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Inspired Pressel near first-day Founders lead

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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.