Morgan Pressel said she was surprised to receive a slow-play penalty Sunday in her Sybase Match Play Championship semifinal against Azahara Munoz.
'I didn't think that was actually what was going to happen on that tee box,' Pressel told Golf Channel, holding back tears. 'It was a blow. It was a big turning point in the match where I went 3 up. It's very disheartening.'
Pressel received the news of a loss-of-hole penalty on the 13th tee at Hamilton Farm Golf Club. She thought she had gone 3 up against Munoz by making a par to her opponent’s bogey on No. 12, a par 3. Instead, she found herself only 1 up in a match she eventually lost, 2 and 1.
'It's been a really weird match,' Munoz tearfully told Golf Channel after she advanced to the final against Candie Kung.
After Munoz and Pressel fell eight minutes behind pace on the 11th hole, LPGA rules officials placed the match on the clock at the 12th tee.
'I know I'm slow, too, but when they were timing us, she was the slow one,' Munoz said.
Once on the clock, a player has 30 seconds for each shot on the hole and an additional 10 seconds as a cushion. Pressel took a combined 129 seconds to play her three shots for par at No. 12, including 57 seconds for the tee shot. Since she exceeded the allotted time by 29 seconds, Pressel was penalized. In match play, the penalty is loss of hole. It would be a two-shot penalty in a stroke-play event.
The slow-play penalty wasn’t the only controversy of the match. On the 15th green, Pressel accused Munoz of grounding her club in the line of her birdie putt while rehearsing her stroke. After consultation with LPGA rules officials and a review of television footage, there was no proof to confirm the accusation and no penalty was assessed.
'I had actually seen her do it earlier in the day and I wasn't sure,' Pressel explained. 'I asked my caddie Rock if she touched the line of her putt, and he wasn't paying attention. So I wasn't really watching for it but she put her putter right in the line of her putt. That's a rules infraction as well.'
Munoz did not believe she had broken the rule.
'Maybe I did, but I really don't think (I did) because that's my routine and I never ground it,' she said.
After a long delay, Munoz made her birdie putt, winning the hole as part of a three-hole flurry to eventually win the match.
Despite the overtone of tension in the final six holes of the match, Munoz does not believe the friendship between the two players will need any time to repair.
'It's just kinda weird because we're really good friends,' she said. 'I wish things like this didn't happen.'
Pressel, who said Munoz sent her a text message afterward, agreed the friendship will not change. She said she would root for her friend in the final.
'I hope she wins because I don't like losing to losers,' she said. 'I hope she pulls through for her first victory.'
Last season, the LPGA issued five slow-play penalties. The last time the PGA Tour is believed to have issued a penalty stroke for slow play was in 1995. Glen Day was penalized a shot after the third round of the Honda Classic.