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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 todayâ€™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 wasnâ€™t until the back nine that Munoz took the driverâ€™s seat. After winning Nos. 9, 11 and 12, Munoz looked like she was in the driverâ€™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 yearâ€™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 morningâ€™s semifinal match when she defeated Morgan Pressel 5&4.
Munozâ€™s victory at the Sybase Match Play Championship makes her the second Rolex First-Time Winner this season following Jessica Kordaâ€™s win at the ISPS Handa Womenâ€™s Australian Open.
â€œIt feels amazing,â€ said Munoz of her victory. â€œYou 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.â€
Munoz has come close to winning on the LPGA Tour in the past recording two tied for second finishes at this yearâ€™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.
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.
â€œIt feels great,â€ Kung said. â€œI 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.â€
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 â€œOh, I don't know. We're going to have to talk about that.â€
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.
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