To a Tee: Munoz, Pressel endure difficult afternoon
By Mike Garvey, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Of all the things to expect at a match play event, what transpired Sunday at the Sybase Match Play Championship between Morgan Pressel and Azahara Munoz wouldn't be high on the list. Heck, it wouldn't be expected at any kind of golf event.
But there Pressel was at the 13th tee, receiving news that she was called for a slow-play infraction on the prior hole. She had won the 12th to go 3-up, but the news swung the match in Munoz's favor.
And there Munoz was at the 15th green, discussing a potential violation with a rules official after Pressel alleged she saw Munoz touch the line of her putt before striking the ball.
And there they both were, Pressel and Munoz, close friends, after the semifinal match had ended with Munoz a 2 & 1 winner, giving separate interviews to television cameras, holding back tears.
In the span of a few holes, quite a bit had changed.
Pressel was on pace to get into the final, on the cusp of contending for her first win since 2008, before the rules violation. Munoz moved on, and still had a chance to compete for her first LPGA victory, but the semifinal was unsettling.
"I was really worried after we finished because she's a really good friend of mine and I didn't want that to change," Munoz said. "So I wanted to talk to her before going out this afternoon just to feel better about myself and I didn't see her, so I sent her a text saying how I felt."
Munoz added that Pressel approached her on the range before her championship match against Candie Kung, and said, "Just win it for me."
Munoz did just that, beating Kung, 2 & 1. Following the victory, Pressel came out and gave Munoz a hug.
But Pressel's afternoon was a different story. While both were upset, Munoz still had the chance to play for a victory. Pressel had to wrestle with that as she was relegated to playing for third, and she didn't exactly enjoy it, even though she did beat Vicky Hurst.
"It was extremely difficult," Pressel said. "The last place I wanted to be was on the golf course, but I still managed to go out there and not make any big mistakes and hang in there for a victory this afternoon."
Stuck in Pressel's brain, even after the tournament had ended, was a certain amount of unfairness about the entire situation.
In her post-tournament interview, Pressel said "it was strange" how the tournament officials chose to put the players on the clock for the 12th hole after they had been warned about slow play for the previous four.
She also said Munoz "was definitely slower."
"I think that what bothers me the most is that we were given sufficient warning and she really didn't do anything to speed up and then I was penalized for it," Pressel said.
Munoz acknowledged she was "borderline to being a slow player," and said that what happened at the 12th was unfair, but added that Pressel was also playing slow.
What happened at the 12th seems to have played a part in how Pressel treated events three holes later.
"I'm not going to say that I was disappointed that there was no penalty," Pressel said. "But, I mean, it is the rules of golf at that point, the same thing that I was penalized for three holes before."
It's not certain if Pressel would have called out Munoz if she hadn't been given a slow-time penalty. But it seems pretty clear that Pressel doesn't take too kindly to being on the wrong end of unfair treatment.
And that's fine. Competitions can do strange things to friendships, particularly high-stakes ones and especially among competitive people. Golf can be a relaxed game, but match play is a pressure-cooker and you can't expect competitors to always act congenial.
So while Pressel made gestures to repair or maintain her friendship with Munoz, it's important to remember that people are complex. They can be many things, including friends and competitors, though not always at the same time. And when those sides overlap, when those plates start to shift across the fault lines, the results are upsetting.
05/20 21:00:57 ET