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Pressel-Haas’ uncanny surge wins CVS Classic

June 19, 2012

Brad Faxon makes his final shot of the day on the 18th hole at Rhode Island Country Club during the final round of the CVS Caremark Charity Classic on Tuesday. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN.

BARRINGTON — Just last year, Morgan Pressel and playing partner Davis Love III had to settle for second at this CVS Caremark Charity Classic after they combined for a 22-under total of 120.
Unfortunately for them, the tandem of PGA standouts Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson finished two strokes better and garnered the $300,000 first prize, not to mention the tournament trophy.
In the 14th annual event that began Monday at Rhode Island Country Club, the 24-year-old resident of Boca Raton, Fla. joined Champions Tour veteran Jay Haas, and the two claimed immense satisfaction when they mustered a nine-under 62.
That number was good enough to place them in a first-place tie with Classic co-hosts Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade, not to mention the competition's oldest team, Dana Quigley and Juli Inkster.
What transpired during Tuesday's final round, however, stunned – and thrilled – both. They wowed the crowds following them, stringing together 10 straight birdies and an eagle on the 350-yard, par-four 12th while rolling to a 12-under 59 in a first-ever scramble format.
(Simply put, tourney officials chose to install the scramble on the second day of competition to make it more fun for the competitors; they nailed it).
With a stellar 21-under 121, Pressel and Haas cruised to the title, finishing two strokes ahead of runner-ups Lexi Thompson and Corey Pavin, as well as Suzann Pettersen and Fred Funk, at 19-under.
The team of RICC member Brett Quigley and Brittany Lincicome took fourth overall at 125, and three teams – including Faxon and Andrade – tied for fifth at 126.
“I wasn't really sure if I'd be able to play; I think I scared my partner a couple days ago when I came in with a splint on my left wrist,” noted Pressel, who in her fourth appearance here gained her first victory, one that landed both the $300,000 top prize. “It was such a great day out there. We play a lot of golf on tour, and that's very stressful. This can be stressful, too, but it's also a lot of fun.
“There's no other event quite like this one,” she added. “The amount of money Billy and Brad – and CVS – raise for charity is fantastic. I do a lot of work on my own for charity, but I like to support the Rhode Island (and southeastern New England) charities, too.”
Call it appropos Pressel shared the spotlight. She initiated her Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer charity tournament, which benefits the Lynn Cancer Institute in Boca Raton. She also was honored at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure “Wake Up for the Cure” breakfast. There, she received the first-ever Kristin Hoke Award for her efforts to battle breast cancer.
As for the flurry they manufactured right from the start, Haas revealed he was as surprised as anyone.
“Eight years ago, my son Bill and I came in and won it, and it was great,” Haas grinned at an informal press conference later, with Pressel – 35 years the younger – standing by his side. “We came back the next year to try to defend it, but didn't.
“Morgan played beautifully,” he continued. “There were a lot of holes where she sank the putts. This can be a pretty testy golf course, so we'll take it.”
The pairing birdied the first and parred the second before rattling off seven birds to make the turn at six-under 30. They did the same at the par-three, 217-yard 10th and the double-dogleg-left, 538-yard, par-five 11th.
Then came No. 12, which is described in the Classic's media guide this way: “After a driver or fairway wood over the marsh on the right, players are left with a short-iron approach shot. The undulating green is the real challenge on this short (350-yard) par-4. Few straight putts and many difficult pin locations make birdies very rare.”
Pressel's approach landed a mere few feet from the pin, and Haas explained he was just trying to get his poke near his partner's. Instead, he delivered a pitch from 74 yards out, one that hit the green and eventually rolled in for the eagle 2.
“When you hole-out from, like, 80 yards, obviously, you luck out,” Pressel grinned.
Stated Haas: “Morgan freed me up. She had a great shot, and it allowed me to go for it.”
Following that “stunner,” the duo parred in for the 59, and Haas knew why.
“After the 12th, it was pretty crazy out there,” he offered. “Those last four holes, with the wind coming off the water, it was really difficult. It was so strong.”
Pressel indicated she loved the final-day scramble format, and her team's score, naturally, had everything to do with it.
