Sybase Match Play Championship Fourth-Round Notes and Interviews

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Vicky Hurst hits her tee shot on the second hole in the quarter final round of the Sybase Match Play Championship at Hamilton Farm Golf Club on May 19, 2012 in Gladstone, New Jersey.

Sybase Match Play Championship
Hamilton Farm Golf Club
Gladstone, NJ
Fourth-Round Notes and Interviews
May 19, 2012

Morgan Pressel, Rolex Rankings No. 20
Azahara Munoz, Rolex Rankings No. 27
Candie Kung, Rolex Rankings No. 102
Vicky Hurst, Rolex Rankings No. 72
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 7

The road to the semifinals:

Candie Kung (49) defeated Catriona Matthew (16), Haeji Kang (48), Yani Tseng (1) and Julieta Granada (56)

Vicky Hurst (37) defeated Meena Lee (28), Cristie Kerr (5), Angela Stanford (12) and So Yeon Ryu (13)

Morgan Pressel (15) defeated Mindy Kim (50), In Bee Park (18), Na Yeon Choi (2) and Anna Nordqvist (26)

Azahara Munoz (19) defeated Lindsey Wright (46), Karrie Webb (6), Jodi Ewart (62) and Stacy Lewis (6)

Attitude adjustment… After last year's Solheim Cup, Spaniard Azahara Munoz's confidence was at an all-time high. Munoz boasted an impressive 2-1-1 record then went on to record four top-20 finishes including a tied for second at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship and third at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

Munoz came into this year's season with high expectations. It wasn't until a tie for 31st at the season-opening ISPS Handa Australian Open and tie for 25th at the Honda LPGA Thailand that Munoz knew things had to change.

"I practiced really hard over the winter," said Munoz. "I was working really hard, but Australia and Singapore and Thailand I didn't play my best, so I was getting a little impatient.  But in Phoenix I actually played really bad and my attitude was really bad.  So when I go to San Diego, I completely switched and said that I was just going to enjoy it because I was miserable out there on the golf course.  So ever since then, I've just ‑‑ everything clicked all of a sudden, and if I miss a shot, I just don't get upset, just go out there and hit it again."

Munoz defeated two-time LPGA Tour winner Stacy Lewis in Saturday afternoon's quarterfinals 5&4 and will face Morgan Pressel in tomorrow's semifinal match. A win tomorrow will make Munoz the second Rolex First-Time Winner this season following Jessica Korda's win at the ISPS Handa Australian Open.

Making some changes… It's been nearly five years since Morgan Pressel has hoisted an LPGA trophy in the air. Although she has stayed in the top-50 and posted a season best tie for 20th at the Kia Classic, Pressel knew it was time for a change in order to be a top competitor through the rest of the season. 

"I made a coaching change and I'm now working full time with Ron Stockton on everything," Pressel said. "He's really simplified my golf swing for me and we've been working a lot on tempo and it's really gotten me into a much better place."

Stockton has worked with Pressel on every aspect of her game and with a new putter in her bag she's managed to make some clutch putts. He has also worked with her distance off the tee, which was obvious after outdriving Nordqvist on nearly every hole in the quarterfinals.

"I definitely picked up a little bit of distance, which has been a blessing and a curse," Pressel said. "Not only are my drives going further, but my shots going into the green are going a little bit further and it's been a little bit difficult at times to judge my distance control and to trust it.  I think I'm getting a little bit better with that now that it's been a couple months of hitting the ball a little bit further."

At 18-years-old, Pressel became the youngest player in LGPA history to win a major championship at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship and secured her second win a year later at the Kapalua LPGA Classic. It's been a long time coming, but with these changes Pressel feels confident going head-to-head with Azahara Munoz tomorrow morning.

"No matter what happens, I think that this is the best I've played in a long time," Pressel said. "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, but I just have a lot of confidence going into really the heart of the season."

Close friends… Azahara Munoz and Morgan Pressel will have to put their friendship aside during tomorrow's semifinal match. Munoz and Pressel have been close friends since Munoz's rookie year in 2010.

Pressel was on-hand to see Munoz deliver a tear jerking speach during her acceptance of the 2010 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. If Munoz had her way, the two wouldn't play one another until tomorrow afternoon's final match.

"It is difficult, said Munoz. "Obviously we're really good friends, but she's very competitive.  I'm not as competitive as she is, but we're just going to be polite to each other, I'm sure.  We both want to win really bad, so I think it's going to be fun.  I wish I wasn't playing her, to be honest, but things are how they are and we're just going to do our best."

Bags packed…Faced with No. 1 seed Yani Tseng in the morning's third round match Candie Kung felt it was safe to pack her bags and even check out of her hotel. It wasn't until Kung defeated Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng in an impressive 3&2 victory then won over Julieta Granada 2&1 that she realized she would need to stay around a little longer.

