This week the LPGA travels to a familiar spot in the Coachella Valley for the season’s first Major Championship. The LPGA has called what many players still refer to as “the Dinah,” the first Major of the year since 1972. However, this year marks the first year for the tournament under the new title sponsor, All Nippon Airways (ANA). ANA is one of Japan’s largest airline companies and now becomes the Official Airline of the LPGA. The ANA Inspiration will still take place on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA.
This tournament will always bring back great memories for me as I played this prestigious event many times throughout my career on the LPGA. I was fortunate to win in 2001, 2002, and 2005 and enjoyed taking the celebratory victory plunge into Poppy’s Pond behind the 18th green. Even though I don’t compete anymore, I have had the pleasure of going back the past few years to work as a television analyst with the Golf Channel, which I look forward to doing again this year alongside Judy Rankin.
This will also be the first chance for the ladies to win points towards the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, which was established to recognize the player who, during a current LPGA Tour season, has the most outstanding Major Championship record (including a Major win). Michelle Wie won the inaugural award last season on the heels of her breakthrough victory at the US Women’s Open in Pinehurst. It was an exciting race that came down to the last Major of the year at the Evian Championship. Michelle also finished second behind Lexi Thompson last year here in the season’s first Major.
As with any big tournament, it is important to play your own game and manage yourself around the golf course. You must have discipline and stick to your gameplay for the entire 72-hole tournament. I find that the wedge game is particularly important on the Dinah Shore Course for several reasons. Holes like number nine and 18 are par fives that are often not reachable in two. Therefore you have to lay up to your favorite distance for the opportunity to get it close on your third shot. I always prefer to be around 80 yards from the hole. There are also times where you will miss a fairway and be in the lush rough, so you will need to hit it back into the fairway, to hopefully set up a manageable wedge shot into the green to try and save par.
Here Are Two Wedge Tips To Help Your Game
1. Make a Compact Swing and Always Accelerate
The closer you get to the green, the greater the urge to manipulate the shot. To resist that urge, make sure you accelerate through impact. Make your follow-through as long as your backswing. I see amateurs swing their wedges back like a driver, and then have to decelerate through impact to take power off the shot.
I carry four wedges, and I have three swing lengths for each – full, three-quarter and half. That gives me twelve wedge combinations. That might be unnecessary for you,
but at the very least, you should figure out how far you hit the wedges you carry with half and full swings. The point is, add a few stock shots so you feel comfortable from more distances.
2. Set Your Tempo
I seldom hit a shot very hard, and I seldom hit one very soft. This is particularly true with my wedges, mainly because I have shots to cover many distances. Never swing your wedges as hard as you can. When you press like that, you risk poor contact and wild shots. To set your tempo, try my 1-2-3 practice swing: Count 1-2-3 as you swing to the top, then 1-2-3 to the finish. It’ll keep your speed in check.
Good luck and be sure to tune into the action this week!