(MADRID – Saturday 3rd October 2009) — Azahara Muñoz won the Madrid Ladies Masters on her professional debut on Saturday, beating LPGA Major Champion Anna Nordqvist at the first playoff hole.
The 21-year-old from Spain tied with the Swede on 16 under when she shot a final round of nine under 64 in perfect scoring conditions at Club de Golf Retamares.
Nordqvist, playing a group ahead, had shot a flawless career low round of ten-under 63, featuring 10 birdies.
The pair re-played the 470 yard par-five 18th and Muñoz defeated Nordqvist with an eagle when she hit a six-iron to 20 feet from 193 yards and rolled in the putt for eagle.
Nordqvist, 22, who is still only a rookie, played her second shot over the green and missed the returning chip.
Muñoz won the 2009 Ladies British Amateur Championship at Royal St David’s in Wales in June, defeating fellow Spaniard Carlota Ciganda in the final.
She turned professional just two weeks ago prior to finishing second at the first stage of LPGA Qualifying School.
The Malaga player received an invitation to play in the limited field event and was planning to attend Ladies European Tour Q-school in December but she can now skip it, since with her winner’s cheque for 50,000 Euros, she has earned the right to a three year exemption on the tour.
“I can’t believe I won. It’s like a dream come true,” said Muñoz, who turns 22 next month. “This is just the beginning. I’m going to keep on practising and trying to get better.”
She and Nordqvist were teammates at Arizona State University in the United States for two years and Muñoz felt that she had improved tremendously since going to America.
Starting the day in a share of fifth at seven-under, Muñoz bogeyed the first hole but birdied the fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth.
She eagled the par-five 10th when she hit driver, three-wood and putted from just off the edge of the green. Her birdie putts at the 11th, 15th, 16th and 18th were all from inside six feet and at both the 15th and 18th holes she hit the ball stone dead.
“I’ve been putting well all week but I’ve been hitting the ball pretty bad. Today I hit the ball much better and I hit it much closer and I kept on making putts. That was the key,” said Muñoz, who became the 12th player to earn her first Ladies European Tour victory this year.
Her win – the third by a Spaniard this year – confirmed her status as a rising golf star.
Nordqvist said: “Congratulations to Azahara. She played great. I shot 10-under and gave myself a good chance. I’m happy with my game. I thought I hit a lot of good shots the first couple of days and hit good putts but they wouldn’t drop and today I hit them closer. I got the putter going and that’s always going to help.”
Frenchwoman Anne-Lise Caudal, the 2008 Portugal Ladies Open champion, tied for third with Spain’s Emma Cabrera-Bello at 14 under, two strokes away from the leaders. Cabrera-Bello reached 15 under after 13 holes, but bogeyed the 14th and 16th.
First round co-leader Lee-Anne Pace from South Africa, England’s Rebecca Hudson and Germany’s Bettina Hauert shared fifth on 13-under-par.
Italian Veronica Zorzi had led into the final day at 13 under, two shots ahead of Cabrera-Bello, but the double French Open champion carded a final round of 74 for outright eighth place.