my final two years. Learning the golf business set me up for my career.
IV. What do you think many people don’t understand about golf? This game is hard. You cannot be consistent in this game. Because us as people we’re not consistent. What’s beautiful about this game is there is such a challenge. A mental challenge and a physical challenge. I really invite people to try it out because you learn so much about yourself. You discover things about yourself you’ve never discovered before. And it adds a unique quality to who you are as a person.
V. Through a psychology lens, why do you think people do or do not play golf? I think it comes down to the narrative of “I’m not good enough.” When we see the elite on tv, when we see the best of the best perform, we go into comparison mode. Then it becomes very scary—almost like why would I want to spend my time struggling to learn something? Where I can go do something else and be really good a lot quicker, and have more fun doing it. For the ones that choose to play golf, and I’ve certainly taught my fair share of beginning golfers the last six months, I ask them why they picked golf. They felt that this is something they can do by themselves. They don’t need to rely on other people to play it. But it’s also something that you can look at as a personal challenge. There’s a hierarchy of moving up in golf; I think that’s why they are attracted to it.