The Books - and Birdies - of Morgan

By George WhiteApril 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
St. Andrews of Boca Raton, Fla., is a private prep school which prepares its graduates for college. A St. Andrews grad may be a Wall Street broker, an attorney with a Philadelphia law firm, an economist for the government.
Then there is Morgan Pressel. Morgans course load in this, her final semester at St. Andrews, is much more strenuous than a normal high school. Lets see, she is sweating out basic English 12, marine biology, 20th century ideologies and conflicts, economics, digital darkroom. And ' oh yes ' world religion. A career as a marine biologist, perhaps? Possibly a future in some form of psychiatry? A lecturer, maybe? A language specialist?
Well, no, she isnt studying to be any of these. In fact, she isnt even planning on attending college. But when she graduates May 20, she will be the most famous graduate in the history of St. Andrews. She is, you see, a professional golfer at the young age of 17. And she has already earned $100,000 in just this year - $101,354, precisely, and the season isnt even in its fourth month. Who knows how long it will take her classmates to reach that kind of earning power?
Morgan is in Orlando this week preparing for the Ginn Open, her sixth LPGA tournament. In only one of them did she finish outside the top 20. She finished in a tie for fifth in her first event, tied for 11th in her second. Since then she hasnt done quite as well, finished in a tie for 60th, a tie for 13th, a tie for 16th. Though her money earned has her in the lofty position of No. 20 and her scoring average is 12th on the LPGA, her putting has hamstrung her a little. She is only the 76th best putter, and she knows that is going to have to improve.
Last weeks tournament was a good example. My putting was actually pretty atrocious, she said. And I tried out a new putter last week and that was snapped over my knee - not really, but I wanted to throw it in the garbage, and my grandpa said it (the putting) had been OK. But I'm never using it again.
Grandpa is Herb Krickstein, who with his wife follows Morgan around on tour. Remember, she cant do too much besides win money. She is a long way from being able to rent a car, she cant rent a hotel room by herself. But she COULD look at the gigantic pictures of a few select contestants plastered beside the avenue when she pulled up the street to the Reunion golf course here.
There was, of course, Annika Sorenstam. And Cristi Kerr. And Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster, Lorena Ochoa and Beth Daniel.
And ' there she was, the pride of St. Andrews, Morgan Pressel!
She took a question about the giant picture with jocularity. A reporter was stumbling around in the press room wondering how she felt with the great players all represented ' along with herself.
She allowed herself to laugh a little. And me ' it doesnt fit. Is that what youre saying?
After the group of listeners enjoyed a good chuckle, she addressed the query. It was a great ego boost, especially to a girl who is still in the 12th grade.
That was really cool, she said. When we were driving in, there are all these great players - Annika, Cristie, Juli, Beth, Lorena - and then there's a picture of me. You know, it is quite an honor for them to put me up there, definitely. That was very neat.
She is incredibly grown-up when it comes to performing before the media. Examples:
She was speaking of her start in the game and mentioned that she first played at the invitation of her grandfather ' who, incidentally, is the father of a former professional tennis player, Aaron Krickstein. She herself started as a tennis player, but switched to golf because he (Herb) says that it was because I was too slow for tennis, Morgan said, again to much laughter. So it just started there - just put the racquet down and now I'm playing golf.
And, will she be attending her high school prom in May, on the arm of one of one of St. Andrews lucky young beaus? There is a prom, she sighed, but I'm not going to that. I'm going to be in Kingsmill for the Michelob Ultra Open.
Then she added this humorous afterthought: I went to the prom last year. It's overrated.
But she definitely will be there for her graduation ceremonies ' shes put in 12 years of work toward that degree, and the marine biology and the 20th century ideologies and conflicts and all the other courses that she has excelled in over the years ' there is no way she is going to miss out on saying goodbye to all of them. Even if she will never again have to crack a textbook to make a very good living.

Morgan, incidentally, is allowed by her teachers to take her work on the road to golf tournaments. And, she also is allowed to take several tests from long-distance.
We have a pretty strict honor code at St. Andrews, she said. A couple of teachers have, you know, said, Here is the test, study, and put it in an envelope or put it in the back of a binder. Study, and when you're ready - it's an hour and a half, take it on your time and your honor.
As of May 20, the main thing she will have to study is the money earnings. That she has already begun.
I think I know where I am, 15th or something like that (actually, 20th, but who quibbles over a position or two or five). Yeah, I look at all that, I look at all the stats and position, she said.
It's interesting to me. I can't calculate it myself. I have to wait to see them updating on Monday mornings. I can't calculate that myself. I don't even know the distribution of points or anything like that. It's an interesting concept, so we'll see.
Well also see what the future holds for this graduate of the class of 06. Others may hold more prestigious positions, but few will match her bank account. And none her fame.
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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1