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Munoz clinches first LPGA victory
May 20, 2012

Azahara Munoz, 2012 Sybase Match Play Champion

Rolex Rankings No. 27 Azahara Munoz held off Candie Kung to win 2&1 in the final match of the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship and become a Rolex First-Time Winner on the LPGA Tour. Munoz clinched her first LPGA victory after she halved the 17th hole with Kung. Despite playing with a heavy heart this week after the passing of her grandmother last Sunday, Munoz managed to win six matches to capture the title and the $375,000 first-place prize.

Munoz was the first strike in today's final match when she pared the first hole to take a 1 up lead over Kung. Kung then responded on the second with a birdie to return the match to all square until a birdie on No. 7 moved her to 1 up over Munoz. The Spaniard then pared the ninth hole to make the turn all square. It wasn't until the back nine that Munoz took the driver's seat. After winning Nos. 9, 11 and 12, Munoz looked like she was in the driver's seat to earn her first LPGA Tour victory. Kung was determined not to go out without a fight as she pared No. 14 to go 2 down with four to play. Munoz then got a routine par on No. 17 to win the match and become this year's Sybase Match Play Championship.

Munoz never had to play the tricky par-5 18th at Hamilton Farm Golf Club and her largest victory of the week came in the this morning's semifinal match when she defeated Morgan Pressel 5&4.

The road to Munoz's match-play title:
Azahara Munoz (19) defeated Lindsey Wright (46), Karrie Webb (6), Jodi Ewart (62), Stacy Lewis (6), Morgan Pressel (15)

Munoz's victory at the Sybase Match Play Championship makes her the second Rolex First-Time Winner this season following Jessica Korda's win at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.

"It feels amazing," said Munoz of her victory. "You know, I've been close a few times, but I just never knew if I was good enough to win. Finally having got it, it feels really good."

Munoz has come close to winning on the LPGA Tour in the past recording two tied for second finishes at this year's LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf and the 2011 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. In 2010, Munoz won Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year becoming the first Spaniard to win the award.

The road to Munoz's match-play title:
Azahara Munoz (19) defeated Lindsey Wright (46), Karrie Webb (6), Jodi Ewart (62), Stacy Lewis (6), Morgan Pressel (15)

No. 15 seed Morgan Pressel won the consolation match at the Sybase Match Play Championship over No. 37 seed Vicky Hurst, 2 and 1. Pressel finished the semifinal match with a bit of frustration after violating the pace of place policy on the 12th hole against Azahara Munoz. But she stayed focused and gained control early on in the consolation match, and went 2 UP before the turn. Hurst and Pressel went back-and-forth until Pressel secured the win with two birdies on 16 and 17. In seven years on the LPGA Tour Pressel has recorded 43 top-10s, including eight runner-ups. She became a Rolex First-Time Winner and the youngest player in LPGA history to win a major championship at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She went on to win her second tournament at the 2008 Kapalua LPGA Classic.

Still feels good. Even though No. 49 seed Candie Kung lost in the finals to Azahara Munoz, she still feels pretty accomplished. Kung was one of many to come out as champ in the upsets this week, defeating the Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng in the third round.

"It feels great," Kung said. "I got a lot of text messages from my friends saying congratulations that I beat Yani. She's a good friend of mine, but it's golf and I'm going to win one day, she's going to win one day. But I'm very happy that I got to where I am this week, got to Sunday."

Uncertain of the outcome of the match, Kung felt it was safe to pack her bags and even check out of her hotel the Saturday morning. But after defeating Tseng and Julieta Granada, she left the course in search of a hotel room for the night. With the match put aside, Tseng offered her hotel room to Kung. When asked who was paying for the room, Kung replied "Oh, I don't know. We're going to have to talk about that."

Natalie Gulbis to Appear on The Weather Channel. Rolex Rankings No. 79 Natalie Gulbis will guest star on two Weather Channel shows Monday morning in New York City. She will discuss the LPGA Tour, the tournament schedule for the rest of the season, how she's playing this year and how weather affects golf more so than any other sport. Natalie will be interviewed by Al Roker and Stephanie Abrams for "Wake Up with Al" followed by Stephanie Abrams and Mike Bettes on "Your Weather Today." She is scheduled to appear on "Wake up with Al" at 6:40 a.m. and on "Your Weather Today" at 8:40 a.m. Eastern Time.

With her victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand 2012, Yani Tseng earned an all-inclusive stay for two at a Canyon Ranch resort. In a combined effort to promote health and overall well-being among Tour players, Canyon Ranch will provide every winner of an LPGA event with one all-inclusive stay at one of Canyon Ranch's two destination resorts.

