Major champion TV analyst Morgan Pressel dishes on her first time playing Augusta National, competing under the weight of expectation and when to go pro
Morgan Pressel recently teed it up at Augusta National for the first time ahead of her broadcast work for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The former major champion and top-ranked amateur will be in the booth for NBC’s final-round coverage on Saturday from Noon to 3 p.m. E.T.
Pressel caught up with Golfweek earlier in the week to talk about her round at Augusta National, noting that course management here may be more important than other course she’s ever seen.
Rose Zhang, the top-ranked amateur in the world, carries a five-stroke lead into the final round. While only the top 30 players and ties advanced to Sunday, all 72 players had a chance to tee it up at Augusta National on Friday for a practice round.
Here are excerpts from Golfweek’s conversation with Pressel about Augusta and the amateur game:
What was your overall impression compared to what you've seen on TV all these years?
Magnolia Lane’s 60 magnolia trees and the clubhouse lead members to the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The number of blind shots surprised me, where you really can’t see the putting surface, even on chips around the green, like if you miss the green, sometimes you’d be totally blind. Playing it for the first time and not really knowing what was on the other side, even with a great caddie, as a player you still like to kind of have a sense of what’s on the other side. So how important that kind of course knowledge would be when you’re playing blind shots and how much creativity it demands. You never hit a stock shot.
But I also think if you hit it in the right place it’s scoreable, which makes it kind of unique, right?
What was your favorite hole in real life?
Justin Thomas putts for a birdie on No. 16 during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 10, 2022.
I’ll say 16. I hit it to like a foot (with 5 hybrid).
Did you feel extra pressure just teeing off that you wanted to play well?
Of course, I think we were all a little nervous on the first tee. It wasn’t like there was anybody there, but it was like, ‘Oh, here we are.’ I don’t play a ton of golf anymore. I didn’t embarrass myself. I played reasonably well; I was OK with that.
Do you have memorable shot around Amen Corner that or shot you'd like to have back?
Scottie Scheffler tees off on No. 12 during the final round of the 2022 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo: Andrew Davis Tucker-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports)
I played Amen Corner pretty poorly; it was tough. Standing on that 12th hole, and being in between clubs and I think just having watched it for so many years it almost was a hindrance. It made me think about some of the younger players who maybe don’t know how mentally intimidating that hole is, maybe it would be better.
Will you get nervous at all in the booth at Augusta National?
I think the same events that a player would get nervous, you would get more nervous as a broadcaster. Whether that’s a U.S. Open, a major so to speak, or an event at Augusta National. It’s the same adrenaline and the same desire to bring your beset and be on top of your game in those moments.
What’s it like going to an event when you’re expected to win?
It’s a lot harder than I think people even realize. It’s just you have to really be able to block everything out, and there are so many people who are not successful at that. … I think that’s why even in all levels of professional golf you see people with big leads, they don’t last very long.
That’s when everyone expects you to win when you have a big lead, and that’s an uncomfortable position for a lot of people to be in.
Who’s your pick this week? (Pressel answered this before the tournament started.)
Rose Zhang of the United States plays her shot from the 12th tee during the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 03, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It’s so hard to pick just one. I don’t want to say that Rose isn’t my favorite. It’s hard to not pick Rose, just with everything that she’s accomplished. But with that comes a tremendous amount of pressure. But she has played wonderfully under a microscope for a long time now.
I know Duke was something that was on your mind as a kid. Looking back, do you ever wish you had gone to college?
No. I mean, I would’ve loved the college experience, but I don’t regret my decision at all.
What about the college experience do you wish maybe you could’ve had?
I think I see young players with their teammates and traveling as a team and kind of that experience. Maybe a little bit of even just the ability to grow up a little bit, so to speak. Be on my own I guess, figure some things out on my own maybe a little bit earlier. … It’s a tough decision to make, and I know there are quite a few players in this field that it’s in their mind. They’re sitting thinking about it.
What should they weigh most heavily in that decision?
Golfer Michelle Wie smiles as she graduates from Stanford University during ceremonies in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, June 17, 2012.
It’s so hard because there are so many things that are differently important to different people. Some people say education is No. 1, and it’s really important to (them) and it’s really important to (their) family. To them I would say, look at a player like Michelle Wie, who was able to do both amazingly. … I think performance is a big one. You don’t want to make the jump without having the performance to back it up.
How do you know you have the game?
Morgan Pressel watches her tee shot on the 3rd hole at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club during the first round of the 2001 US Women’s Open in Southern Pines, North Carolina. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran/Allsport
I think these players can tell, whether they’ve had the opportunity to play in LPGA events. For me, I had gotten quite a few exemptions my last year as a junior, and I don’t think I finished outside the top 25 in any of those exemptions. That was kind of like OK, I can do this.
I think that’s a decent benchmark, how you’ve competed truly against the best in the world. How are you competing against your peers here? Are you beating them all all the time? Or do you feel like you still have some learning to do to improve your game?