As 17-year-old Morgan Pressel emerged from the scorer's tent Thursday, it was easy to tell which category her even-par round fell into.
Pressel, who four years ago became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open, birdied five of her first eight holes to go to 5 under early in the round -- three strokes ahead of her closest pursuer and five in front of Annika Sorenstam.
``You get it going real well, then all of the sudden, it's gone like that,'' she said, snapping her fingers.
Indeed, her lead slipped away quickly. Toward the end, it was almost painful to watch -- not so much the golf, but how she handled it.
On the par-3 eighth, Pressel's second-to-last hole of the day, she followed a poor tee shot with an indifferent pitch to the fringe. Her putt from there went too fast and she yelled, ``Oh my God, sit.'' It didn't. Two putts later, she knelt down by her bag, her face buried in her hands, a double bogey on the scorecard dropping her to 1-under par.
After an errant tee shot on 18, she slammed the driver into the turf. She made bogey there, bent down creakily, then angrily snatched the ball from the cup and barely raised one finger to acknowledge the cheering crowd. With her playing partners still reading putts, she trudged to the far side of the green and sat cross-legged, staring into space, wondering how it all went bad.
``I just pressed a little too hard,'' Pressel said. ``I didn't stay patient, which is what I'm going to have to do as I go through the rest of the week.''
Four years ago, Pressel made history by simply making the Open. Two years ago, she was in fourth place after one round after a round of 1-under-par 70.
The score that stands out, though, was her 3 and 2 victory over Michelle Wie in the third round of the 2003 U.S. Girls Junior Championship. Despite beating Wie and despite once being touted as one of the most promising young players in women's golf, Pressel has fallen deep into the 15-year-old star's shadow and has chafed a bit about being overlooked.
For one day -- or at least part of the day -- nobody was overlooking her.
``Her tempo was beautiful through 12 holes,'' said her grandfather, Herb Pressel. ``She was in good shape. Then, the mental side of it got screwed up. Still, she had a great day.''
Indeed, shooting 71 at the Open is nothing to be ashamed of. She was two strokes off the lead, tied with none other than Annika herself.
As Pressel discussed her scorecard with reporters, she tried to keep smiling, but it was easy to tell how hard the day had been.
``I came here to play the best I could, and I did,'' she said. ``And then I played the worst I could.''
A few moments later, she broke into tears and stepped away from the microphone.
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