Azahara Munoz, Rolex Rankings No. 27

MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship champion Azahara Munoz into the interview room. Aza, congratulations. Can you take me through this afternoon's final round?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Thank you. Well, it's been -- you know, none of us play our best, but we didn't make many mistakes. I feel at the end hole, 16 was kind of weird. She got really unlucky on the ball bounce way left, so I got a good break there. But other than that, I started pretty slow and then made really good birdies on 11, on 13, so that kind of got me going.

MODERATOR: You're now finally a Rolex first time winner on the LPGA Tour. Can you just tell me how it feels?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: It feels amazing. You know, I've been close a few times, but I just never knew if I was good enough to win. Finally having got it, it feels really good.

MODERATOR: You have, I believe, a week off in between now and ShopRite. Do you have any plans to celebrate?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I didn't have any plans. Maybe I come up with something. Not really. I probably just take it easy. You know, I'm really tired, so probably take a few days off and just relax and do something fun and then get back to work.

Q. So after you won on 17, Morgan came out and gave you a hug. Given everything that happened this morning, how nice was that to sort of end it that way?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: It means a lot. You know, we are really good friends, and I guess what happens on the course stays on the course. But before I went, I was really worried after we finished because she's a really good friend of mine and I didn't want that to change. So I want to talk to her before going out this afternoon just to feel better about myself and I didn't see her, so I sent her a text saying how I felt, what I thought, and we could talk after the round, because I didn't know if I was going to see her. So she came to me on the range and told me, Just win it for me. So that meant a lot that she came to talk to me before my round, and obviously having her on 17, it was really special.

Q. Aza, could you recount what happened on 15 this morning? I know it seems like a long time ago probably, but it was a very, you know, unusual situation. If you could just recount it from your perspective.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Yeah, my routine is always like I always try to read the last six, seven feet to the hole, so I always put the club but I don't ground it. I just look at the hole, I don't even make a swing. But she thought that I grounded it, so that was the discussion. We just -- she said that I did, I said I didn't, so they went on TV and looked at it.

Q. You seem to hover your putter very close to the ground every time you do that. Have you ever been concerned about inadvertently touching the ground in that situation?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: No, I always go like that (indicating.) We hit the ball shot by that much -- we miss it, I mean, and it's 20 yards away, you know, so I kind of know -- that's the thing. I feel bad because I'm like I want to say I didn't, but I can't say a hundred percent I didn't because I was looking at the hole. Maybe I grounded, but I don't think so. So I had to, you know, do that for myself because that's what I thought, you know.

Q. Did you have any strange feelings or was it difficult going into the second match after all that had occurred in the first match?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: No, because she came to talk to me before and everything -- everything was fine after that. Just knowing that she was fine with me, that's all that mattered.

Q. When Candie put the ball over -- on 16 in the afternoon when she put the ball way off to the left and then you kind of put it over there, too, did you think you kind of blew a chance to maybe put a stranglehold on this?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I did. I was just trying to hit the green, and I tried to hit it so soft and just go to the right side of the pin that I completely pulled it. So yeah, I felt really bad after that.

Q. When Morgan was in here with us, she was very emotional. Obviously, you know, after losing, it didn't help. What she said late in her press conference was that when the officials put you guys on the clock, she felt that she had tried to speed up and you did not and she was penalized for your slow play. How do you feel about that?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Yeah, actually, that's one of the things I told her. I felt bad because I know I'm on the borderline to being a slow player, but, you know, this morning, she was slow, too. She backed off -- because she was always first, she backed off a lot of shots. You know, the wind was gusting.

So I know I was slow and I really apologized for that and I told her, but I do feel both of us were slow and she was the only one getting penalized, and that was not fair and I know that. I would never make her lose a hole.

So when they came to talk to us, I was really surprised, especially after she just went 3-up and all of a sudden she was only 1-up. So that was a big difference and I know that, so I do feel bad for that.

Q. One other follow-up question. A lot of people are going to call this victory controversial or tainted or whatever word they want to use. You've waited so long to win, does it take anything away that those words are being used?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I don't care what -- you guys (the media) are the ones that are going to say that, not people. You guys can say whatever you want to. You know, I didn't do anything wrong. She lost the hole because she was slow, I wasn't. I was slow before, but not when the clock was on and that's when you can't be slow.

And the grounding the club, she said that -- I really didn't think I was and the TV said I didn't, so it's nothing I can do about that. I do feel bad about the slow play because it's true that I'm a slow player, but, you know, when the clock is on, the clock is on.