“It opens up the second day,” she said. “With us, we got off to that hot start, and it made it very difficult for anybody to catch us.
“This is my favorite tournament to play in each year, and it's such an honor to win it.”
Inkster stated she and the elder Quigley struggled on Tuesday, falling victim to a few three-putts, including one for par, another for bogey. That's why they closed the final round at 66 (128 total).
“The thing about the Florida scramble is you've got to make sure you sink your putts, and we didn't do that,” she said. “We saw the leaderboard and what Jay and Morgan were doing, and it was wild. They were galloping home quickly.
Noted Dana: “I was definitely aware of it. Morgan's not a super long hitter among the girls, but we did know they sank 12 putts; that's what it takes in a scramble. When we all teed off (Tuesday) morning, we were trying to do the same thing, get a string going.”
Quigley also explained that his son, Devon, who was seriously injured in a car accident last November and remains hospitalized in Florida, never left his mind. (This is the first year Dana played without his son caddying for him. Longtime friend and Ocean State great Nick Cioe handled that responsibility).
“I came here to play for Devon,” he said.
Like Quigley and Inkster, Lorena Ochoa noticed the surge Pressel and Haas managed.
“That's amazing,” she said after she and Mark Calcavecchia shot 62 on Tuesday for the aggregate 126.
“When you're having such a good day, you gain momentum and make some shots. It's great for the players, but also the fans. They get enthused watching it.”
Faxon joked about his feelings regarding Pressel and Haas' triumph.
“That's great for Jay and Morgan, but I felt like we were on the Titanic out there,” he smiled. “They were 12-under after 12, and we were only minus-four and sinking fast.”
Revealed Andrade: “That was spectacular what they did. They made it look so easy, and the course is in fantastic shape. I've never seen it play this fast. This golf course has definitely stood up to the test of time.”
With Funk and Pettersen in the clubhouse at 123, the pairing of Pavin and Thompson, a 17-year-old who turned pro two years ago and played in the U.S. Women's Open at age 12, knew they needed a bird at the 18th to forge the deadlock.
“Lexi gave me the line, and I just lined it up and sank it,” Pavin chuckled. “She putted first, and it was a couple inches short; it was a good roll. I knew what it was going to do, so I just had to hit a good putt, and – fortunately – it was.
“Hey, finishing tied for second is better than third,” he added. “It was fun. We had a good week.”
When asked what the future of the Classic may hold, Faxon didn't mince words.
“He told us on the green (during the post-tourney awards ceremony), 'We'll do another one next year,'” he said of his conversation with CVS/pharmacy President and CEO Larry Merlo, who took the job about eight months ago. “If we were the decision-makers, we'd do this forever. I do think it would have a lifespan, but if we keep changing it up, it would keep it fresh.
“We'll have a better feel for who we'll bring in next year,” he added. “It's always easier when the U.S. Open is on the East Coast (less time to travel to Barrington). It's always exciting for the fans and for us when we get new players. If we can get a Webb Simpson or a Keegan Bradley, that would help.”
Andrade acknowledged he still gets goose bumps when he peruses the throngs each year.
“The bottom line is we had a great crowd and raised a ton of money for charity; you just pinch yourself so you know it's real,” he said. “This ranks right up there on the PGA Tour (with any event when it comes to players' desire to participate), and we're only a two-day event. To have great players come out and want to help us, it's so gratifying.
“We're going to have a problem next year; with the Open in Philadelphia, I know players are going to want to show up. I also think CVS is very happy to continue to do this.”
CHIP SHOTS: During Tuesday's round, Andrade captured the “Closest-to-the-Pin” competition when he landed his tee shot on the 17th hole two feet, eight inches from the cup. With it, he also landed $25,000 for Special Olympics Rhode Island, the second straight year he's done so.
“We are beyond thrilled,” said SORI CEO Dennis DeJesus. “The extra $25,000 will go a long way to provide year-round athletic competition for more than 2,700 athletes in Rhode Island. We're honoted to be a part of the CVS Caremark Charity Classic, and this win is extra special.”
With their eagle at the 12th hole, Pressel and Haas earned $12,500 for charity, while the duet of Yani Tseng and Jeff Sluman did the same for their eagle at No. 6.

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