Pressel chases 59, settles for 65 in Founders Cup
PHOENIX (AP) — Morgan Pressel had a befitting start at Wildfire Golf Club.
She was 6 under after six holes, then 9 under through 11.
Golf’s magic number of 59 — accomplished only on the LPGA Tour by Annika Sorenstam in 2001 at nearby Moon Valley — was in range and word spread quickly Thursday at the JTBC Founders Cup.
“Wow. Go Morgan,” friend Natalie Gulbis tweeted.
“I don’t know if I was necessarily thinking 59, but I probably just got a little bit excited, because I had never been that many under par in that short of a span,” Pressel said. “I just got a little bit quick and came back to earth.”
She did, bogeying the next two holes and closing with five pars for a 7-under 65 that left her a stroke behind first-round leader Mirim Lee.
After birdieing Nos. 1 and 2 — her 10th and 11th holes — to reach 9 under, Pressel pulled her drive left on the par-4 third. Her ball lodged at the base of a short bush, with the bulk of the branches between the right-hander and the ball. There were burrowing animal holes near the ball, but they didn’t interfere with a possible swing or stance.
“I could have hit it left-handed and there were a couple of burrowing animal holes around,” Pressel said. “I brought them (rules officials) over to ask, but I didn’t honestly think that I was going to get relief and I don’t think that I deserved it.”
Pressel took an unplayable lie and missed the green to the right, chipped to 7 feet and made the putt to save bogey. She also dropped a stroke on the par-3 fourth, missing a 15-footer after hitting another iron to the right.
“It wasn’t the finish that I would have hoped for, but it gives me a little bit of confidence knowing how many birdies I can make and I’m capable of,” she said.
Pressel birdied the first four holes and made a 50-footer for eagle on the par-5 15th. She also birdied the par-3 17th and made the turn in 7-under 29.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten off to that hot of a start,” Pressel said.
A tour regular since she was 17, the 25-year-old Pressel won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco to become the youngest women’s major champion. She also won the 2008 Kapalua LPGA.
“I definitely feel like I have the ability to win again,” Pressel said.
Lee also started on No. 10 and nearly matched Pressel’s start, playing her opening nine in 6-under 30. She had three birdies and a bogey on the front side for a 64.
“Everything was good,” said Lee, making her third LPGA Tour start.
Defending champion Stacy Lewis, top-ranked Inbee Park and Michelle Wie were two strokes back at 66 along with 2011 winner Karrie Webb, Eun-Hee Ji, Catriona Matthew, Gerina Piller and Pernilla Lindberg.
“A lot of tee shots set up well for me,” Lewis said. “They fit my eye.”
Coming off a victory two weeks ago in China in a Ladies European Tour event, Park birdied the final three holes. She closed with a tap-in birdie on the par-4 ninth after nearly holing a full pitching wedge.
“It was a very solid round,” Park said. “Very good irons.”
Wie eagled the par-5 fifth.
“I hit 3-wood, 5-iron over the green and then chipped in,” Wie said.
Sixteen-year-old Lydia Ko had a 67. Playing alongside Park, Ko closed with a bogey after driving left into the desert.
“I forgot to bring my food and my protein bars,” Ko said. “That’s my excuse.”
DIVOTS: Paula Creamer, a playoff winner three weeks ago in Singapore in the last LPGA Tour event, shot 70. She had a double bogey on the par-4 eighth, her 17th hole. ... Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece, had a 71. The Phoenix player won the LET’s Australian Ladies Masters last month. ... The Semper Fi Fund said The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation will match Cristie Kerr’s tour earnings this year to help injured and critically ill service members and their families. She shot 73. ... The scoring average was 70.863. The Arnold Palmer-designed front nine played to an average of 35.917 and the Nick Faldo-designed back nine to an average of 34.946.