Q. Aza, despite being stunned, I'm sure, when you heard that she had gotten the loss-of-hole penalty, did you then think, wow, now this has really changed things, I'm really back in this? Did you get in that mindset after that initial surprise?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Of course. First of all, I felt so bad. I was talking the whole way to the fairway. I'm like, I can't believe this happened because I didn't -- I didn't think that she played slow, to be honest. So, you know, I'm not counting how many seconds she takes on every shot, but I didn't think we played slow, so I was just really surprised. I actually just told her, Can you go ahead, because I was going to go to the bathroom, and they came and said, Hey, we need to talk to you guys, so I was just in shock. Then she was really upset about it, so I was even more upset about it. But obviously that changed the whole thing. I'm not going to lose just because I don't think it's fair, either, so I have to play for myself, too.

Q. How nice is it to finally get this win? Is it a little pressure off your back a little bit?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Yeah, it does. You know, I've been close a few times and I wasn't really able to close it out. As I said before, I just never knew if I was going to be able to get the first win. It feels amazing. I've been working really hard and I finally got it, so hopefully I can get many more, makes it easier.

Q. Considering everything you went through today and how much you had to overcome this week, does it give you more confidence in your mental strength going forward?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Yeah, I guess so. You know, I just tried to keep my emotions level all week, just tried to be in the present. Obviously today's been really tough, especially in the morning and after 13 and then what happened on 15, but I just tried to stay cool and just keep staying level.

Q. Have you explained, you know, what happened on 16? Do you attribute that to tiredness? You know, both of you duck-hooked it and missed the green, you know? I don't know.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: How do I explain that? What?

Q. You know, the bad shot on 16, the two of you just duck-hooked --
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Maybe we were a little tired. The wind was blowing that way, too. We didn't really feel it. To be honest, I think I was just trying to go right of it, and then when I was on my backswing I said don't hit it to the bunker, so then I kind of went the other way. But apparently not very focused, I guess.

Candie Kung, Rolex Rankings No. 102

MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Candie Kung into the interview room. Candie, thanks for coming in.
CANDIE KUNG: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Long day. Can you walk me through your final round and how you're feeling?
CANDIE KUNG: It is a pretty long day. It's kind of blurry right now for me for the whole round, but I'm glad that I pushed everything to the 17th hole. I told myself if I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose it on 18 or even further, and I did that. Unfortunately, I hit a couple of bad shots out there, wasn't able to recover, and that kind of got me to where I am.

MODERATOR: You've got to feel pretty accomplished, though, beating the No. 1 seed and advancing into the final rounds of Sybase. So tell me what that means to you.
CANDIE KUNG: It feels great. I got a lot of text messages from my friends saying that I beat Yani. She's a good friend of mine, but it's golf and I'm going to win one day, she's going to win one day. But I'm very happy that I got to where I am this week, got to Sunday.

Q. Candie, we didn't see it on TV yet. The 16th hole, can you explain what happened there?
CANDIE KUNG: I hit that shot solid, it was solid, and the wind kind of started to push that ball back to the hole, but somehow it -- I saw it land. I thought it was left edge of the green, and then all of a sudden you see this thing just bounce straight up, and I'm like, what is it over there? I didn't know what it was. I didn't know there's a sprinkler head there, but it ended up -- it was one of those sprinklers on the downslope. So if it would have kicked, it should have went straight, not left. It was just kind of odd. It was probably just not my round.

Q. What kind of lie did you have after the kick?
CANDIE KUNG: After my second shot? It was just one of those close your eyes and chop it out. I had no idea where that one's going to go. I was playing to hit it out to the right a little bit, just chop it.

Q. (Inaudible.)
CANDIE KUNG: Yeah, they told me afterwards. Yeah, I want to see the replay on that thing, too.

Q. When Aza hit, she was almost close to you on her tee shot on 16. Did you think that maybe you might have an opening even though you had the bad bounce?
CANDIE KUNG: Yeah, I did, I did. That's a tough shot from the left side where the pin -- where the pin is today. I actually thought I had a chance, you know. Anything can happen. I could possibly chip in from there, she could miss her putt, here we go, 1-up, two to go, never know. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

Q. Candie, despite losing the championship match, what do you take from this? Another step toward winning again? Take positives from it?
CANDIE KUNG: I've been playing pretty -- this was set up for the fourth week in a row that I've been playing pretty consistent and I'm feeling pretty good right now. I feel like my game is back to where it's supposed to be. I haven't been playing this consistent like four, five weeks in a row in a while, and I'm happy to see where I'm at right now. And I'm going to continue to work on what I've been working on earlier in the year and hopefully I'll be able to finish consistently through all year.

