Gaby Lopez wins LPGA tournament in Florida in seven-hole playoff

Ross Houston
January 23, 2020

Monday's victor will earn US$180,000.

M.J. Hur, who made 10 birdies and shot 63, and Brooke Henderson (67) of Smiths Falls, Ont., finished one shot out of the playoff in this event featuring 26 LPGA tournament winners from the past two seasons.

The LPGA Hall of Famer started the final round with a two-shot lead but managed only an even-par 71 at the Four Seasons Club in Orlando.

Brooke Henderson nearly carded an albatross on the 17th hole, while shooting a 5-under 66 for the low score of the day, during the second round of the LPGA Tournament of Champions. Monday, they played the hole twice more, tying the record for the LPGA's fourth-longest playoff.

Gaby Lopez of Mexico and Nasa Hataoka of Japan were still tied after five playoff holes, when play was suspended due to darkness.

Gaby Lopez sinks a long birdie putt to beat Nasa Hataoka and claims the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions title. But Lopez stepped up first and stroked a putt that climbed uphill and tumbled in on its last rotation. Ultimately, Hataoka and Lopez had to come back on a chilly Monday morning to resume play as temperatures dipped into the 40s.

South Korea's Park In-bee had been eliminated after the third playoff hole, leaving Hataoka and Lopez to slug it out. But the pressure amped up once the playoff began. "So I think it's going to be good".

When the players returned on Monday it was more of the same as Hataoka relied on her short game to get up-and-down for par and Lopez two-putted to equal. She entered the week ranked 56th but now has momentum to start her fifth LPGA season.

Park remains in search of her first victory since the Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona in March of 2018. This time, victory took a different route. But on the third return to the 18th tee, Park's tee shot sailed left into a water hazard and ultimately ended the chance for her 20th career win. "My first win was in the lead".

Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova clinched a 6-1, 7-5 win with a late service break against Kristina Mladenovic.

"I put all those moments together and recall them when I'm walking down the fairway, just staying in the moment".

Both players secured pars on the sixth playoff hole, sending it back to the tee. There have been only five birdies on that hole all week by LPGA players in the tournament, which also features celebrity amateurs; Lopez owned two of them. She completed it in grand style by making the lone birdie yielded all weekend at the 18th hole.

"I told myself that I was prepared for any scenario", Lopez said afterward. "I like it. It was a flawless number for me yesterday, to be honest".

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