Heat concerns at ANA Inspiration with temperatures expected to reach 113 degrees
Caddies permitted to use carts
Controversy over the omission of new major champion Sophia Popov has given way to concerns over extreme heat ahead of the ANA Inspiration.
Usually the first women’s major of the season, the ANA Inspiration has been pushed by the coronavirus pandemic from early spring to late summer in the California desert, where temperatures are expected to reach a high of 113 degrees.
Caddies have already been told they can use carts for tournament rounds and that could be extended to players with the situation being exacerbated by smoke from California’s wildfires.
Heather Daly-Donofrio, the LPGA Tour’s chief operations officer, said: “We’re continuing to monitor both the AQI (air quality index) and the temperature very closely.
“If the high temperatures and the AQI converge to a point where we feel that’s unhealthy for walking... we have not ruled out carts for players on tournament days.
“In general we’ve heard from our players that it’s a major championship and of course in major championships you want to walk. But what’s most important right now is the health and safety of our athletes and our caddies.”
Popov won the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon last month but has so far been denied the five-year LPGA exemption awarded to major winners because she was not a Tour member at the time of her victory.
The 27-year-old German has also missed out on a place in the ANA Inspiration because organisers have stuck with the field as it was set for the tournament’s original April dates.
World No 1 one and defending champion Ko Jin-young is also absent after opting not to travel from South Korea due to Covid-19.
Compatriot Park Sun-hyun will be there, however, playing in her first tournament in ten months. The world No 4 took time an extended break to recover from a shoulder problem.
Britain’s Charley Hull had had to withdraw on Tuesday after testing positive for Covid-19.
Despite the high-profile absentees, eight of the world’s top 10 have made the trip to Mission Hills, along with 2016 champion Lydia Ko, pictured inset, of New Zealand.
Asked about the conditions, Ko told a pre-tournament press conference: “It’s very hot. It’s (so) hot that you touch the door handle of your car and it’s kind of on the slight sizzling point. “I landed on Sunday and I got some food to go on the way here, and I kind of sat on the kerbside and ate, and I felt like I was in a sauna eating super hot food.”
The only good news in terms of the weather is the tradition which dictates that the winner of the tournament jumps into the pond beside the 18th green. It will never be more welcome.
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