In a week full of upsets, the play of Morgan Pressel and Azahara Munoz has been steady at the Sybase Match Play Championship. The two friends will face each other in the semi-finals Sunday morning. The winner of that match will face the winner of the Candie Kung and Vicky Hurst match for the $375,000 first prize.
Pressel, who has not won on the LPGA tour since 2008, has found her game this week at Hamilton Farm Golf Club and in a format which has suited her well over the years. Pressel rallied from two down to defeated No. 2-ranked player Na Yeon Choi in the third round and won 5-and-4 over Anna Nordqvist in the quarterfinals to take her place in the semis.
After playing 36 holes on Saturday, Pressel was happy with her results and looking forward to her chance to win on Sunday. “’I think that I definitely want to win again and I’ll have a chance tomorrow,” Pressel said.
”No matter what happens, I think that I – this is the best I’ve played in a long time, and from Japan two weeks ago to this week, I finally feel comfortable with my game again to a point where I haven’t been in a while. I’m going to give it everything that I have tomorrow.”
Munoz defeated Hall of Famer Karrie Webb on Friday and proceeded to defeat Jodi Ewart 2-and-1. Ewart, who had taken out defending champion and No. 3 seed Suzann Petterson, along with Solheim Cup veteran Sophie Gustafson earlier in the week, met her match in Munoz in the third round.
Munoz would beat No. 6 seed and most recent winner on the LPGA Tour, Stacy Lewis 5-and-4 in the quarterfinal round. Lewis was disappointed in her performance, even though this was her best performance in the tournament.
“I played horrible,” Lewis said. “It’s probably one of the worst rounds I played all year. Probably didn’t really matter who I was playing, I wasn’t going to win. It’s just frustrating to end the week. But it’s the furthest I’ve gotten in this tournament, so I’ve just got to look at that and get ready for next year.”
Munoz take on the match was similar to her performances earlier in the week. “I kept hitting the ball really well,” said Munoz. “I was driving the ball really well. I’m pretty long, so I was up there with Stacy pretty much every hole, and I hit really, really, really good shots. I was just playing well, really consistent. I only made one eagle and one birdie, but I just didn’t make any bogeys, so I didn’t really give Stacy any chance.”
Kung’s road to the semi-finals included a win over No.1 player Yani Tseng by a 3-and-2 margin in the third round. Tseng, who has said all week her putting was not her best, finally came up against an opponent who would make her pay. Kung would advance to the semis after defeating Julieta Granada 2-and-1 in the quarterfinals.
Speaking on those matches, Kung struggled but pulled through with solid play on the greens. “Tough matches, tough matches, especially in the afternoon because I feel a little lose on my swing in the afternoon, probably from the energy,” Kung said.
“I was a little tired, my legs were a little tired, moving everywhere. (However), I putted pretty good all day, both rounds.”
Hurst, who defeated two-time major champion and last year’s Sybase runner-up, Cristie Kerr in the second round, beat Angela Stanford 2-and-1 in the third round and defending U.S. Women’s Open Champion So Yeon Ryu, 2up to advance to the semis.
Hurst was complimentary of Ryu in her post-match comments. “’We both played pretty solid the whole day,” Hurst said. ”She kind of let it go at the end, but it was pretty close.”
Pressel and Munoz’s strong play have them in this position and the two friends are desperate for a win. While it will be tough for both players, the competitive spirit and a trophy will drive them. “We both want to win bad, so I think it’s going to be fun,” Munoz said.
”I wish I wasn’t playing her, to be honest.” Pressel would say about having to play Munoz, “Tomorrow I’m going to need to make the birdies again because I’m sure ‘Atha’s going to come out and come out strong,”
After four days of match play, three matches will decide who claims the title. Kung and Pressel have waited a long time between tournament wins with Hurst and Munoz chasing their first LPGA victories.