Pressel, Wie set for Sunday showdown at Kraft

Morgan Pressel during Round 3 of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Morgan Pressel during Round 3 of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Morgan Pressel has spent the past six years filling the files for what’s about to happen Sunday afternoon. In contention to win a second Kraft Nabisco title, and four years removed from her first, Pressel is maintaining an even keel and keeping the big numbers at bay at Mission Hills Country Club.

Pressel was smooth and easy Saturday evening after the round. No, she hadn’t realized she’ll be paired with Michelle Wie in the penultimate group Sunday. Yes, that is good news – Wie and Pressel are old pals and it’s been far too long since the two have played together.

And no, when it’s this hot at home in Boca Raton, Fla., Pressel does not spend hours outside honing her game.

“I didn’t realize it was that bad yesterday; it gets much stickier in Florida,” Pressel said. “This dry heat isn’t terrible.”

The similiariites are numerous between Pressel, 22, and Wie, 21: young stars, Solheim Cup dynamos, capable of big things in their respective careers. Wie has length to her advantage, averaging more than 290 yards per drive each of the past two days (that’s more than 40 yards longer than Pressel’s average). It bodes well for her on a setup that stretches to 6,700 yards. Still, Wie feels neutral about the Dinah Shore course.

“It doesn’t really suit me or not suit me,” she said. “It’s just what it is. I just have to go out and hit good shots.”

Wie started a noteworthy run on the back nine Saturday, carding four birdies in six holes before a missed tap-in for par at the 17th derailed that train, leaving her at 69, 6 under par for the tournament. The kicker? Wie missed the same putt last year at the 17th.

“I didn’t mis-hit it,” she said. “It just broke a lot for a 2-footer, a lot more than I thought.”

So far Pressel has been the model of consistency. She had only one bogey in a third-round 69, and couldn’t help but remember the final round in 2007: bogey-free. Pressel is at 8 under for the week, four shots behind leader Yani Tseng. It’s the same amount of strokes by which she trailed in 2009.

To catch Tseng will require more than the three birdies she had in Saturday’s round. Short-game coach Ron Stockton, who is almost like a big-brother figure after working with Pressel for the past four years, knows she doesn’t need the same length off the tee that Wie boasts to be able to contend.

“My goal is to get her back into playing golf the way she was made to play it,” Stockton said.

Pressel already has her game plan laid aside, and even a Wie pairing can’t change that.

“I don’t obviously hit the ball as far as she does or as high and as soft, but I probably hit a few more fairways, so it’s a toss-up,” Pressel said.

Pressel hasn’t won since Kapalua in 2008, but she had seven top-10 finishes last year. In any event, she has the gift of experience to Wie’s distance. Both have some catching up to do on the leaderboard, but magic often is made on major Sundays.

“When it comes down to a Sunday of a major championship, it’s the grinders that pull it out, and you know, the ones who really hit the most fairways and greens,” Pressel said.

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