The leading contenders at the ANA Inspiration – the first Major of 2021

The Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills in California plays host as the tournament returns to its traditional date in the schedule.

Expect drama this week in the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills.

It's the first Major Championship of 2021 and the tournament's recent history is packed with explosive incidents.

There have been hole outs from the fairway on the 72nd hole, outrageous wins by 18-year-olds (two of them), controversy and a missed putt of excruciating length.

The latter incident involved Korea's In-Kyung Kim who in 2012 had a 1-foot putt to win the tournament on the 18th green of the final round - and missed it.

Last year only four of the LPGA's five Majors were played and three of them were won by rank outsiders.

Can we expect more of the same from Thursday on?

This is an event that is regularly won by course specialists and also players who have shown strong form in the run-up to the event.

Let's take a look at the leading contenders and their odds.

Ji Young Ko (Paddy Power odds - 10/1)

The World No. 1 broke all the rules of this event when winning it in 2019.

Previously, in the 21st century, winners not only hinted that they liked the course, they proved it time and time again. In contrast, Ko played it three times, never made the top 60 once and didn't break 70. Then, at the fourth time of asking, she spent all week in the top three and coasted clear of the field on Sunday.

She didn't defend her title last year, recuperating from injury, but did finish tied second in the US Women's Open. Hasn't finished outside the top 16 in her last six Major starts with four top threes, two of them wins.

Finished fourth last week, hitting lots of greens in regulation.

Sei Young Kim (Paddy Power odds - 22/1)

Once merely the finest LPGA performer in high wind on resort islands, in the last 18 months Kim has become of the finest performers full stop.

In her last 23 starts she's landed 21 top 25 finishes, 15 of them top 10s including three wins. She's had a mixed time in the event, however. In 2015 she led by three heading into the final round and posted a Sunday 75 to blow the chance of winning and last year's T18th was only her second top 20 in seven starts.

A concern that she missed the cut last week.

Nelly Korda (Paddy Power odds - 11/1)

Ahead of last year's event Korda had just one top 40 finish in five visits, but the change in date seemed to suit her.

She opened 66-67 to open up a two shot lead on the field and also spent much of the weekend looking like the likeliest winner, but she kept finding a way of not extending the lead, and she was downed in extra holes by Lee.

Landed T10th last week after a slow start.

Inbee Park (Paddy Power odds - 15/2)

She's not the World No. 1 but she's a Major phenomenon: the 32-year-old putting machine has made 60 starts in the Majors, landing 33 top 10 finishes and grabbing seven wins. That said, she hasn't lifted a trophy since 2015.

She's never missed a cut in 14 appearances in this event, won it in 2013, was second in 2018 and third in 2017. It's a hell of a record, but it might be a concern that she's only twice been within three shots of the 54-hole lead.

Couldn't be in better form having won last week by five shots.

Danielle Kang (Paddy Power odds - 14/1)

Kang was a two-time winner in 2020.
Kang was a two-time winner in 2020.

The American is a five-time winner on the LPGA and her two wins straight out of lockdown in the summer of 2020 suggested that she was ready to add to her one Major win in the 2017 PGA Championship.

But she failed to land a top 10 in last year's Majors and it's of a theme with her career - she didn't count one in 31 starts before her win and has added just three in 16 since. Her first seven visits to this event reaped not one top 20, but she has finished T6th-T11th the last two years.

Tied seventh last week.

Lexi Thompson (Paddy Power odds - 14/1)

First played here as a 14-year-old and, absurdly, it was her third Major start and she landed T21st. Two more top 25s followed before she completed her Major breakthrough here with victory in 2014.

Since then six further tournament appearances have seen her finish in the top 10 five times. Safe to say, she's a course specialist. In those last seven starts she's had three halfway leads, two 54-hole leads and lost a playoff, in addition to the win.

Closed 66-69 last weekend for tied second.

Brooke Henderson (Paddy Power odds - 20/1)

The neat and tidy Canadian had played the event five times ahead of last year's event and whilst she'd never missed a cut, nor had she ever threatened to win despite three top 20s.

A third round 65 last September saw her grab a share of the 54-hole lead and a 69 saw her make the playoff, before, like Korda, she was downed by Lee.

Finished T10th with Korda last week.

Charley Hull (Paddy Power odds - 55/1)

Hull has strong course form this week.
Hull has strong course form this week.

The Englishwoman has landed three top 10s in seven starts at this event - and another three top 10s in 28 starts in the other Majors.

In other words, this is the one she's got the best chance of winning. In the last six years she's never finished worse than T26th, five times has ended the week T14th or better and only Lexi Thompson has a better Score Average.

After opening her account last week with a 76 she finished strongly for T33rd.

READ MORE: A look at Masters champion Dustin Johnson’s hopes of glory in the 2021 Majors

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