Most of the best LPGA players have been eliminated entering the final rounds Sunday of the Sybase Match Player Championship at Hamilton Farms GC in Gladstone, N.J.
No player ranked higher than 20th has reached the semifinals. The biggest upset of the tournament came in the morning’s third round with Candie Kung, ranked 102th in the world, upset No. 1 player in the world, Yani Tseng, 3 & 2.
Kung was so convinced that she didn’t have a chance against Tseng that she checked out of her hotel room Saturday.
“I’m going to go find a hotel,” Kung said. “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 the morning semifinal round. Hurst, the 72nd ranked player, defeated So Yeon Ryu Saturday, 2-up.
The other semifinal match pits two good friends against each other, Morgan Pressel (pictured), the 20th ranked player, against Azahara Munoz, the 27th ranked.
“It is difficult,” Munoz said of their friendship. “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.”
Pressel, who, at age 18, was the youngest player in LPGA history to win a major championship at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship, has not won a tournament in five years.
“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.”
The semifinal winners meet in the afternoon for the title.
Here’s the highlights of the post-match interviews:
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?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 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?
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. It’s been a while, and there were expectations when you first won the Kraft obviously?
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?
PRESSEL: Thanks. We’re already past that then.
Q. What changed in the last two weeks to make you feel more comfortable?
PRESSEL: This year I put in a new putter, a new Odyssey MetalX 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, out-driving (Anna) 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?
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?
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?
PRESSEL: He still does, yes.
Q. He still does?
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.
PRESSEL: You’re determined to get this answer, aren’t you?
Q. No, I’m just asking the same question another way.
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?
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.
MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome Aza Munoz to the interview room. Aza, thanks for coming in.
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?
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?
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?
MUNNOZ: 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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
Q. All right. You live to see another day. Can you just take me through this afternoon’s match?
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 1up, 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?
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.
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?
HURST: Today I’m going to go back, shower, eat and sleep, then I’m good.