ANA Inspiration: Lydia Ko prepared for extreme heat at Rancho Mirage

Lydia Ko hopes to take another refreshing dip in Poppie’s Pond to cool down on Sunday as she expressed concerns over the severe heat which will impact this week’s ANA Inspiration.

Extreme temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius are expected throughout the week at Rancho Mirage in California, while billowing smoke from several wildfires in the region add another complication to the air quality for the ladies’ second major of the year.

Tournament officials have permitted the use of carts for the practice rounds, and carts will also be available to be used by all caddies for all four tournament days, with the possibility of players also being permitted to ride along if the air quality becomes dangerous.

“Everybody is playing in the same weather, but we’re just lucky to be here,” said Ko, who took the traditional jump into the pond by the 18th green after winning in 2016. “Obviously it’s a very different atmosphere to what it’s normally like, but at least the champion will be able to have a nice dive into the cool water of Poppie’s Pond on Sunday.

“I think the LPGA has been super generous allowing the caddies to be able to use the golf carts during tournament days, and for both players and caddies to be able to use it in practice rounds, especially when it’s super hot.

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“Being healthy is the number one thing, so for them to allow us to do that, I think it just gives us an opportunity to maybe spend some more time out here and check out the golf course where walking definitely would be a grind.”

The event is usually played in the spring, a week before the Masters, but New Zealander Ko feels playing in extreme heat is a small price to pay as she and many of her peers were worried the tournament could have been cancelled for this year.

“I think at some points in this year, we all were pretty worried that we wouldn’t be able to come over here, and obviously this is a tournament with a lot of history, so we’re excited to play our second major of this year,” Ko added.

Jin Young Ko, meanwhile, will not be the one celebrating in Poppie’s Pond this year after the defending champion opted to miss the event to stay at home in South Korea.

Ko, who has not played competitive golf since the CME Group Tour Championship last November, is one of four of the world’s top 20 who are missing this week due to travel concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The ANA Inspiration will be forever dear to me as my very first LPGA major championship,” said Ko. “Choosing to skip this year’s ANA was one of the most difficult decisions of my entire life.

“All year I had been looking forward to reliving so many special memories at Rancho Mirage and the opportunity to jump into Poppie’s Pond again.

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