Pressel’s struggles continue at Stanford

April 25, 2008

AVENTURA, Fla. (AP) — Morgan Pressel is playing this week about an half-hour south of her home, before plenty of friends who typically never get to see her work up close.

Not even that could provide her with a much-needed boost.

Pressel shot a 5-over 75 on Thursday, putting her eight shots off the lead after one round of the Stanford International Pro-Am and leaving her hopes of making the cut in a fair amount of jeopardy. Since winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year and becoming the youngest major winner in LPGA Tour history, Pressel only has six top-10 finishes in 27 events, and this week isn’t looking like a turnaround.

“I’ve changed a lot. I’ve changed a lot about my golf game,” Pressel said. “At times it’s better. At times it’s not.”

Thursday was an example of the latter, although Pressel was hardly alone in struggling on a windy day at Turnberry Isle.

Paula Creamer shot a 3-under 68, giving her a share of the lead with Momeko Ueda and Young Kim on a day that turned into a test of endurance more than anything else. Only 21 of 111 pros broke par, on a course that was far from easy for the tour players – and downright diabolical for amateurs.

“I thought it was extremely tough,” said Annika Sorenstam, who was in a group one shot back. “It was way too tough.”

Sorenstam likened the course to a U.S. Open setup, saying she felt badly for the amateurs, many of whom struggled mightily on a course far tougher than their norm. Yani Tseng had a hamburger and two chocolate chip cookies after nine holes, because she couldn’t endure not eating for three more hours. One tee box had four groups waiting at once. And most rounds lasted nearly six hours.

“It does take a toll on you,” Creamer said. “I found myself a couple times wandering out there and would have to start my routine over and focus. There’s a lot going on and that’s something you’re not necessarily used to. I’m pleased with how I managed it.”

Carolina Llano – the final alternate to get into the field – shot a 2-under 69 to be in the logjam one shot off the lead, along with Tseng, Sorenstam, Candie Kung, Kyeong Bae, Meena Lee and South Florida native Cristie Kerr.

Christina Kim (who made triple bogey at the par-5 18th to lose the outright lead), Juli Inkster and Mi Hyun Kim were part of another pack two shots behind the triumvirate of leaders.

There’s two courses in use this week, the par-71 Soffer layout and the par-70 Miller track, with each team playing those courses once Thursday and Friday. For the third and fourth rounds, only the Soffer course will be used.

By then, the pace of play might be a bit more brisk.

Also by then, Pressel might be home for the weekend.

She’s still a teenager (for another month, anyway), but given how long she’s been making headlines, that’s easy to forget.

When she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open as a 12-year-old, she was – at that time – the youngest player to achieve that feat. She made a scintillating run at the 2005 U.S. Open, finishing second there the same year she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

And last year came what was supposed to be the breakthrough: Victory at Mission Hills. But little has been easy for Pressel since, and earlier this week, she said some disappointing results have been “a wake-up call” telling her to “work harder.”

“I’ve never heard her admit that before,” said Pressel’s grandfather, Herb Krickstein. “Well, if she wants to be one of the best players, she better get back to work. That’s the way it is.”

So after Thursday’s round – one that went downhill with three straight bogeys on the back side – ended, that’s what she did.

Pressel only hit about 15 balls, but spent a long time on the putting green, desperate to regain a touch that simply isn’t there right now.

“I haven’t quite put it altogether quite yet,” Pressel said. “Hopefully soon.”

Notes: World No. 8 Jee Young Lee shot a 76. Brittany Lincicome slogged her way to an 80. And Nancy Lopez – making her first start of the year – shot a 91, a round replete with no birdies, four double bogeys and one quadruple bogey. … Laura Davies shot 75, helped by an ace on the 157-yard 13th. … Creamer’s playing partner is tennis star James Blake, who had a pink Nike bag holding his clubs. He was paying off a bet. He lost to Creamer, who’s known for her predominantly pink wardrobe. “Embarrassing,” Blake said.