Pressel Dreads The Shot

By George WhiteJune 27, 2006, 4:00 pm
2005 U.S. WomenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Morgan Pressel was only 17, standing in the fairway of the 18th hole late Sunday evening, when Birdie Kim struck the bunker shot that reverberated around the world at the U.S. Womens Open last year. One moment Pressel was tied for the lead, the next she was reeling in disbelief as Kims hole-out made Kim the champion.
Pressel didnt actually see the shot as it rolled into the hole. But I knew, she said. The reaction of the crowd ' they just dont do that if it isnt in the hole. I didnt have to see it ' I knew.
This week Pressel, now 18, is back at the Open, trying to finish the job that she started so brilliantly last year. Last year she was a high school senior, this year she is a graduate of almost two months as she once again tries to grab the title that so narrowly eluded her last year.
And, despite the fact that she missed her second cut of the year last week at Rochester and finished down in 69th two weeks ago at McDonalds, she has high expectations for the week ahead.
Going into that Open (at Cherry Hills last year) with the way that course set up and with firmer fairways, firmer greens, fast greens, longer rough, I knew that suited my game, said Pressel. And that's why actually in majors, I feel almost more comfortable. Because the courses are set up that much tougher, where it puts a premium on accuracy -which I think is one of the strongest parts of my game, my consistency. You know, I feel very comfortable. I hope to do well.
Let it be known that, along with the two missed cuts and two finishes in the 60s, Pressel has also shown flashes of brilliance in this, her first year as a professional. Two top 10s in the last month have shown that she can indeed compete, and three other times she has finished in the top 20.
To get more consistent, more of a threat on the lesser tournaments as well as the majors, Pressel of course has to get a little more experience as a professional golfer. But Pressel says there is something else ' she has to get more length than the 245-250 yards that she now drives it. And, she also needs to hole a few more putts.
I just need to start working hard in the gym and working more on hitting the ball maybe 20 yards further - as well as my putting, said Pressel. It's going to be mainly physical, maybe a few swing changes or just improvements; obviously not full out changes, but just little things that would be more powerful moves.
If I got 20 more yards, you're hitting shorter irons into every par-4, and you can hit the par 5s in two. It makes it easier to score, and I think it's turning into a power game.
The putting is a different problem, but if she is going to be a consistent winner, its something shes going to have to address.
That's going to determine a champion week in and week out, who makes every putt they look at ... It hasn't been all that great this year, so I think that's one thing I'm really working on trying to improve.
Annika Sorenstam, for one, says its definite that Pressel will improve.
I think Morgan has a great attitude, said Annika. I enjoy playing with her. Shes fun, shes bubbly. Shes aggressive on the golf course.
But shes young. She has to come out here and learn the ropes and learn the travel part ' thats just the way it is. Its different to be at home and play a home course every week and play some junior events here and there. But you come out here, its different.
Its her youth ' she just graduated from a high school in Boca Raton, Fla., May 20 ' that makes Morgan Pressel exactly what she is ' a free spirit. And its that same youth and spirit that has made her into potentially a champion.
Because many of us have played and won at different levels, we just come out with a confidence that in time we'll learn how to win, and we'll learn how to overcome these hurdles, said Pressel. And it's just, I guess, a confidence factor that we have been taught since we were kids.
Thus far Pressel has practically been the face of youth on the LPGA Tour, doing several interviews before tournaments begin in mass media meetings. She revels in the mass interviews, as well as the pro-am events.
I love the pro ams, she says. I know how much they help the LPGA. These are people who have really backed these events and helped give us a place to play. I think everybody should be really happy to be doing that. Not everybody is, but it's my part to be like that, to have fun and make these people enjoy the day.
Does she ever get the feeling that the LPGA relies on her too much, that it puts undue pressure on her with the heavy interview schedule?
Oh, I don't know if I feel any pressure, Pressel said. I mean, I know that it's something that I want to do. I want to help the tour as much as I can. And, you know, I hope that I'm able to do that.
And, of course, there is the issue of Morgan the Player as well as Morgan the LPGA Representative. Right now she is not the top LPGA rookie ' Seon Hwa Lee is. And though she would immensely enjoy that honor, she will be able to live with that ' it would not be a big disappointment if she werent the top rookie.
If I played the best that I could ' no, said Pressel. But if I feel that, you know, I left too much out there and really had a good opportunity and let it slide - yeah, I would be disappointed.
I mean, I would love to win rookie of the year, and I would love to win a tournament, but I'm not going to say that I want to set those kind of expectations.
What she WILL say is that she wants to improve. And, along the way, she wants to have fun. And Morgan Pressel will, thats for sure.
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