Pressel the reigning teen dream queen at Fields
MORGAN Pressel. The perceived rival. That other (how dare she?) shoot-from-the-lip golfing teen dream queen.
She's a bright-eyed, blonde-haired breath of fresh air. But in some corners -- well, let's face it, in a few of our own local corners -- that was the feeling. How dare she?
For some die-hard she-can-do-no-wrong Michelle Wie fans out there, you are either with Michelle or you are with the terrorists. And Morgan Pressel was their axis of evil.
She might as well have walked the fairway to the Darth Vader theme.
But then, the two teen dream queens played together a year ago in this very tournament, in the same group on the Fields Open in Hawaii's final day. The two perceived rivals, Open in Hawaii's final day. The two perceived rivals, side by side. The showdown at last.
And then something happened. Even the staunchest Michelle fans in attendance saw Pressel for who she was, that day -- a heart-on-her-sleeve fighter with a big smile and bigger spunk. Yes, she can be intense, and maybe she was even fighting for the same spotlight that had always shined on their Michelle. But it turned out they liked her anyway. It's hard not to, when you see her up close.
I like her, too, can't help it. In person she comes across as a nice, down-to-earth girl.
She may be a rival, but not an evil one. She's no villain. Just another shoot-from-the-lip teen dream queen.
It turned out the world could handle two of them. Turned out, we liked her, after all.
Thursday there was a small girl walking the Ko Olina course, following Pressel, her favorite player. Yesterday, Pressel signed lots of autographs, acknowledged her share of cheers.
It's still Wie country, of course. "As (it) should be, this is her home area," Pressel said. Last year, when they played together, she understood who the gallery was there to see. "When I was in South Florida for the ADT I had tons of friends and family that came out to watch me, that was awesome," she said.
It's hard not to compare the two prodigies, even if now, it turns out, you like them both. Wie is always trying to leap ahead to that next great step. Pressel was always into winning every tournament. She just loved junior golf.
Morgan Pressel won over fans in Hawaii last year.
Pressel came up the hard way (well, what you could try to call the hard way, for an eventual millionaire pro, in this upper-crust, country-club sport), winning nearly every junior and amateur tournament there is.
She said it, when the Golf Channel grabbed her yesterday (it was either do her third round of press or get out of the tent and into the rain): It's always taken a while to find her legs at each level. No matter her talent, it took some time to get acclimated, to learn to win at each step.
It's tough not to wonder if this might be her time, if she's gotten there again, after she shot 7 under yesterday, a 65, to finish her second round within two strokes of the lead, just minutes before rain poured down.
And so you can't help but compare them yet again. Wie on the red carpet at the NBA All-Star Game as another (former) teen rival, Paula Creamer, was winning a tournament -- her third -- last week, back on Wie's home turf.
Now Pressel, looking poised to make a run at being the youngest to win an LPGA tournament. Wie, still on the mend (an injured wrist), nowhere to be found.
Does it take anything away that she's not here?
"We had fun last year," Pressel said. "It doesn't take anything away. There's -- what's the field, 138 is it? One-hundred-thirty-eight great players out here. So her not -- and not to say that (Michelle's) not a great player. But Annika's not here either, there are other great players that aren't here as well."
The rain pounded down on the top of the tent; it had waited for her to finish her round at 8 under for the tournament.
Morgan Pressel seemed at peace.
"I've just got to go out and fire at pins tomorrow," she said.