GLADSTONE — The Sybase Match Play Championship has been tournament full of surprises since day one and nothing changed this year.
None of the top 14 seeds are still around. The final four consists of two so-called veterans seeking their first wins since 2008 and a couple of highly regarded youngsters seeking their first victory on the LPGA Tour.
Of the four, Morgan Pressel is the household name. She won a major at age 18 in 2007 and one other time the following year.
Candie Kung is a 30-year-old four-time winner who has not held a trophy since 2008. Azahara Munoz of Spain won an NCAA title for Arizona State, while Vicky Hurst is a 21-year-old who represented the United States in the Solheim Cup last year.
In today’s semifinals, Pressel will face Munoz, and Kung will take on Hurst.
Pressel, who has struggled all season, is the most interesting story. The soon-to-be 24-year-old rallied from 2-down with three holes to play to stun No. 2 ranked Na Yeon Choi in 19 holes in the morning and rolled over Anna Nordqvist of Sweden 5 and 4 in the afternoon quarterfinal in the surprised-filled event at the Hamilton Farm Golf Club.
Nearly all of the 64 players who competed in the $1.5 million Sybase also will be in the field at the ShopRite LPGA Classic on the Bay Course at Seaview Resort in Galloway Township from June 1-3.
Pressel is the highest seed left at No. 15. Munoz, who had two top-five finishes recently, is the 19th seed. Hurst is seeded 37th and Kung, who beat No. 1 ranked Yani Tseng in the morning round of 16, is the lowest seed left at No. 49.
“I think that I definitely want to win again and I’ll have a chance tomorrow,” Pressel said. “No matter what happens, I think that I — this is the best I’ve played in a long time, and from Japan two weeks ago to this week, I finally feel comfortable with my game again to a point where I haven’t been in a while. I’m going to give it everything that I have tomorrow.”
Pressel, whose best finish this year is a tie for 20th, has been steady this week. She made birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to tie Choi and won on the 19th when the South Korean missed a par-saving putt. In the afternoon, Pressel ran away from Nordqvist after the one-time U.S. Women’s Open champion fell behind after a couple of bogeys.
“This afternoon, I had a little bit of a break and didn’t need to make quite as many birdies, but tomorrow I’m going to need to make the birdies again because I’m sure ‘Atha’s’ going to come out and come out strong,” Pressel said.
Munoz routed off No. 6 seeded Stacy Lewis 5 and 4 in a match the tour’s best American this year didn’t play well. In the round of 16, Lewis — who was the highest-seeded player remaining at that point — edged 2010 Sybase champion Sun Young Yoo 1-up in the morning.
“I played pretty horrible,” said Lewis, who won in Mobile, Ala., two weeks ago. “It was probably one of the worst rounds I played all year. It probably didn’t matter who I was playing, I wasn’t going to win.”
Munoz and Pressel are good friends.
“We both want to win bad, so I think it’s going to be fun,” the 24-year-old Munoz said. “I wish I wasn’t playing her to be honest.”
Hurst and Kung both had to work harder to post their quarterfinals wins.
The long-hitting Hurst, who upset No. 5 ranked Cristie Kerr over 19 holes Friday, won the 15th and 16th holes to take the lead en route to a 2-up win over U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu of South Korea. Kung also won the 15th and 16th holes to go 2-up against Julieta Granada of Paraguay and closed out a 2-and-1 win with a par at the 17th.
“We both played pretty solid the whole day,” Hurst said. “She kind of let it go at the end, but it was pretty close.”
Kung said her putting carried her Saturday, but she had other concerns after the matches. She probably didn’t expect to be here today and checked out of her hotel.
In the other morning matches, Ryu won seven of the first nine holes en route to a 5-and- 4 win over Katherine Hull of Australia. Nordqvist won four of the final six holes in beating No. 10 seed Amy Yang 3 and 1. Hurst was a 2-and-1 winner over Angela Stanford in an All-American match.
Munoz posted a 2-and-1 win over Jodi Ewart of England, who upset defending champion Suzann Pettersen in the first round. Granada was a 1-up winner over Karine Icher of France.