The first major of the season begins on Thursday, with Mel Reid labelling the Ana Inspiration as "the female Masters" and declaring that she has never felt more ready to win a major .
Reid, 33, finished seventh at this £2.25 million showpiece last September, her best finish at Palm Springs in seven appearances. It was a turnaround in form for the Englishwoman then ranked 108th in the world, and she continued the dramatic improvement with a fifth-placed finish in her next start before breaking her United States duck on the LPGA Tour two weeks later at the Shoprite Classic.
There have been two more top-12s since for the world No 37 and a fine display in the first three rounds at Carlsbad last week, that left her in second with 18 holes to play. Alas, five dropped shots in three holes from the 12th forced Reid back into a tie for 26th but, as she said: "I have to take the positives from those first 54 holes.
"To be honest, it was nice to see the hard work paying off. Jorge [Parada, her coach] and I had really been putting in the hours," Reid said. "I missed the cut in Lake Nona last month and was really unhappy with the way I was hitting it. Jorge and I grinded on the range and I played half decent in Ocala the next week. There was a lot of good stuff in Carlsbad and I came here pretty confident."
Reid, a proven Solheim Cup performer, admits she is at her best when the glare is at its most fierce. Of course, the absence of fans at Mission Hills Country Club – at the 50th anniversary of the tournament that some will forever call the Dinah Shore Classic – means this will be another eerie affair, but the event's status ensures that the competitors will experience what Reid terms "that special feeling".
"We will, because let's face it, this is our version of the Masters , 'the female Masters' if you like," she said.
"We come back to the same course every year, the caddies wear the boiler suits and the major has its own traditions, like the winner jumping in Poppie's Pond behind the 18th green.
"And the course is amazing and always brings drama. It's in immaculate shape year in, year out. And because we return here on an annual basis, the memories are written large, just as they are at Augusta.
"I always recall Webby [Australia's Karrie Webb in 2006] holing out for an eagle on the 18th to get into a play-off and then birdieing the same hole again to beat Lorena [Ochoa].
"The place has a history of spectacular moments on the last three holes and it would be incredible to pen my own piece of history. I absolutely love this course and am glad I finally played well here in 2020, because I think it suits my game, in that you have to hit a lot of greens to contend. There's no excuse on the putting, the balls are rolling beautifully."
Anyone who has followed Reid's career since she leapt into the sport's consciousness in 2007 at St Andrews as a teenage amateur finishing in the top 16 of the Women's British Open, will be thrilled that she is at last fulfilling her potential.
The death of her mother, Joy, in a car crash in 2012, pressed pause on her progress as she struggled with grief. The six-time Ladies European Tour winner earned a LPGA card in 2017 and with a third at the Women's PGA Championship 18 months ago highlighted her enduring quality.
Perhaps Reid was fortunate that the UK media had the rise of her younger countrywomen Charley Hull and Georgia Hall on whom to concentrate, as she was allowed to carry on grafting in the shadows and forming a backroom staff that, as well as Parada, includes fitness trainer Ken Macdonald, sports psychologist Howard Falco and last, but probably foremost, caddie Ryan "Desi" Desveaux.
"It's been a long time in the making, but at last I feel like I have some sort of formula and that my best years are still ahead of me," she said.
"I'm just extremely happy with my team and think they understand me and what I need. Desi is on the bag and we've become a great team. I have so many goals – this year's Solheim Cup, the Olympics, which I've been very vocal about. I suppose there's one way to achieve all those aims in one week."
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