Pressel is 'letting the athlete back out' at Wegmans

Morgan Pressel lines up a putt on the third green during the weather-delayed second round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Morgan Pressel lines up a putt on the third green during the weather-delayed second round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – The last time Morgan Pressel held a 36-hole lead was here at Locust Hill in 2008, before this tournament became a major. The last time Pressel won a tournament also was in 2008, at the Kapalua LPGA Classic.

It’s not as if good things haven’t happened to Pressel since that time – she’s now married and a Solheim Cup regular – but the one-time prodigy just hasn’t quite lived up to the promise that she showed as a fearless teen.

Pressel, 25, still owns the title of youngest player to win a major. She won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco at age 18, two years after she nearly won the U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur.

“I know that she has been through some tough times in her career last couple years,” said Inbee Park, “but I’m sure she’s the type of player that could always come back.”

Pressel goes into Sunday of the Wegmans LPGA Championship with a two-stroke lead over World No. 1 Park and Chella Choi. But here’s the catch: They still have 36 holes to play.

“I’m just comfortable here,” Pressel said. “And this golf course certainly plays to my game.”

The name of the game this week is fairways, and the straight-hitting Pressel knows how to find her share. Ron Stockton, Pressel’s longtime coach, said her game plan at Locust Hill doesn’t change with the weather. In fact, having to hit 5-wood into a green due to saturated turf isn’t the type of thing that would rattle Pressel. She’s used to hitting long clubs into par 4s.

On Monday, Pressel and Stockton went over to Oak Hill to practice to find some peace and quiet. The lesson was built around more conversation than swing technicalities.

Now that Pressel is playing pain-free, Stockton wanted his pupil to get back into the mindset of quality shots. She injured her wrist last year while hitting too many shots out of the Locust Hill rough and spent much of last season in pain.

“It’s time to start believing,” Stockton said. “Everything is there.”

For a player of Pressel’s caliber, Stockton said, it’s like flipping a switch.

Something certainly has switched on in Pressel’s game as she’s showing the type of resolve with her putter that harkens back to her youth. In her first two rounds, she has had a combined 50 putts. She leads the field in birdies, with 11.

“I feel good about the way that I’m playing,” Pressel said. “I feel good about my approach to playing, which is just as important sometimes.”

There was a time, Stockton said, when the petite Pressel chased extra yards and worked on changing her swing. But when he looks at Pressel, he sees his father Dave, a 10-time PGA Tour winner who built his career from inside 150 yards.

Stockton said they have similar mental makeups.

When Pressel faces a putt or a chip from the just off the green, she’s likely not looking to simply get it close. No, Stockton said; she’s expecting to hole it.

“It’s not something you can fake,” he said.

Pressel is among the brightest players on the LPGA. She was a brain in high school, scoring 790 out of 800 on the math portion of her SAT. But what Stockton sees this week that has him particularly pumped can’t be learned from a book.

“That’s what’s different this week,” he said. “We’re tapping back into her athletic side, letting the athlete back out.”

Sunday’s 36-hole marathon will test mind and body, particularly the strength of Pressel’s wrist. She planned to ice it Saturday night and take some Advil.

“I’m sure it will be exhausting,” Pressel said. “But I’ll rest when I’m done.”

Sunday, she's on a mission.

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