"I'm going to go find a hotel, said Kung. "I don't have a hotel, I checked out this morning.  So I'm going to go find a hotel, get some rest, and then come out here again."

Kung will face Vicky Hurst in tomorrow's semifinal round as she looks to record her first LPGA Tour victory since the 2008 Hana Bank KOLON Championship.

Mentally tough... The 36-hole day could have caused a few players to grow weary toward the end of the quarterfinal matches. The hot weather conditions and the lengthy day definitely made the quarterfinal match into a battle to see who was more mentally tough. For Vicky Hurst, she needed to stay strong through the back nine in order to seal her match against Julieta Granada.

"We both played pretty solid, I think, the whole day," Hurst said. "She kind of let go a little bit on the very end, but yeah, it was pretty close.  She was 1‑up, all square, 1‑up, all square.  I mean, we both stayed pretty mentally tough.  I don't know.  In the end, I just pulled it out of nowhere."

Hurst advances into the semifinals going up against four-time LPGA winner Candie Kung, but the thought that she could be playing for the Rolex First-Time Winner recognition hasn't crossed her mind yet.

I just try to take it one day at a time," Hurst said. "She's great player, so I can't look any farther forward than tomorrow's match."

Perfect course conditions. Despite the inclement weather conditions at the beginning of the week and playing on a soggy course for Wednesday's pro-am, the sunny weather for the past two days has cleared up the course and it's greener than ever, which is a first for the Sybase Match Play Championship. Semifinalist Morgan Pressel thinks the course is in perfect condition.

 "The course looks spectacular," Pressel said. "The grounds crew here has done a really tremendous job.  On Tuesday I was out hitting golf balls out of casual water on the golf course, and they really, I mean, the greens are superb.  The fairways are finally running a little bit, so the course is playing a little bit shorter and it looks great.  It looks like we'll have one more great day of weather.  I think that might be the first time of the history of this tournament that we've had five spectacular days like we've had, so it's a nice change."

Golden ticket winners: Vicky Hurst, Candie Kung and Morgan Pressel punched their "Ticket to CME Group Titleholders" at the Sybase Match Play Championship, each earning a spot in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders event, which will be held Nov. 15-18, 2012 at The TwinEagles in Naples, Fla. The second annual CME Group Titleholders is a season finale with a field made up of three qualifiers from every LPGA Tour tournament.

Morgan Pressel, Rolex Rankings No. 20

MODERATOR:  All right.  I'd like to welcome Morgan Pressel into the interview room.  Long day today, playing 36 holes.  Can you take me through your round and how you're feeling about it?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Yeah, it was definitely a long day.  Towards the back nine of the second match, I definitely got a little bit tired and, you know, four holes off this afternoon after going one extra this morning is probably a nice break heading into tomorrow because tomorrow will be another long day.  I played very well today.  I played ‑‑ I struggled the front nine this morning and played really well on the back nine to come back and win that match.  And then this afternoon I got up early without really having my best stuff and made some birdies coming in at the end of the match to close it out.  So I'm pleased with my performance, and a few more birdies tomorrow and it should be a fun time.

MODERATOR:  You only lost one hole this round, and went 5 & 4.  That's got to feel pretty good.
MORGAN PRESSEL:  It does.  It was the first time that I don't think I was down in a match as I lost the first hole the first three matches, so that was a nice change.  And, you know, I got up early and Anna didn't play her best and I took advantage of it.  That's kind of what match play's all about, and capitalizing on your opponent's mistakes, and I was able to do that today and I didn't really make any mistakes that she could really capitalize on.

MODERATOR:  It rained earlier this week, and now we couldn't have asked for better weather.  Can you tell me about the conditions on the course and how well the course is playing?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Yeah, the course looks spectacular.  The grounds crew here has done a really tremendous job.  On Tuesday I was out hitting golf balls out of casual water on the golf course, and they really, I mean, the greens are superb.  The fairways are finally running a little bit, so the course is playing a little bit shorter and it looks great.  It looks like we'll have one more great day of weather.  I think that might be the first time of the history of this tournament that we've had five spectacular days like we've had, so it's a nice change.

Q.  (inaudible) it's time for me to win again, it's been a while, and there were expectations when you first won the Kraft obviously?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Yeah, I think that I definitely want to win again and I'll have a chance tomorrow.  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, but I just have a lot of confidence going into the, really the heart of the season.

Q.  I was going to follow up on that.  I think your highest finish this year ‑‑ I don't want to say 20th but it seems like that's where it was?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Thanks.  We're already past that then.

