Pressel chases 59, but has to settle for 65 at Founders Cup

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Morgan Pressel (Christian Petersen/ Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Golf’s magic number of 59 in range after she played the first 11 holes in 9 under, Pressel bogeyed the next two holes and closed with five pars for a 7-under 65.

“I don’t know if I was necessarily thinking 59, but I probably just got a little bit excited, because I had never been that many under par in that short of a span,” Pressel said. “I just got a little bit quick and came back to earth.”

She ended up a stroke behind Mirim Lee at Desert Ridge.

After birdieing Nos. 1 and 2 – her 10th and 11th holes – to reach 9 under, Pressel pulled her drive left on the par-4 third. Her ball lodged at the base of a short bush, with the bulk of the branches between the right-hander and the ball. There were burrowing animal holes near the ball, but they didn’t interfere with a possible swing or stance.

“I could have hit it left-handed and there were a couple of burrowing animal holes around,” Pressel said. “I brought them (rules officials) over to ask, but I didn’t honestly think that I was going to get relief and I don’t think that I deserved it.”

Pressel took an unplayable lie and missed the green to the right, chipped to 7 feet and made the putt to save bogey. She also dropped a stroke on the par-3 fourth, missing a 15-footer after hitting another iron to the right.

“It wasn’t the finish that I would have hoped for, but it gives me a little bit of confidence knowing how many birdies I can make and I’m capable of,” Pressel said.

She was 6 under after six holes, birdieing the first four and making a 50-footer for eagle on the par-5 15th. She also birdied the par-3 17th and made the turn in 7-under 29.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten off to that hot of a start,” Pressel said.

Annika Sorenstam shot the only 59 in LPGA Tour history in the 2001 Standard Register Ping at nearby Moon Valley. Ai Miyazato holds the record in the 4-year-old Founders Cup, shooting a 63 in the first round last year.

A tour regular since she was 17, the 25-year-old Pressel won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco to become the youngest women’s major champion. She also won the 2008 Kapalua LPGA.

“I definitely feel like I have the ability to win again,” Pressel said.

Lee also started on No. 10 and nearly matched Pressel’s start, playing her opening nine in 6-under 30. She had three birdies and a bogey on the front side for a 64.

“Everything was good,” said Lee, making her third LPGA Tour start.

Defending champion Stacy Lewis, top-ranked Inbee Park and Michelle Wie were two strokes back at 66 along with 2011 winner Karrie Webb, Eun-Hee Ji, Catriona Matthew, Gerina Piller and Pernilla Lindberg.

“A lot of tee shots set up well for me,” Lewis said. “They fit my eye.”

Coming off a victory two weeks ago in China in a Ladies European Tour event, Park birdied the final three holes. She closed with a tap-in birdie on the par-4 ninth after nearly holing a full pitching wedge.

“It was a very solid round,” Park said. “Very good irons.”

Wie eagled the par-5 fifth.

“I hit 3-wood, 5-iron over the green and then chipped in,” Wie said.

Sixteen-year-old Lydia Ko opened with a 67. Playing alongside Park, Ko closed with a bogey after driving left into the desert.

“I forgot to bring my food and my protein bars,” Ko said. “That’s my excuse.”

Park had six LPGA Tour victories last season, sweeping the first three majors, and became the first South Korean to win the player of the year award. She took a break after the season and skipped the first two events this year, returning with a second-place finish in Thailand and a tie for fourth in Singapore.

“I was a little bit exhausted last year after all the things happened,” Park said.

Paula Creamer, a playoff winner three weeks ago in Singapore in the last LPGA Tour event, shot 70. She had a double bogey on the par-4 eighth, her 17th hole.

“Just one bad swing on the tee shot and hit in the hazard,” Creamer said.

Canada’s Rebecca Lee-Bentham (Toronto) opened with a 4-under 68. She’s tied for 18th.

The Toronto native was late to her pro-am tee time yesterday, but not late enough to be disqualified.

The other Canucks in the field had varied results.

Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont. was a stroke back of Bentham at 3-under 69, which is the lowest round of her season on tour. She’s tied for 33rd.

Langley, B.C.’s Sue Kim opened with a 2-over par 74 (T110th) and Hamilton, Ont.’s Alena Sharp shot a 4-over 76 (T125th).