Morgan Pressel shot a 4-under-par 68 yesterday to move into a tie for the lead at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay. The 18-year-old is seeking her first LPGA win.
Call it the SBS (wide) Open
Three share the lead and seven others are within three shots entering today's final round
If the young Americans plan to leave their spike mark on the LPGA Tour this season, today's final round of the $1.1 million SBS Open would be a good place to start.
Paula Creamer (70 for yesterday's round) and Morgan Pressel (68) begin the final 18 holes at the windswept Turtle Bay Resort tied for the lead with fellow American Sherri Steinhauer (70) at 7-under 137. But they are hardly alone on this diverse leaderboard, where seven other golfers are within three strokes of the lead.
South Korea's Hee-Won Han (69) is alone in fourth, one shot back at 6-under 138. American Pat Hurst (68) is tied with Janice Moodie (70) and young gun Julieta Granada (71) at 5-under 139, while world No. 2 Lorena Ochoa (69) and third-ranked Karrie Webb (70) are tied with Seon Hwa Lee (70) at 4-under 140.
Of those 10 golfers, only Pressel has yet to win, and she'd like nothing better than to give the trophy a big kiss at day's end. But before that can happen, the 18-year-old will have to play some of the best golf of her life, because these ladies have got game.
Steinhauer has seven victories to her credit, including two majors. Creamer won twice on tour as a rookie in 2005, but is still feeling the sting of not getting one last year. Han is part of the Korean connection that has dominated the tour of late and can't be discounted after winning twice last season.
Like Steinhauer, Hurst is a veteran American. She lost in a playoff to Annika Sorenstam at the 2006 U.S. Women's Open, but has four career wins, including a major victory at the 1998 Kraft-Nabisco Championship. As a 20-year-old, Granada captured last year's season-ending event and pocketed $1 million for her efforts. Moodie has also won twice in her long career.
And when you look at Webb and Ochoa, it should strike fear in your heart. Webb is a former world No. 1 who has seven major championships among her 34 tour wins, and Ochoa is trying to become No. 1 after winning six times last year. And what about Lee? Well, she was the tour's rookie of the year in 2006 with one win at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
"I think it's great that you can have a final leaderboard like that," Creamer said. "It's very diverse and it brings excitement to the LPGA. It's interesting to see the leaderboard because it is the first tournament out here. I'm very excited about it, very much so. I've been thinking about it a lot lately in the offseason and coming out here with a good couple of weeks. It will be nice tomorrow."
That depends -- if you like to play in the wind and the rain, you're set. As yesterday's second round ended, the storm predicted to batter the North Shore this weekend arrived in full force. Steady trades of 25 mph or better are expected as 84 players prepare for weather that's sure to wreak havoc on the difficult Arnold Palmer-designed course.
"I love to play in the wind," said Steinhauer, who backed up that point by winning the Women's British Open last year.
"Whatever conditions come about, that's great. It requires a lot of creativity. And I enjoy that. This wind is very different than the wind over in England and Scotland. A lot of times when the wind blows over there it is constant. It's blowing in one direction. And here, there's a lot of swirling going on."
Paula Creamer raised her ball after making a birdie putt on the ninth hole during yesterday's second round.
That shouldn't bother Pressel too much. Growing up in Florida, she's learned to control her shots in the wind and rain, and should be as prepared as anyone. Not winning last year was somewhat surprising for Pressel, but don't be surprised if she remedies that fact today.
"It's going to be exciting, it's going to be fun because I've been playing well on this golf course," Pressel said. She debuted as a professional here last year by finishing in a tie for fifth.
"I've just got to continue to play safe, but play for birdies when I can. It's not like I'm trying to protect a big lead. I've just got to go out there and make birdies. I can't do anything stupid. On this golf course, you can hit one bad shot out there and end up way behind."
One of the more interesting dynamics of this final round is Steinhauer being the 2002 Junior Solheim Cup captain of Pressel and Creamer. While Pressel and Steinhauer enjoyed their camaraderie during yesterday's second round, don't be surprised if the friendly chitchat goes away down the stretch today.
"I don't really talk a lot on the golf course, I kind of stay to myself," Creamer explained.
But Steinhauer plans to keep it light and breezy if possible. She and Pressel were talkative throughout their round yesterday.
"We had a great time out there," Steinhauer said. "We kept it light and fun and I think we fed off of each other's birdies. We told stories. We talked a lot. Just girl stuff. I captained the Solheim Cup team and I knew the tour was going to be changing with all the young ones coming out. They've definitely added a spark to this tour that's generated a lot of interest. They've got great stories. They are wonderful people. They've got great games."
Pressel countered, "I almost called her Captain, but I didn't. There were a lot of players who were on that junior team who are out here now and it's great for American golf."
But don't forget about the international players, including Webb and Ochoa. They've got plenty of game themselves.
"I feel really good and happy about my score today," Ochoa said. "I think I'm in a good position for tomorrow at three shots off the leader. Tomorrow should be exciting."