Spain’s Azahara Munoz defeated Taiwan’s Candie Kung 2-and-1 in Sunday’s final to capture the US$1.5 million LPGA Sybase Match Play Championship and claim her first LPGA title.
With the match squared through 10 holes, Munoz birdied to win the par-five 11th and went 2-up when Kung dropped the par-three 12th with a bogey.
The Spaniard surrendered the par-four 14th with a bogey, but won the par-three 16th with a bogey as Kung double-bogeyed and when both parred the 17th, Munoz claimed her first tour crown.
Kung, who eliminated World No. 1 fellow Taiwanese Yani Tseng in the third round, was denied her first LPGA victory since 2008.
In the earlier semi-finals, Kung defeated 37th-ranked US veteran Vicky Hurst 2-and-1, while 19th-rated Munoz ousted 15th-ranked Morgan Pressel of the US by the same margin to set up the final at Hamilton Farm Golf Club.
Munoz won the final three holes to eliminate Pressel, who has not won an LPGA event since 2008 and was undone by a slow-play penalty on the 12th hole.
Pressel won the par-five second and fifth holes with birdies, while Munoz won the par-three third with a birdie. Pressel won the par-four ninth with a birdie and appeared to have taken the 12th for a 3-up edge, but Pressel, who was warned about slow play as she started the back nine, took 39 seconds more than the maximum 90 seconds to make her putt at the 12th and as a result forfeited the hole, her lead plunging to 1-up.
Munoz birdied the 15th to square the match, but only after Pressel asked for a penalty on her for touching the line of Pressel’s putt. A video review by two officials led to a denial of the protest and Munoz then sank the 12-footer.
Pressel dropped the par-three 16th and par-four 17th with bogeys to send Munoz into the final.
Pressel beat Hurst 2-and-1 in the match for third place.
Kung birdied to win the par-four sixth and never surrendered the lead against Hurst.
Kung and Hurst exchanged pars to win holes at nine and 10, but Kung then won the par-five 11th when Hurst made bogey and took the par-three 12th with a birdie.
Hurst birdied the par-four 13th to win the hole, but Kung took the par-four 14th when Hurst bogeyed. Hurst answered with back-to-back birdies to win the par-four 15th and par-three 16th only to have Kung win the 17th with a birdie to advance.
Kung, seeded 49th in the 64-player tournament, the lowest seeded of the remaining four players entering the semi-finals, said she was happy to have reached the final and to have pushed Munoz to the 17th hole.
“It is a pretty long day ... I told myself if I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose it on 18 or even further, and I did that. Unfortunately, I hit a couple of bad shots out there, wasn’t able to recover and that kind of got me to where I am,” Kung said after finishing in the top 20 on the LPGA Tour for only the second time this year.
Although Kung missed her chance to win for the first time since 2008, she said it felt great to be able to advance as far as she did in a tournament that saw defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway and many top players eliminated early.
“I got a lot of text messages from my friends saying that I beat Yani. She is 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,” the 30-year-old said.