Mon, 21 Sep 2020

Lopez captures playoff win at LPGA season opener

Field Level Media
21 Jan 2020, 03:05 GMT+10

Gaby Lopez drained a 25-foot putt for birdie on the seventh playoff hole to capture her second LPGA career title on Monday at the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Lopez, 26, outlasted Japan's Nasa Hataoka and earned $180,000 for the victory as well as a spot in the 2021 Tournament of Champions event, which features an elite field comprised of tournament champions over the last two seasons.

"I proved to myself that I can win in any situation," Lopez said. "My first win was in the lead. My second win was coming from behind. And being able to put all those moments together and recall them while I'm walking on the fairway here and try to stay patient. That's what I proved to myself the most, my ability to stay in the moment."

With her previous win at the 2018 Blue Bay LPGA in China, Lopez became just the second player from Mexico to win on tour, joining Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa.

Lopez, who charged into contention with a 5-under 66 Sunday, also proved her mastery of the 18th hole, which played as the hardest hole on the golf course. Players recorded just six total birdies on the hole and Lopez accounted for three of them, including a 17-foot downhill putt on her final hole in regulation to reach the playoff.

"I did feel the pressure when she made that birdie putt," said Hataoka, whose 10-foot birdie attempt at 18 slid below the hole. "I thought I was going to be able to make it."

On Sunday, Lopez and Hataoka swapped five pars at the 18th before play was suspended due to darkness. They faced 45-degree, windy conditions when play resumed Monday morning and both players again parred the par 3 before Lopez finally captured the win on the seventh attempt.

The seven-hole duel marked the LPGA's fourth-longest playoff. The longest was 10 holes at the 1972 Corpus Christi Civitan Open, when Jo Ann Prentice beat Hall of Famers Sandra Palmer and Kathy Whitworth.

The duo rallied Sunday to overtake South Korean Inbee Park, who headed into the final round with a two-stroke advantage. Park, who shot even-par 71, finished tied at 13-under-par 271 with Lopez and Hataoka, but she was eliminated after finding water on the third extra hole.

Rounding out the top five in a tie for fourth at 12 under were Mi Jung Hur of South Korea, who tied the low round of the tournament with a 63 on Sunday, and Brooke Henderson of Canada (67).

Former Major League pitcher John Smoltz finished 6 under to win the celebrity division for the second year in a row.

--Field Level Media

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