Scrappy Pressel fights swing to an even-par draw

By Randall MellApril 3, 2015, 10:39 pm

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Nobody got hurt.

That’s the best you can say about Morgan Pressel’s opening tee shot Friday at the ANA Inspiration.

She smothered a duck hook that would have been ugly by pro-am standards, a first shot that barely traveled 50 yards before screaming for cover in the rough.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened,” Pressel said.

That’s not exactly the way you want to start the second round when you’re in sole possession of the lead, but the shot was mere context for the day’s denouement. It would define Pressel’s round in the best way possible. This day was all grit and guts for Pressel. She put up a fight that made her swing coach proud, even with the awkward early misses.

Undaunted working through major swing changes, Pressel fought her way home with an even-par 72 that left her very much in the mix to win her second major championship.

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“The changes we’ve made are dramatic,” said Ron Stockton, Pressel’s swing coach. “I know she’s not comfortable with them yet. She got off to a rough start and put on her boxing gloves. I’m really proud of her.”

On a difficult day for scoring, Pressel managed to stay ahead of everyone but Sei Young Kim, who seemed to be playing a different course. Kim shot 65, leaving her two shots ahead of Pressel with the morning wave complete.

“Any player that’s won a championship has heart,” Stockton said. “They can will things to happen. No matter what they brought to the course that day, they aren’t giving in. Morgan has that quality.”

Pressel actually made par after that lousy opening tee shot. She scrambled hard until finding the new swing she and Stockton are piecing together. She hit just eight of 14 fairways,  just 11 of 18 greens.

“It was a little sloppy all around,” Pressel said. “My swing wasn't quite as sharp as it was yesterday, and I kind of made some sloppy bogeys and some really good pars.”

Pressel loves everything about the ANA Inspiration. She became the youngest woman to win a major championship when she won this event under its Kraft Nabisco name in 2007. She was 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old back then.

It took some fight to win that first major with scoring conditions so difficult. Pressel fought to put up an early score and watched all the challengers fall away. She won at just 3 under.

Pressel loved this championship and all its traditions even before she won it. Stacy Lewis will testify to that. An amateur in ’07, Lewis was paired with Pressel in the final round the year that Pressel won.

“She was telling me stories about this place,” Lewis said. “She embraces the history of it.”

Lewis remembers the attitude Pressel used to help her win.

“I remember that year, because it played so hard, and she just hung around and she hung around,” Lewis said. “That’s who Morgan is. She's a grinder. She's not going to go out there and wow you with anything, but she's going to just keep hanging around.”

Pressel, 26, is looking to win her second major with a new swing. She started working with Ron Stockton, and his father, Dave, here in 2009. In a difficult decision, Pressel split with Ron at the U.S. Open last year. She didn’t go searching for a new coach. She decided to go it alone.

On her own, Pressel says she learned a lot about feel in her swing, but she began grooving a takeaway that was too far inside, and then an over the top loop.

Feeling “lost” in Singapore last month, she reached out to Stockton. He couldn’t have been happier to reunite. They got back working together three weeks ago.

“She’s like a little sister of mine,” Stockton said. “It was wonderful to get the call.”

Stockton dramatically changed Pressel’s takeaway, so she’s not taking it back on the inside anymore, which feels odd to Pressel.

“She feels like it’s so far out from where it was,” Stockton said. “She feels like she’s waving to the crowd with her right hand.”

Pressel, though, saw results almost immediately. She shot a 64 in the second round of last week’s Kia Classic, taking a share of the lead there. She ended up tying for 15th, her best finish this season.

While the changes are a work in progress, Pressel’s encouraged they’re coming together so quickly, even with the awkward swings that naturally creep back into a round.

“I would say the last four holes today, and the last four approach shots, I hit it much, much better,” Pressel said. “At least I can walk off the golf course saying, `OK, I feel a lot better about my swing.’”

And keeping alive the possibility she could take another leap into Poppie’s Pond.

“I gave myself a chance for the weekend, and, these two days, that’s all I really could do,” Pressel said.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”