Precocious Pressel Prevails

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They play the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
 
The key word there, as it relates to womens golfs first major that ended Sunday with Morgan Pressel winning, is Mirage.
 
How appropriate that word turned out to be at the end of a week so full of promise for so many.
 
The initial story line was, as it should have been, Annika Sorenstam. Would this be the No. 1 player in the worlds year to collect the womens calendar Grand Slam?
 
Sorenstam assured us on Tuesday that she was confident and striking the ball well. Then she went out and struggled to a 75-76 start that barely got her to the weekend. Her putter, more than anything else, let her down in the final analysis.
 
Annikas Slam hopes? A mirage.
 
Soon the attention focused to Lorena Ochoa. Ochoa had displaced Sorenstam as Player of the Year in 2006 and she had won the Safeway International the week before she got to Mission Hills. Moreover, the numbers crunchers informed us that if Ochoa won at Kraft Nabisco, it wouldnt matter what Sorenstam did, Ochoa would be the new No. 1.
 
And as late as Friday night Ochoa shared the lead. Then she went out Saturday and fired at a pin'the par-3 17th'when she should have known better. The result was a quadruple-bogey 7 that included a whiff. Her chances had died quickly.
 
Her hopes to become No. 1 for now? A mirage.
 
Next the focus shifted to Se Ri Pak. Until winning the McDonalds LPGA, her fifth major title, last year Pak had been in a prolonged slump/funk. Then she switched caddies and began thinking less about golf on the course until it was her turn. It was a relief not to grind so much and suddenly her scores improved.
 
By the end of play Saturday Paks name had ascended to the top of the leaderboard and everybody had picked up on the fact that a triumph would complete the rare womens career Grand Slam.
 
Pak hung in for a while Sunday then started making bogeys in bunches. Five of the first eight holes on the back nine produced dropped shots. And quicker than you can say 18, Paks hopes were dashed.
 
The career Grand Slam this time around? A mirage.
 
Eighteen, of course, is the number of holes on a golf course. But is also the age of the golf-precocious Pressel. She is now the youngest female winner of a major championship in history.
 
This is the same Pressel who watched in horror two years ago at the U.S. Womens Open when Birdie Kim holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to beat her out of that championship.
 
I dont believe that the game of golf owes anything to anybody. But if you believe it does, than this was clearly the payback for having to endure Kims improbable shot.
 
So where does womens golf go from here?
 
Paula Creamer also must do a little soul-searching. She struck the ball from tee to green better than anybody all week long but struggled with the putter and shot 40 on her front nine Sunday.
 
Brittany Lincicome drove the ball better than anybody all week but couldnt scare a medium range birdie putt on the last hole Sunday that would have forced a playoff with Pressel. And Norways Suzann Pettersen, who squandered a three-shot lead with less than nine holes remaining, probably suffered the biggest meltdown of all.
 
So Morgan Pressel, the last woman standing at Mission Hills after an airtight closing 69 that featured three birdies and no bogeys in tough conditions, emerges as the new shining star in American womens golf. She becomes the first American woman to win this championship since Dottie Pepper way back in 1999.
 
The Kraft Nabisco Championship was not, for her, a mirage. It was an oasis.
 
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