THE GOLF PAGE
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Morgan Pressel won over fans in Hawaii last week despite her comments about Michelle Wie.
Journey continues for Pressel
The LPGA Tour rookie will not forget her experiences playing in Hawaii
WATCHING Morgan Pressel break down and cry had me looking around for her grandfather like an adult searching for the parents of an obviously lost child.
All around her was an electrically charged atmosphere created by a crowd that had just watched Michelle Wie fashion one of those rounds that leaves a buzz in the air you can't accurately describe to someone who wasn't there.
Thousands of people stacked six-deep were still chattering over Wie's closing 66 that had her tied for the lead as she exited the 18th with a par. Had she rolled in that 10-footer for birdie, earplugs would have been in order for those fortunate few who had front-row, green-side seats.
Veteran Sherri Turner exited the scorer's tent first. She followed closely behind her caddie through the throng of autograph seekers issuing orders, "Let us through. Let us through." She sounded like a drill sergeant barking, "Make a hole and make it wide."
The young golf fans were only too happy to let Auntie pass, leaving Pressel and Wie behind to learn the ways of big-time golf. Wie was only an arm's length away from Pressel, as the 17-year-old from Florida waited patiently to do a postgame interview with the Golf Channel, which had just finished a 2-minute snippet with Wie.
Wie gazed intently across the water at the 18th green from just outside the scorer's tent, while Pressel turned her back to the action, doing her best to keep it together. At the junior level, when you have a bad round, you can jump in your parents' car and cry all the way home. But out here, on the LPGA Tour, they don't let family inside the ropes.
Pressel did her best to find the thousand-yard stare, but then the tears sprung into her eyes and there was nothing anyone could do but stand and wait for a director in a truck, far from the action, cut to Golf Channel announcer Brandi Seymour for her interview with Pressel.
WHILE PRESSEL DID her best to explain her final-round 71 that left her five shots removed from Wie, a volunteer came up behind me and ESPN's Eric Adelson with a box of Kleenex to give to Pressel in case the tears became too much.
Minutes later, Kalani Simpson arrived on the scene, wondering what I was doing with tissue in one hand and a lei that Pressel had shrugged off earlier, hanging over my wrist. As soon as he saw Pressel's teary interview with the Golf Channel, the answer became obvious.
It was at this moment that Meena Lee sank her birdie putt at the last to eliminate Wie from the title chase. LPGA officials had been on standby with Wie. If Lee misses the putt, Wie moves on to the practice range for a possible playoff. Once that option was eliminated, Wie was whisked away to the main interview room for closing comments on coming close to winning once more.
Pressel was left behind to face the three of us for another round of questions. There will be a time when Pressel will look at reporters like us in this situation as if we owe her money and decline comment. But in only her second tournament as a pro, that day hasn't come.
PRESSEL WAS IMPRESSIVE with her poise and ability to articulate how she was feeling about being drubbed by Wie on her competitor's home turf. She has been critical of Wie's free passes to major events the past couple of years and even took a small shot at her Saturday when she made the remark, "It looked like she could close it out."
Translation? If she makes that birdie putt, she has a chance to win, but she didn't. Pressel also went on to say how well she and Wie got along during the round and that Wie played great. You can imagine how difficult that was to say after failing to match up with your rival in a critical juncture of their young careers.
It would be like John McEnroe saying Jimmy Connors played great after losing to him in a Grand Slam final. Both Pressel and Wie have a competitive streak as wide as the fairways at Kapalua's Plantation Course. Neither wants to lose to the other -- ever.
After finishing the 5-minute interview with the three of us, Pressel said yes to the lei and no to the tissue, although she did snag a few more before leaving the premises alone. It's likely her grandfather was nearby, but we didn't see him as we fought our way through the throng of fans closing in for Pressel's autograph.
It would also be nice to say she had recovered fully from her own funeral as she put pen to paper, hats and golf balls of every variety, but that would be wishful thinking. This 18-hole journey will be one she won't ever forget.
ON THE PGA TOUR
Ford Championship at Doral
Doral Golf Resort and Spa, Blue Course (7,266 yards, par 72).
Tiger Woods won a dramatic duel with Phil Mickelson to take the top spot in world ranking from Vijay Singh. Woods made a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to grab the lead and closed with a par to hold off Mickelson by a stroke. Woods had a 24-under 264 total to break the tournament record by a stroke.
On the Net:
ON THE LPGA TOUR
Bosque Real Country Club, Huixquilucan, Mexico.
South Korea's Meena Lee won the Fields Open in Hawaii for her second LPGA Tour victory in two years, holding off Michelle Wie in regulation and beating rookie Seon Hwa Lee on the third hole of a playoff. Wie finished third, a stroke back.
On the Net:
ON THE CHAMPIONS TOUR
Valencia Country Club, Valencia, Calif.
Jerry Pate won a PGA Tour-sanctioned event for the first time in 24 years, birdieing the final hole for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke victory over Hale Irwin, Mark James and Morris Hatalsky in the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Lutz, Fla.
1. Meena Lee - $173,082
2. Joo Mi Kim - $154,822
3. Lorena Ochoa - $120,415
4. Seon Hwa Lee - $114,084
5. Soo Young Moon - $77,722
6. Natalie Gulbis - $76,645
7. Julieta Granada - $55,835
1. Lorena Ochoa - 68.5000
2. Seon Hwa Lee - 68.8333
3. Natalie Gulbis - 69.0000
4. Meena Lee - 69.1667
5. Aree Song - 69.3333
5. Julieta Granada - 69.3333
GREENS IN REGULATION
1. Paula Creamer - .824
2. Michelle Estill - .822
3. Wendy Doolan - .806
3. Natalie Gulbis - .806
5. Angela Stanford - .787
6. Nicole Perrot - .767
1. Karin Sjodin - 295.3
2. Natalie Tucker - 290.7
3. Brittany Lang - 287.8
4. Sophie Gustafson - 281.8
5. Brittany Lincicome - 280.2
5. Minea Blomqvist - 280.2
7. Lorena Ochoa - 272.8
LINK UP IN HAWAII
» 3: Catholic Charities Hawaii, Pearl Country Club. 527-4414.
» 3-5: Hilo Invitational Pro-Am, Hilo Municipal Course. 959-9601.
» 6: Swing for Education, Mid Pacific Country Club. 261-4651.
» 10: Aloha Friday Invitational, Makalei Golf Club. 808 325-6625; firstname.lastname@example.org
» 29: Pearl City High School PSTA, Pearl Country Club. 456-1404.
» 31: Aloha Section PGA Classic, Turtle Bay Resort Golf Club. 593-2230.
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