Golf's first major championship of the season returns to Rancho Mirage this March 26 – April 1, 2018, and the 47th annual playing of the ANA Inspiration looks to bring the most competitive field ever to the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club.
Held as a major championship since 1983, the tournament is golf's longest-running event continuously held at the same locale, save for The Masters.
Now in its fourth year with ANA, the event continues to grow in turn with the LPGA's increasingly global reach. And as evidenced from last year's rule flap involving 2014 champion Lexi Thompson, the world is indeed watching the tournament closely to see who will make the victor's famed leap into Poppie's Pond adjacent to the 18th green.
As for locals and visitors eager to watch the event live, here's what you need to know for the 2018 ANA Inspiration.
What: The ANA Inspiration
The Sponsor: All Nippon Airways, Inc., the largest airline in Japan by passenger numbers (and recently ranked the world's No. 3 airline for customer service)
Where: Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA
When: Monday, March 26 – Sunday, April 1, 2018
The Course: Dinah Shore Tournament Course
- Designer: Desmond Muirhead (1970)
- Par: 72
- Yardage: 6,769
The Purse: $2.8 million
Spectating and Tickets
Options abound for following the action.
Take a walk alongside your favorite player for a day (which makes for a good, five-mile exercise), or find a prime position to situate and watch groups come through.
The grandstand at the 18th always makes for drama, as long-hitting golfers go for the par-5 in two, while most players opt to lay-up before the water-laden green. And on the course, a perfect perch rests in the shade behind the par-4 sixth hole, which sports more water challenge and a seriously undulating green.
Tickets range from any/every day general admission to 18th Green Suites (catered by local favorite, Wally's Desert Turtle). And new for 2018 are Clubhouse Tickets, offering indoor access to dine at Mission Hills' Champions Bar & Craft Kitchen, as well as outdoor seating with a premier vantage of players and passerby from the clubhouse terrace.
Those with Military I.D. and first responders get into the event free of charge.
For general parking ($5/day; $15/weekly), simply leave your ride at nearby Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, then take a five-minute shuttle over to the event grounds.
The ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference
On Tuesday, March 27, the ANA will host its third annual Inspiring Women in Sports Conference. Pairing discussions and speeches with a diverse panel of world-class female athletes from multiple disciplines, the conference has fast grown into one of the country's most unique platforms to empower women through sports.
Last year's panel featured tennis legend Billie Jean King, along with Aly Raisman, Maria Sharapova, Lexi Thompson and moderator Julie Foudy.
ANA Junior Inspiration
Originally started by the Southern California Golf Association, the ANA Junior now enters its second year as a sanctioned AJGA event, with 48 of the globe's best junior female players vying for entry into the ANA's championship field.
Played March 22-25 of tournament week (closed to the public), the six years of the event have seen four of these young ladies make the cut in the professional event, with the likes of future stars Alison Lee, Angel Yin, Andrea Lee and Luci Li all having claimed victory amid the junior set.
Players to Watch
After Lexi Thompson's four-stroke penalty at the 2017 ANA seemingly cost her a second Leap in the past four years (which served as final impetus for the USGA and R & A to eliminate the viewer "call-in" policy), the world's top-ranked American will no doubt be hungry to right the wrongs of last year.
So Yeon Ryu went on to defeat Thompson in a playoff last year, giving the 27-year-old South Korean her second career major title. With three top 10 finishes at the ANA in the past five years, the popular Ryu will aim to make a run at becoming the event's first back-to-back champion since Annika Sorenstam in 2001-02.
The world's top-ranked player, Shanshan Feng of China, won three times in 2017 but has never cracked the top five in eight previous appearances in Rancho Mirage. However, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course no doubt favors those familiar with the grounds' nuance, meaning Feng surely deserves a spot in the contender's conversation.
In January, Brittany Lincicome defended her '17 title at the Pure-Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Will the victory spur the big-hitter on to a third ANA title? Maybe. After ANA wins in 2009 and 2015, the 32-year-old Florida native finished tied for 36th in 2016 and didn't make the cut in '17.
Lost in last year's rules controversy was the fact that a trio of players ended up finishing one-shot back of Ryu and Thompson. Among them was Inbee Park, an 18-time LPGA winner and 2013 ANA champion (beating Ryu by four shots that year). Park is a mainstay on ANA leaderboards, finishing in the top-10 five times across 11 appearances.
Ready to see the action live? Find ticket info and more at anainspiration.com.