Morgan Pressel spent a good part of her Tuesday at PGA National, trying to get a feel for how the challenging Tom Fazio creation will play this week.
She won’t be competing at The Honda Classic, of course. Nevertheless, Pressel will be inside the ropes on Thursday and Friday – working as an on-course reporter for Golf Channel.
This week marks the 32-year-old’s second venture doing golf play-by-play, so to speak, and her first at a PGA TOUR event. She will be working with five-time TOUR winner Notah Begay III and two of the game’s most highly respected caddies turned broadcasters, Jim “Bones” Mackay and John Wood.
Pressel said Wood was incredibly helpful on Tuesday, giving her advice and introducing her to people she needed to know but otherwise might not have met. She did see a lot of familiar faces, though, including one of her former caddies, Jon Yarbrough, who now loops for Scott Stallings.
Another was Jim Furyk, the 17-time TOUR champ who is also a major champion, as is Pressel. The two share a commitment to philanthropy and have met several times – although with the mask mandate, she admits she made sure to go up and introduce herself.
“Quite a few people had asked how the commentating was going and why I was out there,” Pressel says. “It just seemed overall generally positive.”
Pressel, who plans to continue to compete on the LPGA Tour while joining the Golf Channel and NBC crew at events like the U.S. Women’s Open and Solheim Cup, knows she faces a bit of a learning curve this week. She considers herself a fan of the game, though, and says the TV in her Boca Raton home is almost always turned to golf broadcasts when she is not competing.
“I think the biggest challenge is that I'm just not out on the PGA TOUR week in and week out like I am on the LPGA,” Pressel explains. “I mean, I have a knowledge of the players from watching television. But having a deep personal knowledge of the players, it's definitely something that is different from working LPGA.”
The other great finish by an American this week belonged to booth rookie @mpressel who joins @Jrprotalker @Kstupples and @Paige_Mackenzie on our team of talented analysts. Today is her 14th annual Morgan & Friends event raising money to fight breast cancer. Closing in on $10m.💪 pic.twitter.com/0mvsriZltD— Grant Boone (@grantboone) March 8, 2021
Pressel says she watches golf on TV a bit differently now than she once did due to her second career path. Prior to joining Golf Channel and NBC, she was part of Fox Sports digital coverage of the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and served as an analyst for the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
“You understand what goes on behind the scenes in a production and all the moving parts behind just what you see or hear on television,” Pressel says. “And then also listening -- maybe critically is not the right word, but more intently to what the analysts are saying and why they're saying it. And just listening to it with a different ear to try and learn how people do it who've done it for years and do it really well, how they're so good and why they're so good.”
Pressel, a two-time LPGA champ who played on six Solheim Cup teams, says she’s paying more attention to the different styles the various announcers now. And the woman who qualified for the LPGA Tour at the age of 17 isn’t afraid to ask questions as she tries to find her own “voice.”
She knows she can rely on her colleagues at Golf Channel, who have been extremely helpful in preparing her for this new role. But Pressel also picks the brains of her friends who simply love to watch the game. What do they like to hear? What kinds of things do they want to know?
“At the end of the day, I certainly want to do a good job,” Pressel says. “I want to tell the story of the day, of the week, of certain players and whatever it might be. It's a unique position that to have that opportunity. So, I definitely want to do it justice. And I'm such a novice that I really am just trying to soak up as much as I possibly can.”
Judy Rankin, the World Golf Hall of Famer who has worked in television for more than three decades, told Pressel to be herself.
“Just react the way that you would naturally react,” Pressel remembers Rankin’s counsel. “You know how to play golf. You know what situations these players are in and what they're going through in the biggest moments. So just react. React naturally, basically. ...
“Another thing that Judy said is you have to find your voice. Find the way that you describe things and talk about things that's unique to you and that is being yourself, but also finding a way through experience.”Morgan Pressel at the 2020 U.S. Women's Open. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Pressel likens that quest to her own maturation as a golfer. She grew up practicing 10-foot putts, telling herself that each one was to win the U.S. Open.
“But until you have a 10-footer to win the U.S. Open, you don't really know what that actual experience is like and how you're going to react to it,” she says. “So, you know, live TV is, is quite similar. You can practice and you can learn, and you can try and rehearse and simulate and plan.
“But then kind of once that broadcast goes on and you're live on television, it's much more reactionary. And I think like real experience in that moment -- there's no substitute for that, in terms of improving and learning and getting better.”