Inspired Pressel near first-day Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2014, 2:16 am

PHOENIX – Morgan Pressel had barely finished the first round Thursday at the JTBC Founders Cup when her phone vibrated with a text message.

It was Paula Creamer congratulating her for a brilliant start.

“You inspired me,” Pressel texted back after posting a 7-under-par 65. “I tried to putt like you.”

Creamer, 27, ended a nearly four-year victory drought earlier this month winning the HSBC Women’s Champions in dramatic fashion. Creamer buried a 75-foot putt to win in a playoff. Pressel was there at the end in Singapore to help Creamer celebrate.

Pressel, 25, ended the first round alone in second place, trailing rookie Mirim Lee by a shot. She knows there’s a long way to go at J.W. Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club, but Pressel likes the way her game is trending as she seeks to end a victory drought of her own. She’s after her third LPGA title, her first since ’08.

Pressel got off to a blistering start Thursday, making birdies at her first four holes. When she rolled in a Creamer-esque 50-foot putt for eagle at her sixth hole, something special appeared in the making. Pressel would go on to birdie her eighth, 10th and 11th holes to officially launch a 59 watch. She was 9 under through 11 holes.

“It’s definitely the hottest start I’ve ever had, but I don’t know that I was necessarily thinking 59,” Pressel said.

A wild tee shot at her 12th hole cooled Pressel’s run. She pulled her drive under a bush, and though an official looked at burrowing animal holes near her ball, it was determined she would not get relief.

“I didn’t deserve it,” Pressel said.

After taking a penalty and a drop for an unplayable lie, Pressel grinded out a bogey, holing a 15-foot putt in doing so. The fire was out, though. Pressel also bogeyed her next hole. She finished with five consecutive pars.

“It wasn’t the finish I would have hoped for, but it gives me a little bit of confidence knowing how many birdies I can make,” Pressel said.

Pressel, the ‘05 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, made her first LPGA title something to marvel over. She won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in ’07, becoming at 18 the youngest woman to win a major. She won the Kapalua Classic in ’08 but her game swooned after she hurt her left wrist hitting a shot out of thick rough at Locust Hill in the 2012 LPGA Championship. She tried to play through the ailment that summer but had to withdraw from the U.S. Women’s Open and other events. The injury knocked Pressel into the first prolonged slump of her career, but she bounced out of it last summer, making a hard run at winning in her return to the LPGA Championship.

“I feel like I’m in a good place,” Pressel said.

Even with her golf swing a work in progress.

Nobody was more surprised at her blazing start Thursday than Pressel. She said she was unusually crooked on the driving range. In fact, she was concerned about the state of her swing when she got up in the morning and changed her routine, arriving two hours early for an extra long warm-up on the range.

“I’m working on my golf swing,” Pressel said. “It hasn’t quite been where I want it to be.”

Pressel was texting with her coach, Ron Stockton, on the range. She ran out of time trying to fix her swing with her tee time swiftly approaching.

“I didn’t really have it going to the first tee,” Pressel said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

She didn’t expect to birdie her first four holes.

Pressel made her way onto the U.S. Solheim Cup team last year, and she’s off to a good start this year. She got herself in contention at the Australian Women’s Open in February, tying for sixth, and again at the HSBC Women’s Champions earlier this month, tying for fourth. Her game is trending upward again.

“I just feel like I’m getting better, both mentally and physically,” Pressel said.

Her aim is to follow her friend, Creamer, and take home a trophy.

“It’s the first round, there are three more days, but it’s definitely a confidence-builder,” Pressel said.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x