Q.  What changed in the last two weeks to make you feel more comfortable?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  You know, I made a coaching change and I'm now working full time with Ron Stockton on everything, and he's really simplified my golf swing for me and we've been working a lot on tempo and it's really gotten me into a much better place.

This year I put in a new putter, a new Odyssey Metal‑X insert that I really feel is just so consistent, and I've been putting, I think, pretty well all year.  My ball striking just hasn't really been there and now finally my ball striking is coming around and I'm making some clutch putts.

Q.  Morgan, you seem to be driving the ball a good distance, outdriving Nordqvist by a good bit on many few holes.  Have you picked up some distance working with Ron?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Definitely, I definitely picked up a little bit of distance, which has been a blessing and a curse.  Not only are my drives going further, but my shots going into the green are going a little bit further and it's been a little bit difficult at times to judge my distance control and to trust it.  I think I'm getting a little bit better with that now that it's been a couple months of hitting the ball a little bit further.

And I also have a trainer that's out on Tour with me full time this year and that's new, and it's been really helpful so it's been keeping me on track with my workouts and I think I've gotten quite a bit stronger as well.

Q.  When you've got a long day and another long day, when you see the potential match that you can end right away early, do you start putting the pedal to the metal and let's just get this done with?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  I don't think that my attitude is thinking about the long day, but is really just not wanting to give my opponent any chances.  So in order to not give your opponent any chances, the best thing that you can do is keep making birdies.

Q.  You stuffed one in there on 16 when you were 2‑down in the morning match.  Just talk about that hole and your attitude going in there.  You thought you really needed to win that one?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Of course I needed to win that hole.  It wasn't do or die at that point, but I had an opportunity to lose the match on that hole if I lost the hole, and so I knew I had to hit a good shot and I did, especially after Na Yeon hit probably one of her only poor shots of the day into the bunker.  But she hit a great bunker shot and I knew I really needed to make that putt. 

I think the bigger hole was the next hole where it looked like I was going to lose the match with as close as she hit it and I was 15 feet and that was a huge putt, and then she gave me a little gift and I took it to the 18th tee.

Q.  I'm not actually sure of my facts, but would it be a little bizarre to win this tournament when wasn't Andy the guy who used to run this event?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  He still does, yes.

Q.  He still does?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Yes.  I don't know about this.  I have a nice cheering squad here, Adam right behind you.

Q.  Did you feel like the cliche prodigy after you won Kraft, and if you did, is that a hard label to carry with you going forward, you know, the young American prodigy that everybody ‑‑ 
MORGAN PRESSEL:  You're determined to get this answer, aren't you?

Q.  No, I'm just asking the same question another way.
MORGAN PRESSEL:  It's not even about that, it's about myself and wanting to play well.  Certainly people put expectations on me.  The media, the fans, my sponsors, everybody wants me to play well, too.  Having won Kraft so young, I'm never going to say it was a bad thing.  I mean, I'm a major champion, the youngest in LPGA history.  I probably more than anybody else put extra pressure on myself to really be a world beater, and I don't think that I was quite ready for that and I don't think I was quite mature enough for that.  So I've come a long way and it's been, what, five years since the Kraft, six years?  Hold on.  Five years and a lot has changed in five years, and yet here I am still playing golf.

Q.  Looking at the scoreboard, what can you tell us about Aza?
MORGAN PRESSEL:  Aza's A very good friend and a great player.  I think if you look at her recent results, she's playing pretty darn good.  And I'm just like ‑‑ just about every other match I've had this week, I know that tomorrow ‑‑ I think, is she winning?  Okay.  I mean, it's going to be a tough match.  I played the No. 2 player in the world this morning, Inbee yesterday and Anna this afternoon.  And all three, I mean, were very tough matches.  This afternoon, a little bit easier than the first two, but ‑‑ or the other two, but you know, I'm just going to have to come out and really play well. 

This afternoon I had a little bit of a break and didn't need to make quite as many birdies, but tomorrow I'm going to need to make the birdies again because I'm sure Aza's going to come out and come out strong, playing well.

Azahara Munoz, Rolex Rankings No.

MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome Aza Munoz to the interview room.  Aza, thanks for coming in.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Another solid victory this afternoon.  You only lost one hole in this afternoon's match.  Can you just walk me through it a little bit, tell me how it went?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, you know, I kept hitting the ball really well.  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 just didn't make enough putts at the beginning.  But I made a nice eagle putt on 2 that got me 1‑up, and then I don't know where it is, but, you know, I was just playing really well, really consistent.  I only made one eagle and one birdie, but I just didn't make any bogeys, so I didn't really gave Stacy any chance.

MODERATOR:  When we first got here in the beginning of the week it rained, of course, on Tuesday.  Now the weather's perfect.  How is the course playing out there?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  It is playing shorter, of course.  The greens are drying up a little bit.  And I really like it because at the beginning of the week, the fairways were really soft so it's kind of hard to hit it.  But I love to play in warm weather, so I'm not complaining.