Q. Were you able to find a hotel last yet?
CANDIE KUNG: Actually, Yani gave me her room. I beat her and she has to give me a room.

Q. Who paid for it?
CANDIE KUNG: Oh, I don't know. We're going to have to talk about that.

Morgan Pressel, Rolex Rankings No. 20

MODERATOR: All right. I'd like to welcome Morgan Pressel to the interview room. Morgan, thanks for coming in. Let's start off talking about this afternoon's match. You told me on the way in that you played really well, that you and Vicky had no bogeys today. Can you just take me through this afternoon?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Yeah, we both played really well this afternoon. It was a good match. She hit a couple really close, I made a couple good putts, and we kind of went back and forth. I got up early and then she made a couple good birdies to get it back to all square. I went up again, back to all square. So it was a very close match, and managed to birdie the last two holes to close it out.

MODERATOR: You've been playing really well the past few weeks. Do you feel confident about your game?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Definitely. I feel really good about my golf game, the best I've definitely felt in a long time, and I'm very excited for the summer.

Q. Simplest one to start out with is, talking about this afternoon, how difficult was it to get out there after this morning?
MORGAN PRESSEL: It was -- it was extremely difficult. It's certainly, the last place I wanted to be was on the golf course, but I still managed to go out there and not make any big mistakes and hang in there for a victory this afternoon.

Q. Can you just take us through what happened when you were notified on the 13th tee?
MORGAN PRESSEL: They notified me that I effectively lost the previous hole, and it was tough timing because it was a really big, I think, turning point in the match, going from 2-up to 3-up, and then all of a sudden back to 1-up. You know, it was -- I mean, it was really unfortunate.

Q. Morgan, on the 12th hole, it was quite gusty, the wind was blowing. If I believe, you changed from one hybrid to another. Can you talk about the tee shot there, and did you feel like you were taking a long time to play that shot?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Well, certainly changing clubs added to my -- to the time that it took me to hit the shot, but it was a little bit windy. I had a 5-hybrid, and I felt like the wind was gusting a little bit more, so I pulled out the 4. The funny thing is, if I wouldn't have had the honor, that probably wouldn't have happened. And, you know, it was strange because we had been warned for about four holes, and then all of a sudden at that point they chose to put us on the clock. It was just a very bizarre situation on the golf course today.

Q. You're not a slow player, you know, per se. I mean, was her slowness in the sense that she might have been slower than you and you got penalized because she was slower than you?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Well, she was definitely slower than I was. You know, in seven years on Tour, I've never had even a plus time, and this is probably the worst time it could have come.

Q. Of course, Morgan, the 12th hole, the penalty was followed by the unusual thing on the 15th green. Could you talk about what you saw there, and were you disappointed that there was no penalty?
MORGAN PRESSEL: You know, I'm not going to say that I was disappointed that there was no penalty. But, I mean, it is the Rules of Golf at that point, the same thing that I was penalized for three holes before. She -- on I think it was the 6th hole, I kind of saw her -- she goes halfway to the hole and lines up her putt, and she put her putter down. And I looked up at my caddie and I said, I think she just put her putter on the ground, which you can't do. You can't touch the line of the putt no matter what you're trying to do with it.

And then I just happened to look up and saw her do it again on 15, and I mean, I guess if she doesn't feel like she did it, then that's the Rules of Golf at that point. The television wasn't able to capture the footage.

Q. Morgan, with the confidence you've been having, when that penalty hit you, you must have thought you were going to go on to win the semi final, and did you also feel that, wow, I've got it in me today to also go on and win the championship?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Well, I definitely -- I definitely felt that I still had a chance to win the match. I mean, I was still 1-up. There was obviously a lot of emotion and, you know, it was just a tough stretch. I had been playing very well and I was very much in control and played well again this afternoon.

Q. Are you all right? I think we all play golf because we love the game and we have a lot of fun out there. Is this possibly the worst thing that's ever happened to you?
MORGAN PRESSEL: I don't need to answer that one.

Q. Do you think, Morgan, even what happened to you today, that the LPGA's slow play policy is a good one, that it does keep the pace up week to week?
MORGAN PRESSEL: I -- no. I think that slow play is one of our biggest problems on Tour. You know, I think that what bothers me the most is that we were given sufficient warning and she really didn't do anything to speed up and then I was penalized for it.


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