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Pressel back in contention after long slump

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DALY CITY, Calif. – Morgan Pressel’s swing is back, and so is her confidence.

Playing a course so many players say reminds them of a major championship setup, Pressel is conjuring the form that brought out her best on the game’s toughest venues.

With a 5-under-par 67 in tough, windy conditions Saturday, Pressel posted the low round of the day, moving one shot behind 17-year-old Brooke Henderson going into Sunday’s final round.

Pressel, now 26, was just 17 when she made a run at winning the U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills. She tied for second after Birdie Kim’s improbable hole out from a bunker at the 72nd hole. Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco in 2007 at 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old. She’s still the youngest woman to win a major. She’s seeking her third LPGA title Sunday, her first in seven seasons.

Watching Henderson’s emergence as a teen phenom, Pressel can’t help but remember her own rise in the game.

“It’s very impressive to watch the young girls,” Pressel said. “To think that that was me is kind of crazy.”

Pressel marvels like everyone else watching what Lydia Ko and Henderson are doing as teenagers.

“Lydia and Brooke both bring tremendous tenacity and fire,” Pressel said. “They know they can do it. They step up to that tee and there is no fear.”

Pressel lost some of that fearlessness of youth battling through injuries and swing troubles brought on by those injuries. Her development was challenged when she hurt her left thumb hitting out of the deep rough at the Wegmans LPGA Championship three years ago. The injury worsened as she played on, creeping into her wrist and up through her neck. The injuries caused changes in her swing, leading to a slump that lasted more than a year.

Even coming into the Swinging Skirts a year ago, Pressel was battling her swing.

“I remember standing over every tee shot last year thinking that the fairways are about five yards wide,” Pressel said. “I spent a lot of time in the trees. The fairways look much wider to me this year. I guess that speaks to how comfortable I feel over the golf ball now.”

Six weeks ago, Pressel reunited with swing coach Ron Stockton. They dramatically changed her takeaway, freeing up the rest of her swing. Three weeks after going to work, Pressel tied for third at the ANA Championship, missing out on a playoff by one shot. Her swing and confidence have been growing stronger ever since.

“It’s come a long way,” Pressel said. “A lot of things have happened. I've certainly worked a lot on my golf swing with Ron, and I'm probably halfway there, kind of in terms of halfway between my old swing and the swing where I would like it to be. But it's repeatable enough for me, and I'm still continuing to work on it, to where I can get out there and pick a target and commit to it.”