WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – The first of Morgan Pressel’s many challenges Thursday came on the opening hole, when she knocked a birdie putt 6 feet past the cup.

“I was a little brain-dead,” Pressel said.

At least she recovered nicely – a theme for her opening round at the ADT Championship.

Pressel made that par-saving comebacker and many others like it, putting herself in a solid position after one round of the LPGA’s season-ending event. Pressel shot a 1-under 71 at Trump International, finishing three shots behind opening-round leader Ai Miyazato.

“The day was OK, overall,” Pressel said. “I certainly made enough birdies out there to be right in the hunt, but I gave too many shots away.”

Still, the 18-year-old from nearby Boca Raton is still squarely in pursuit of Sunday’s $1 million first prize, the biggest in LPGA history.

Il Mi Chung and Karrie Webb – who finished with a birdie shortly after waiting out a 31-minute weather delay – were each one shot off Miyazato’s lead at 3-under. Natalie Gulbis, Julieta Granada and Mi Hyun Kim were 2-under, while Paula Creamer, Se Ri Pak, Wendy Ward and Pressel were another shot off the pace on a humid, windy South Florida day, with strong southwest breezes befuddling players at times.

“The course definitely played a lot differently to what it normally does,” Webb said. “But I managed to play the tough holes very well, hit some really good iron shots on the back nine and to finish with a birdie, I was very happy with that.”

Meanwhile, two-time defending ADT champion Annika Sorenstam and newly crowned player of the year Lorena Ochoa both struggled.

Sorenstam was 4-over after 10 holes before rallying to finish 2-over, six shots off Miyazato’s lead. And Ochoa was 3-over in her opening round, with four bogeys and only one birdie.

“It just wasn’t a good day,” Sorenstam said. “I got off to a bad start. I had to fight pretty hard today.”

She and Ochoa now have some work to do in the second round.

The 32-woman field gets cut to 16 Friday, then eight Saturday.

Those players return Sunday, their scores from the first three days erased, to play for most of a $1.55 million total purse.

“You’re not only trying to get into the top 16, you’re trying to give yourself a shot at comfortably being in the top eight,” Webb said. “You’ve just got to play, as far as I’m concerned. You’re not going to play safe when you should play aggressive or vice versa just because of the format.”

Miyazato also said the tournament setup wasn’t dominating her thoughts Thursday.

The Japanese star made only one mistake – putting her second shot in the water on No. 10, which led to double-bogey. Every other mark on her card was either for par or birdie.

“It was a great round … because I kept my concentration today,” said Miyazato, who has six top-10 finishes but no wins this season. “I had fun playing in the strong wind. That was fun.”

Unlike some players, Pressel acknowledged that the tournament’s unique format and huge payday is weighing on her mind.

Still, she apparently found ways to handle the distractions.

“I think she blocked it all out pretty well,” said Herb Krickstein, Pressel’s grandfather and manager. “She hit the ball extremely well, which if she had been nervous, she wouldn’t do.”

After making the tricky par-saver on No. 1, she stuck her uphill approach to 2 feet on No. 2, setting up the first of her five birdies. Back-to-back birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 pushed her into a share of the lead at the time at 3-under, but Pressel immediately followed with consecutive bogeys. Her up-and-down round continued from there, finally capped by a downhill birdie at No. 18.

“For some reason, out on the course today my speed wasn’t even, like, close,” Pressel said. “It wasn’t there. But I hit the ball well, so that was a plus.”

Notes: The 388-yard, par-4 10th hole yielded only one birdie, to Sophie Gustafson (73). Nearly one-third of the field made bogey or worse, including Miyazato and Sorenstam, who both made double-bogey, and Brittany Linicome, who took a quadruple-bogey 8. There were nearly as many doubles-or-worse at No. 10 (six) as there were on the entire front nine combined (eight). … When a late-afternoon drizzle came, a security guard rushed to hold an umbrella over tournament host Donald Trump. He politely declined, then ducked into his clubhouse a few seconds later.

AP-ES-11-16-06 1730EST


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