It’s Gaby Lopez’s (over)timeto shine…
The 26-year-old Mexican professional golfer, who’d already battled five extra holes into darkness against Nasa Hataoka without producing a champion a day earlier, returned Monday morning to earn a victory.
The early wake-up call and extra golf was worth it for Lopez, who rolled in a 30-foot putt for birdie to prevail on the seventh playoff hole on Monday and capture the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
It was the second LPGAtitle for Lopez, who 14 months ago became only the second player from Mexico to win on tour, joining World Golf Hall of Famemember Lorena Ochoa. She earned $180,000 for the victory.
The elite field featured 26 LPGA tournament champions who’d won tournaments in the last two seasons.
This was the LPGA’s fourth-longest playoff. The longest was 10 holes at the 1972 Corpus Christi Civitan Open, where Jo Ann Prenticebeat Hall of Famers Sandra Palmerand Kathy Whitworth.
Lopez and Hataoka wound up playing the difficult 197-yard 18th hole at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlandoeight times over two days, with two birdies from Lopez the difference.
Lopez birdied from 18 feet on her final hole of regulation Sunday to earn a spot in a playoff alongside Hataoka and Inbee Park, who was eliminated on the third playoff hole.
Hataoka, who had made a deft up-and-down from 30 yards for par to extend the playoff to a seventh hole as play resumed Monday, had the edge on the final hole after hitting a 4-hybrid that rode a slope along the right side of the green and curled to 12 feet from the hole.
But Lopez, whose ball barely made the putting surface, went first, her putt up the hill slowing and tumbling into the cup on its last rotation. Hataoka, ranked sixth in the world, made a poor stroke, pulling her birdie attempt left.
“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.”
The victory qualifies Lopez for the 2021 Tournament of Champions.