Munoz sidelined after hand surgery removes tumor

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PHOENIX – Azahara Munoz will miss at least a month after undergoing surgery Monday to have a tumor removed from her left hand.

Munoz, who posted a picture of the tumor on Instagram, told GolfChannel.com that she is confident the tumor is benign, but she is waiting for results of pathology tests.

“I’m not worried at all,” Munoz said.

Munoz will miss the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship, in two weeks. She tied for seventh at Kraft last year.

Munoz, 27, has won four times around the world, including the LPGA’s Sybase Match Play Championship in 2012. She’s No. 14 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and is expected to be a prominent figure in Europe’s plans to win the Solheim Cup for a third consecutive time with Germany hosting the event in September.

Munoz said she began experiencing sharp pain in her left hand, where the thumb meets the palm, while hitting balls on the range in December. She said that area in her palm turned purplish, like a bruise.

“I thought maybe I just hit too many balls,” Munoz said.

Munoz said she experienced more sharp pain hitting balls before teeing it up at the Honda LPGA Thailand a month ago and then it got worse in Thailand, where she felt excruciating pain after hitting a shot in the third round. The palm of her hand swelled significantly. She played through the pain, tying for 11th. She went on to tie for fourth the following week at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore and then was diagnosed with the tumor upon returning to her home in North Palm Beach, Fla.

“Everything went well,” Munoz said of the surgery. “I’m really hoping to be back for Hawaii.”

The Lotte Championship in Hawaii is scheduled April 15-18.

Munoz was off to a strong start to the 2015 season. In four starts, her worst finish was a tie for 13th at the season-opening Coates Golf Championship.