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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2007 > LPGA > Kraft Nabisco Championship > Round 4
 

KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP RELATED STORIES





Morgan Pressel becomes youngest Major champion

Morgan Pressel never lost hope, even after she walked off the 18th green Sunday still three shots out of the lead with little reason to believe she would return an hour later for the greatest swim of her life.

Typical of her career, everything happened so quickly.

Pressel closed with a 3-under 69 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, playing the final 24 holes without a bogey. Then she watched a series of collapses unfold on a sun-baked afternoon in the desert, none more shocking than Suzann Pettersen blowing a four-shot lead with four holes to play that made the 18-year-old Pressel the youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history.

About the only thing anyone could have predicted was Pressel in tears.

"Oh my God! Oh my God!" was all she could manage with a camera in her face when Pettersen's 25-foot birdie putt to force a playoff stopped a few inches short.

These were tears of celebration as a major champion, not even a year after she finished high school. And she sobbed remembering her mother, Kathy, who died of breast cancer four years ago.

"I know my mother is always with me," she said. "And I'm sure she's proud of me."

Pressel was at 3-under 285 and on the practice range when she entered the record books, winning a major at 18 years, 10 months and 9 days. Sandra Post of Canada won the 1968 LPGA Championship at 20 years, 19 days.

The youngest man to win a major was Young Tom Morris, who was 17 when he captured the 1868 British Open.

Pressel returned to the 18th not for a playoff she expected, but for a plunge into the pond with her caddie, Jon Yarbrough, and her grandmother, Evelyn Krickstein. Herb Krickstein, her grandfather and the father of former tennis player Aaron Krickstein, later dipped his toes in the water.

Pressel slipped on a white robe with "2007 Kraft Nabisco Champion" stitched on the back.

"This is a dream come true," Pressel said.

Pettersen also shed tears, hers out of utter despair.

The 25-year-old from Norway seized control with three birdies in a four-hole stretch around the turn and had everything in hand until she started spraying tee shots under trees and into the ankle-deep rough, and could no longer make putts on the crusty greens.

A bogey on the 15th.

A double bogey on the 16th when it took her three shots to reach the front of the green and three shots with the putter.

A bogey on the 17th when her 7-iron came up short and she missed the par putt from 10 feet.

"I said yesterday that the one who made the fewest mistakes would win," she said. "I did a few too many."

She wasn't alone.

Se Ri Pak had a chance to become the seventh woman to complete the career Grand Slam with a victory at Mission Hills, and she had a three-shot lead on the front nine. She couldn't hold it together with bogeys on five of the last six holes, closing with a 77.

Catriona Matthew was at 3 under and standing over a 30-foot birdie putt when she ran it 5 feet past and wound up with a three-putt bogey that gave her a 71, finishing one shot back with Pettersen (74) and Brittany Lincicome (72).

Pressel was four shots behind when she finished Saturday afternoon. She was in the final group a year ago with Karrie Webb, who came from seven shots behind to win in a playoff.

"A little help never hurts," Pressel said.

Was she ever right.

The kid showed plenty of moxie herself, going bogey-free over the 24 holes, an astounding feat given the tough conditions. She saved par from the bunker with a 6-foot putt on the 15th, made a 5-foot par on the 16th after missing the green, and made a testy 4-footer for par on the 17th after gunning her birdie putt. All turned out as valuable as the 10-footer on the 18th.

When she stepped into the scoring trailer, she saw on TV that Pettersen was in the right rough on the 16th hole. When she stepped out, workers were changing Pettersen's score from 5 under to 3 under on the leaderboard.

Then came the toughest half-hour of her life, moving from the putting green to the practice range to calm herself down.

"I was a lot more nervous doing nothing," Pressel said.

Pressel seems to have been everywhere for such a short time on earth.

She was a 12-year-old in braces and a ponytail when she was the youngest to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open in 2001. She was poised to be the youngest major champion ever two years ago at Cherry Hills, tied for the lead in the middle of the 18th fairway when she watched Birdie Kim holed a bunker shot for birdie to win the U.S. Women's Open.

"Seems like it's been forever," she said. "I've always had high hopes and big dreams. This is exciting."

Part of a heralded group of kids on the LPGA Tour that included Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer, Pressel is the first to be a major champion. Wie didn't play this year because of an injured wrist. Creamer started the final round one shot out of the lead and shot 78.

"Just that I got there at all is enough satisfaction," Pressel said.

Lorena Ochoa, who needed a victory to supplant Annika Sorenstam at No. 1 in the women's world ranking, tied for 10th after closing with a 72. Her hopes were ruined Saturday with a quadruple bogey on the 17th, and while she promised to attack in the final round, the 25-year-old Mexican star didn't make her first birdie until No. 11.

Sorenstam shot 75 and finished at 296, here highest 72-hole score in a major since the '98 U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run.

Pressel earned $300,000 and had no trouble deciding what to do next.

"I'm going shopping when I get home," she said.

Looking at her grandparents, tears still not dry, she laughed and said, "And they're not going to stop me."

 

 




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