Pressel fights Solheim demons, excels at St. Andrews

Morgan Pressel during the first round of the Ricoh Women's British Open.

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Morgan Pressel is trying to control her subconsciousness. She’s fighting a losing battle.

Pressel arrived in St. Andrews needing a strong finish in the Ricoh Women’s British Open to qualify for her fourth successive U.S. Solheim Cup team. An opening 6-under 66 at the Old Course means she’s a step closer to accomplishing that goal.

Pressel’s outstanding round gave her a share of the first-round lead with Camilla Lennarth. Stacy Lewis, Nicole Castrale, Na Yeon Choi, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Sydnee Michaels, Ryann O’Toole and Eun-Hee Ji are tied for third at 67.

Three more good rounds and Pressel will be on a flight to Denver to face the Europeans at Colorado Golf Club on Aug. 16-18. Her problem for the next three days will be focusing on winning the British and forgetting the Solheim.

“I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me about the Solheim Cup,” Pressel said. “It’s a special week, the Solheim Cup, and that’s why everybody cares so much about it. That’s why I care so much about it.”

When asked how rich she’d be if she had a dollar for every time she thought about the match, Pressel said: “I’d be like a bizillionaire.

“Having played on three teams, it’s something I don’t want to miss, something that I’m definitely thinking about and, at the same time, trying not to think about and trying to worry about focusing on this week.

“My biggest goal coming into this week was not to think about Solheim Cup.”

U.S. captain Meg Mallon could use an in-form Pressel. She went 4-0 in a losing effort two years ago, and has an overall record of 7-2-2. She hasn’t lost a match since her rookie appearance, in 2007. Besides, the United States doesn’t have an awful lot of depth. Only three American players (Lewis, Cristie Kerr and Jennifer Johnson) have won this year.

Pressel was almost flawless around the Old Course. She made just one error, when she found a bunker off the tee at the par-4 sixth hole. However, she had seven birdies to ease the mistake at No. 6.

Pressel knows how to win a major championship. She captured the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship to become the youngest winner of a major. In 2008, she won the Kapalua LPGA Classic. It was her most recent LPGA victory. Two LPGA wins at this stage of her career wasn’t in the cards when she joined the tour in 2006.

Pressel’s recent development hasn’t been helped by a wrist injury sustained at last year’s Wegmans LPGA Championship. She tied for third in the Wegmans this year and has had three top-30 finishes since then. So she arrived at St. Andrews with a little bit of form.

Despite her major success, Pressel hasn’t exactly shined in the Women’s British Open. Her best finish from seven appearances is eighth, in 2010. She missed the cut in 2007, the last time the Women’s Open was held at St. Andrews. It’s fair to say she didn’t take to the Old Course and links golf right away.

Pressel didn't start to develop an understanding of links golf until the third round at Royal Birkdale in 2010. Since then, she has learned to appreciate the subtleties of links golf.

“I shot 65 and was kind of like, ‘I can do this.’ It gave me a better outlook for all the British Opens I’ve played since then.

“I’ve gotten better at managing my game and hitting shots. At British Opens, you don’t just hit a stock draw. It just doesn’t work. You have to hit high shots, low shots, bump it, putt from 40 yards off the green sometimes, do whatever it takes.

“I think as a creative person naturally, I think I just had to implement that a little better.”

All of her worries about the Solheim Cup will be over if she can implement better for the next three days.

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