Having announced its new sponsorship of the former Kraft Nabisco Championship just five months before last year's event, the newly-minted ANA Inspiration barely had time for takeoff to prep for golf's first major of the season.
Now, with one event under its wings and a full year to buckle-in for its sophomore salvo, ANA returns for the 45th year of the annual championship with a full purview of friendly skies ahead in its vision for the historic event.
Get those seat backs ready and enjoy some vitals for watching the best women in the world seeking the Sunday coronation of the victor's leap into Poppie's Pond.
What: The ANA Inspiration
The Sponsor: All Nippon Airways, Inc., the largest airline in Japan by passenger numbers
Where: Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA
When: Monday, March 28 – Sunday, April 3
The Course: Dinah Shore Tournament Course
- Designer: Desmond Muirhead (1970)
- Par: 72
- Yardage: 6,769
- An excellent, Hole-by-Hole tour can be found by visiting The Course tab at www.anainspiration.com
The Purse: $2.6 million (up from last year's $2.5 mil)
Spectating: Excellent options abound for viewing, whether finding a shaded, on-course perch, walking side-by-side alongside your favorite players or enjoying a primo V.I.P. experience.
If you're strolling the grounds, one spot that begs exploration is the hillside behind the 391-yard, par-4 sixth hole. Requiring a studied drive along a dogleg left with same-sided water, players then duel with a testy approach over the drink toward a putting surface which slopes severely from back-to-front.
Seeking more settled spectating? Be sure to check out premium private seating with a ticket to the upgraded 18th Green Suites, which couple the superb, home hole view with unlimited food and drink, along with on-site clubhouse parking in a new, air-conditioned pavilion.
Inspired Journeys: A New Vision
Among the new, on-site amenities: Food trucks by the second tee and sixth green, a new tabling area by the 18th green grandstand and 10th tee areas, an enhanced interactive scene at the Fan Village and offerings from local restaurants, including Maracas Cantina and The Slice.
In addition, those in the know are swinging news that ANA is announcing some impressive enhancements to its event-week schedule. Fans should look out for the debuts of an Inspiring Women in Sports Conference, along with a FootGolf exhibition and an augmented, national scope to the ANA Junior Challenge event.
The Players: ANA enjoyed a doozy of a finish in its debut campaign, as Brittany Lincicome made eagle on the final hole of regulation to force a playoff with Stacy Lewis, whom Lincicome would eventually outduel on the third playoff hole.
Lincicome has evidenced a flair for the dramatic in Rancho Mirage. In 2009, she seemingly foreshadowed her '15 win by eagling the 18th on Sunday to grab a one-shot ANA victory over both Christie Kerr and Kristy McPherson. In doing so, Lincicome became the first player in golf history to win a major championship by a shot with eagle on the 72nd hole.
In '16, Lincicome will now look to achieve rare air in Rancho, as a win would place her alongside Amy Alcott, Betsy King and Annika Sorenstam as the event's only three-time winners, and would concurrently make her the tournament's first back-to-back victor since Sorenstam in 2001-02.
Never to be overlooked at the ANA, of course, is Lewis. In eight career playings (including as an amateur in 2007), the 2011 champ has authored an impressive five top-5 showings.
Also looking to be in the hunt is world No. 1, 18-year-old Lydia Ko. The Dinah Course favors familiarity, and Ko enters the event with three measured ANA finishes on her C.V. Already sporting 10 LPGA Tour wins (and 15 worldwide), Ko will undoubtedly aim to be on the go in seeking her second career major.
2013 ANA winner Inbee Park is the world's second-ranked player and comes off a '15 season in which she found victory five times, including a pair of major championships. Park's 273 cumulative tally (15-under) from '13 is tied for the second-lowest score in the event's history.
Lexi Thompson may not have segued her 2014 ANA win to a stellar season two years back, but the 21-year-old, world's No. 4 player got her groove back last year, finishing seventh in the desert before charting a pair of '15 wins.
Find more tournament information at www.anainspiration.com.