Pressel grinds on in pursuit of Solheim Cup spot

Morgan Pressel opened with 4-under 68 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Morgan Pressel opened with 4-under 68 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Meg Mallon described Morgan Pressel as Rosie Jones reincarnated. A fighter. A grinder. A player who knows how to get the ball in the hole.

“The kind of player you want on your team,” Mallon said.

Yet, in recent months, it seemed Pressel, 25, had lost her way. It was taking too long to get the ball in the hole. A spot on her beloved Solheim Cup team – captained by Mallon in August 2013 – was no longer guaranteed. Even her desire to play was questionable.

The slide can be traced back to a wrist injury sustained one year ago at Locust Hill Country Club, when the petite Pressel spent so much time in the gnarly rough that she played the rest of the year in pain. Since that time, Pressel has played in 19 LPGA events, posting only one top 10 and 10 missed cuts.

“It took a while to really want to play golf again and enjoy playing golf again,” said Pressel. “I feel like I’m in a better place.”

That place is the current clubhouse leader at the waterlogged Wegmans LPGA Championship. Pressel birdied her last four holes to finish 4-under 68 on a demanding track that soaked up two and a half inches of rain on Thursday, canceling play for the day. Officials hope to catch up by playing 18 holes on Saturday and 36 holes on Sunday.

Mallon was out watching Pressel on Friday, as well as more than a dozen other players, and was pleased with Pressel’s progress.

“She knows how I feel about her being on the team,” Mallon said, “and I’m leaving her alone.”

Brittany Lincicome played in the same group as Pressel and shot 69. She joined Pressel for a post-round press conference and talked about a Solheim Cup dinner held earlier in the week at a local restaurant in Rochester that Pressel did not attend. There’s also a Solheim practice session scheduled for next week in Colorado and Pressel did not get an invitation.

Needless to say, the carrot dangling in front of the three-time Solheim Cup player is starting to look as big and blinding as the diamond carats on her left hand. She married Andy Bush last January.

“It’s my goal this year for sure,” Pressel said of the Solheim Cup. “There have been times this year when it has kept me from playing better because I’ve been so worried about it.”

Mallon sent a letter to the top 30 players on the points list – Pressel is 15th – explaining that so many things can happen over this next stretch of tournaments when majors are worth double points. There could even be a huge swing in the final week at St. Andrews, when teams will be announced on the Old Course after play has finished.

Pressel’s overall Solheim Cup record is 7-2-2. She hasn’t lost a Solheim match since she was a rookie in 2007. Her record in the last two cups: 6-0-1. Her singles record: 3-0. And that includes a victory over Annika Sorenstam in 2007 – in Sweden.

“She knows what she needs to do,” Mallon said.

Pressel’s birdie putts on the last four holes at Wegmans weren’t tap-ins – 15 feet, 15 feet, 25 feet, 6 feet. She switched putters two weeks ago in the Bahamas, opting for a softer insert in her Odyssey Metal-X #6 putter. The new putter has allowed her to roll the ball better, and more importantly, Pressel said, made her feel more comfortable over putts.

“My putting was the reason why I played well today for sure,” she said.

Pressel hit 10 fairways, 11 greens and had 23 putts. Her driving distance: 220 yards. She had seven birdies on the day.

But back to the rough at Locust Hill, which had caused Pressel so much grief in the last 12 months. Mallon said Pressel’s 68 was a testament to her mental strength. On the fourth hole, Pressel “chunked” her tee shot and then hit her second shot in the rough. Her first shot with a 5-hybrid went about 10 feet. She tried it again. Eventually, Pressel got up and down from 100 yards for bogey, a save that kept her mentally in the game.

“She could’ve gone out and been scared to play,” said Mallon.

But that’s never been her style.

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