Exclusive interview with Azahara Munoz
WHEN the rain brought a second delay on the last day of the Solheim Cup, Suzann Pettersen, Caroline Hedwall and Azahara Munoz shared a buggy back out to the course.
The trio would bring up the rear of the home effort and, with the match once again looking to be going the Americans’ way, Pettersen gave the two rookies a few motivational words.
Both had already delivered plenty and had played like seasoned players, thus their position in the anchor positions. Pettersen won the last three holes with birdies to pip Michelle Wie, Hedwall holed from 12 feet at 16 to stay in the match and then won 17.
Munoz then played one of the shots of the week, from 123 yards, to just a couple of feet to go one up. When Hedwall secured a half at the last the cup was back in European hands for the first time since 2003.
How nerve-wracking was the 1st tee at the Solheim?
Everyone was telling me that I was going to be more nervous than I had ever been so I was expecting it and it didn’t catch me by surprise.
I tried to enjoy it as much as I can. I cheered the crowd and tried to have fun with them which helped me to relax. It was probably the best moment that I experienced that week.
Was the whole experience what you had expected?
It was even more. I was a bit worried because when you expect something to be so great sometimes you get disappointed and of course I didnt want that to happen but I had such a good time all week.
We all got along great, had so many good laughs and we played amazingly. It couldn’t had been any better.
Is it odd playing against some good friends in such a competitive setting?
It is for sure but I think that week everyone puts aside friendships, not in a bad way, but as you said everything is so competitive that it is hard to be as good of a friend as I usually am with some of them. But we still talked and were polite with each other when we were off the course. But, for sure, it’s different.
What made you and Catriona Matthew gel so well?
I don’t know what it was but we did get along so great. I had an amazing time with her and her husband Graeme who also caddies for her. They are great people, fun to be around and having her as my partner gave me so much confidence. She is so calm and that was exactly what I needed, especially on Friday morning! All of that together made the perfect combo for both of us.
You played Cristie Kerr in the Saturday foursomes, did you have any idea that she was in any pain?
I didn’t. She never mentioned anything out loud or made any gestures, so I didn’t notice anything.
They told us the day before to not look at scoreboards, to just worry about our own game. But I couldn’t help it. How did the singles order come about? Were you happy to go out 11th?
Ali, Jo (Morley) and Annika made the pairings and we all respected their decision. To be honest I was really surprised and wasn’t expecting it at all. I got nervous as soon as they told us because I knew it was going to come down to the end and I was going to be there. But Suzann told me to be calm, that if they put me there it was because they trusted me. That made me feel so much better and confident about myself.
Were you looking at the scoreboards?
At every single one. They told us the day before to not look at it, to just worry about our own game. But I couldn’t help it. I was trying so hard to not look but that was all I could think about. So I just decided to look but try and not let it affect my own game.
Was your approach to the 17th your favourite career moment so far?
I could mention a few of them probably, but nothing in such a crucial moment, so yes. Even when I think about it now I get such a good feeling. I felt great for the whole team and for myself, of course. I will never forget that shot and will treasure it forever.
What were you thinking stood on the 18th tee?
I was thinking how close everything was, but I needed to keep myself calm and stay in the present. Only one more hole, one shot at a time. So many of my team were with me and when I looked up to one of our helpers I saw it on her face. I knew we had just won.
Who was the first and last to bed after the celebrations?
First probably Karen Stupples or Catriona. And last? Probably Sophie Gustafson. But that is just counting the players, caddies and helpers went much later!
What did you learn from Annika Sorenstam?
I learned to be calm. Even when everything was so tense and up in the air, her face did not change. Just looking at her made me feel good about the situation.
Did you feel under any more pressure being the LPGA Rookie of the Year last year?
I felt a lot of pressure at the beginning of the year and that really hurt me. I was making a few swing changes which didn’t help either. But after they picked the team I just relaxed and I was able to perform so much better. I wish I didn’t have that pressure but it is what it is. All I can do is to learn from it and, from now on, just worry about doing my best. That’s all I can ask for.
What swing changes have you been working on?
This off season I have been working on a few things but the most important is that on the backswing I switch my weight to the left and on the downswing I switch it to the right, and it should be the opposite.
Do any of the Major courses particularly suit your style of play? You’ve done well at the LPGA…
I guess the LPGA then! I like that course because it’s not long but you need to hit fairways and the greens are pretty small, which I like. I like to have small targets, it helps me focus better.
Have you imagined what sort of ‘dive’ you’d do if you won the Kraft Nabisco?
No I haven’t but I hope to find out some day. It is such a special tournament and I would love to be able to jump into that pond. I would love to take my family in with me but I’m not sure they would be there.
What do you know of Royal Liverpool?
I played there in the Duke of York when I was 14 or 15. It is an amazing course and I’m really looking forward to playing there.
How much can we expect to see you play in Europe this year?
I’m not going to play much. As of now I’m playing Evian, British, French and probably the Spanish Open.
We have had a few tournaments added to the LPGA schedule and it’s getting harder to play both tours.