The tournament will forever be the Dinah Shore to some, but perhaps they should rename the second female major of the season the Ana Perspiration rather than its official ANA Inspiration title.
Certainly, the mercury is predicted to rise so high at Mission Hills this week that whoever gets to perform the champion’s duties on Sunday evening will thoroughly enjoy the traditional leap into Poppy’s Pond, the water hazard by the 18th.
Originally due to take place in March before the lockdown hit, the LPGA were resigned to extreme heat being a potential issue with a September switch. However still the competitors have been stunned by what they have encountered on arrival at the Palm Springs layout.
“I don’t think I’ve played in hotter conditions anywhere,” Charlotte Thomas, the English pro told Telegraph Sport. “I played yesterday (on Sunday) at 4pm and it was 45C. On Tuesday, it is supposed to go up to 49C, so I played nine at 7am and will do a bit of practice and make sure I leave the course by midday. Hopefully it will cool down later this week.”
The forecast says that the temperature will dip to as low as 35C by Wednesday but then creep its way back up to 43C by the weekend. Little wonder, therefore, that the organisers have taken radical action to protect that most vulnerable of golf species – the caddies.
For the first time in a major of either gender, the bagmen and bagwomen will not be mandated to walk. In a memo last week, the LPGA cut some rare slack to those yardage-patrollers. “Projected temperatures will range from 105-115F and we are very conscious of the high heat,” it read. “2020 has been the year of health and safety, and with that in mind, we will be allowing caddies to take carts for the week.”
However, players will be required to walk, including Lindsey Weaver, the American who earned headlines at the AIG Women’s Open three weeks ago when pulling her own trolley into contention at Royal Troon.
“When the LPGA gave us the option of not using caddies, I pushed my own clubs and I’ve been doing it for four weeks and playing pretty well so I don’t want to change anything,” Weaver said. “I’ve gotten comfortable with it.”
Whether Weaver will be comfortable this week is a moot point. Will anyone? This version of Ana Inspiration will always be known for historical reasons because of the pandemic, but it may also enter the record books as the hottest major on record.
That moniker currently goes to the 2007 USPGA Championship at Southern Hills, when the conditions became so sultry that one journalists wrote “the local farmers are feeding the chickens ice to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs” and that “the trees are whistling for the dogs”. It will not as humid as that event, won by Tiger Woods, but the dial may well show a bigger number.
“Yes, it’s a dry heat but it’s intense,” Dr. Bruce Thomas, the LPGA’s medical director, said. “Caddies could get into real trouble real quickly.”