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Pressel & Munoz Sort out Controversy
Sunday morning was difficult for all parties concerned - LPGA Tour officials, Morgan Pressel and Azahara Munoz - at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J., during the final day of the Sybase Match Play Championship after a slow-play controversy left players in tears and the Tour having to explain itself.
In their morning semifinal match, Munoz was trailing Pressel. The two players had been warned earlier about slow play after completing the ninth hole.
But when Pressel won the 12th hole to seemingly take charge of the match by going 3-up, she received a slow-play penalty, resulting in the loss of the hole. The 23-year-old Florida native was notified of the ruling on the 13th tee by LPGA official and match timer Doug Brecht, which changed the score from 3-up to 1-up.
Pressel was told she had violated the tour's pace of play rule by taking 2:09 - 39 seconds over the allowable 90 seconds - to play her three shots at the par-3 12th. Her appeal to referee Marty Robinson fell on deaf ears, and the penalty stood.
Suddenly everything changed for Pressel, who had played brilliantly in the tournament up to that point three-quarters through her fifth match. But the controversy wasn't over. After Munoz evened the match on the 15th with a birdie, Pressel contended the Spaniard had touched the line before sinking her birdie putt. Officials reviewed a videotape of the Munoz putt on 15, but said they couldn't spot a violation.
Robinson said Munoz told him she did not touch the line. "I want to say I didn't," Munoz said when asked about touching the green, "but I can't say 100 percent I didn't."
Clearly rattled, the emotional Pressel bogeyed the next two holes to lose 2 & 1, sending the Spaniard into the championship match against Candie Kung, who had beaten Vicky Hurst 2 & 1 in the other morning semifinal. In the afternoon Munoz beat the 49th-seeded Taiwan player, also by the score of 2 & 1.
In her consolation match against fellow American Vicky Hurst, Pressel somehow managed to eke out a 2 & 1 win. "It was extremely difficult," Pressel said of playing right after such a huge disappointment. "It's certainly the last place I wanted to be was on the golf course."
As for the controversial slow-play situation, a teary-eyed Pressel added, "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."
Later, Munoz was apologetic, adding she was surprised that her good friend Pressel was penalized. "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, " Munoz said. "I would never make her lose a hole."
Munoz was also thankful that Pressel minimized any personal hard feelings by giving her a pep talk before the championship match and a congratulatory hug after the win in the final. "It means a lot," Munoz said, referring to Pressel's gestures. "Just knowing that everything was fine was all that mattered. We are really good friends. I guess what happens on the course stays on the course."
Though it's impossible to determine how the final two matches would have turned out, the slow-play penalty proved costly for Pressel. The payouts for the final-four places were: Munoz $375,000, Kung $225,000, Pressel $150,000 and Hurst $112,500.