Grown up Pressel hungry for first win since '08

By Randall MellMay 31, 2015, 1:10 am

Morgan Pressel turned 27 just a week ago, but sometimes she feels a lot older.

That’s partly because so many of today’s up-and-coming young stars keep telling her how she inspired them.

Count Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko and Canada’s Brooke Henderson among them.

“I’m so old now,” Pressel cracked at the start of this week’s ShopRite Classic. “It’s kind of funny.”

It’s hard to believe this is Pressel’s 10th year playing the LPGA, but she is showing this week that she just might be poised for a run at her best year. A 2-under-par 69 Saturday at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club gives her a one-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round.

A phenom who stormed the biggest stage in the women’s game playing her first U.S. Women’s Open at 13 and nearly winning the championship at 17, Pressel radiated with confidence in her youth. She was pointed toward stardom back then and seemed in a hurry to get there. She won the Kraft Nabisco at 18, becoming the youngest women to win a major. She was 19 when she played in her first Solheim Cup and 20 when she won her second LPGA title at the Kapalua Classic.

Pressel, though, hasn’t won anything since.

At 27, Pressel isn’t old, but she has grown up in so many hard ways as a player.

If she prevails Sunday, it won’t be a victory anything like her first two. It won’t be a title won with the bravado of youth. It will be a triumph only a hungry veteran can feel relishing all the struggles that were overcome to claim it.

In fact, after a couple tough years fighting to rebuild her game and confidence, Pressel sounds like a woman who has learned to appreciate the struggle Sunday promises to bring, even to embrace it.

Win or lose, Pressel sounds like a woman relishing the opportunity hard work has given back to her.

“At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with the results, the outcome, no matter what it is,” Pressel told media after Saturday’s round. “I feel like I'm in a good place, and I'm there, and no matter what happens tomorrow, I'm happy with my game and the direction that I'm heading.

“Tomorrow is not the end of the world, one way or the other, but I'm going to go out there and give it my best shot.”

Pressel’s career took a detour with an injury in 2012. She hurt herself hitting from the deep rough at the Wegmans LPGA Championship that year. She injured her thumb but played through the pain as it radiated into her wrist. She later battled neck pain and still isn’t sure today if the issues with her neck were the cause or the result of the other injuries.

Pressel knows this, though. She knows her swing changed through it all. She has fought her swing on and off ever since, but she found something earlier this year. She found something she will be relying on come Sunday.

“My game plan so far has been working,” Pressel said. “I'm really, really focusing on my golf swing right now, trying to make the best swing that I can on every shot, and really focus on what I'm trying to do and not so much about the results and the outcome. I think that that's probably been helpful this week, and I’m going to keep trying to do that tomorrow.”

Pressel’s healthy again, but even that wasn’t enough earlier this year. She played the Asian swing at year’s start feeling as if she didn’t know where the ball was going.

After working on her swing alone through the second half of last year, Pressel reunited with swing coach Ron Stockton before the Founders Cup in Phoenix. They overhauled her swing. Stockton changed Pressel’s takeaway, which had become too pronounced to the inside. Though she says she still fights old habits, she is getting back to the form that made her a formidable presence in majors and on the tour’s toughest setups.

Pressel missed getting in a playoff by one shot at the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship. She lost the Swinging Skirts Classic in a playoff a month ago.

Pressel’s game is sharpening at an opportune time. There are three majors scheduled over the next nine weeks. Win or lose Sunday, Pressel is rebuilding a game built for the struggles majors present, struggles she seemed so suited for coming up in the game and seems so eager to embrace again.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.