MODERATOR:  You had to play 36 holes today and you'll have to play 36 holes tomorrow.  How do you prepare yourself for the rest of the day?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I'm staying with a really nice host family, so they're taking us out for dinner and probably have a nice glass of wine and just go to bed.

Q.  When Morgan was in here, one of the things we mentioned to her is she hasn't won since 2008.  In your case, you've never won on the Tour.  How much does that drive you to get that first win?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Obviously it means a lot.  That's why we all play for, just to win, but it's really tough to win.  There are 144 players every week out here and all of us are really good players.  Obviously whenever you get the chance, you want to take it.

Q.  Aza, in a TV interview you mentioned acquiring a coach about a year ago, the first coach you said you've had.  Could you talk a little bit about that, who is it and how that's worked out?  Obviously, apparently, it's been good?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  He's not my first coach, but my first real coach, yeah.  I used to know him because he's the Spanish coach for the national team, so I saw him whenever I play for Spain but that wasn't very much.  So a year ago I call him up.  We started working together the week of Mobile, so a couple weeks ago.  You know, ever since I've been working with him, I've been hitting the ball much better and a little farther, so it's been a real help.

Q.  I was looking at your results the last couple weeks, you were tied for 4th in Mobile and tied for 2nd at Lotte, however you pronounce it.  Has this been coming the way you're playing now?  Are you just getting better and better?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, I practiced really hard over the winter.  I was working really hard, but Australia and Singapore and Thailand I didn't play my best, so I was getting a little impatient.  But in Phoenix I actually played really bad and my attitude was really bad.  So when I go to San Diego, I completely switched and said that I was just going to enjoy it because I was miserable out there on the golf course.  So ever since then, I've just ‑‑ everything click all of a sudden, and if I miss a shot, I just don't get upset, just go out there and hit it again.

MODERATOR:  Back to tomorrow, I know you and Morgan are pretty goods friends.  I know she came to your reception when you got the Rookie of the Year.  Can you talk about, will that be difficult playing against her when you're good friends?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  It is difficult.  Obviously we're really good friends, but she's very competitive.  I'm not as competitive as she is, but we're just going to be polite to each other, I'm sure.  We both want to win really bad, so I think it's going to be fun.  I wish I wasn't playing her, to be honest, but things are how they are and we're just going to do our best.

Candie Kung, Rolex Rankings No. 102

Q.  So you've got to be coming off a pretty big high after winning against Yani and now winning again today.  How are you feeling?
CANDIE KUNG:  Tough matches, tough matches, especially in the afternoon because I feel a little lose on my swing in the afternoon, probably from the energy.  I was a little tired, my legs were a little tired, moving everywhere.  I knew that and I tried to just keep the ball in play, and that's what I did and I got myself to be on the green and putt.

Q.  Was anything working ‑‑ what was working well for you today?
CANDIE KUNG:  Today, I want to say putting.  I putted pretty good all day, both rounds.

Q.  That's good.  What are you thinking heading into tomorrow?  What are you going to be doing tonight to prepare for possibly 36 holes for tomorrow?
CANDIE KUNG:  I'm going to go find a hotel.  I don't have a hotel, I checked out this morning.  So I'm going to go find a hotel, get some rest, and then come out here again.

Vicky Hurst, Rolex Rankings No. 72

Q.  All right.  You live to see another day.  Can you just take me through this afternoon's match?
VICKY HURST:  Yeah, I mean, it was very ‑‑ it was very ‑‑ we both played pretty solid, I think, the whole day.  She kind of let go a little bit on the very end, but yeah, it was pretty close.  She was 1‑up, all square, 1‑up, all square.  I mean, we both stayed pretty mentally tough, I think.  I don't know.  In the end, I just pulled it out of nowhere.

Q.  This would be your first win out here.  Have you even thought about that yet?
VICKY HURST:  Umm, yeah, but I ‑‑ you know, I just try to take it one day at a time.  I'm playing tomorrow whoever wins the Julieta‑Candie match.

Q.  Candie won.
VICKY HURST:  Okay.  She's great player, so I can't look any farther forward than tomorrow's match.

Q.  36 today and then 36 tomorrow.  What do you do the rest of the day to prepare yourself?
VICKY HURST:  Today I'm going to go back, shower, eat and sleep, then I'm good.

Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 7

Q.  Tough loss.  How are you feeling after today?
STACY LEWIS:  I played horrible.  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.

 

Topics: Munoz, Azahara, Pressel, Morgan, Hurst, Vicky, Kung, Candie, Lewis, Stacy, Sybase Match Play Championship, Notes and Interviews [+]