Pressel makes LPGA history

With Kraft Nabisco victory, 18-year-old is youngest to win an LPGA major

Golf

April 02, 2007|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,LOS ANGELES TIMES

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Since when does a victorious Sunday charge amount to a modest round of 3-under 69? And is it a full-scale retreat when you've got a three-shot lead with four holes to go and promptly fire up a bogey, a double bogey and a bogey?

The answers were yes for Morgan Pressel, who at 18 became the youngest winner in the history of LPGA major championship competition; and yes for Suzann Pettersen, whose quest for victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship veered erratically at the worst possible time.

Pressel rolled in a 10-foot putt to birdie the 72nd hole, then waited nearly an hour to learn whether her 3-under-par total of 285 would be enough.

It was, but just barely, when Pettersen began knocking the ball all over Mission Hills Country Club on her way to a 2-over 74.

Playing in the fourth-to-the-last group and trailing by four shots to start the round, Pressel faced almost no pressure. But she also made her own breaks. The teen from Boca Raton, Fla., didn't have a bogey the last 24 holes and managed to make her first victory a major championship - and before Michelle Wie, by the way.

"This is a dream come true," said Pressel, who has been especially close to her grandparents since her mother, Kathy, died of breast cancer in 2003, when Pressel was 15.

She broke down when she spoke of her mother.

"I know my mother is always with me and I'm sure she's proud of me, as my grandparents are."

Herb and Evelyn Krickstein are her grandparents, and she is a cousin of former tennis pro Aaron Krickstein.

The youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open at 12, Pressel turned pro 16 months ago after she tied for sixth place at the LPGA qualifying school.

Meanwhile, Pettersen aged quickly on the back nine, and Pressel was properly sympathetic.

"I know those last few holes enjoy taking their toll on people, and I'm lucky it wasn't me today."

Pettersen, a 25-year-old from Norway, idolizes Norwegian skiers, and it was tough sledding almost from the instant she arrived at the 15th tee with a three-shot lead over Se Ri Pak, Catriona Matthew and Brittany Lincicome.

Her drive at the 15th sailed to the right, under some trees and she missed a 20-footer for a bogey. It got worse at the 16th, with another drive to the right rough. She clipped a branch coming out and would up with a three-putt for double bogey that dropped her into a tie with Pressel, who was killing time on the putting green and waiting at 3 under.

Pressel held the lead alone moments later. At the par-3 17th, Pettersen's 7-iron landed in the left rough. She chipped out to eight feet, but missed her par putt by inches on the left.

Thomas Bonk writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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