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Gaby Lopez WITB

Lopez outlasts Hataoka in seven-hole play-off

After seven play-off holes and a Monday finish, Gaby Lopez eventually came out on top at the LPGA season-opener
 

Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions report: What happened at Four Season GC?

Inbee Park surrendered her 54-hole lead as Gaby Lopez went on to win the first LPGA event of 2020 in a play-off over Nasa Hataoka.

Park led after three rounds and was chasing a win in a third consecutive decade but a final round of level par was only good enough for a play-off as Lopez and Hataoka tied her on 13-under.

Hataoka was Park’s main challenger throughout Sunday but Lopez booked herself a spot in the play-off with some final hole heroics as she drained a putt for the only birdie by an LPGA player over the weekend at the 18th hole.

In the play-off Lopez played first and overshot the green with her ball clattering into the gathered media in front of the grandstands. She was given relief from the stands and chipped onto the green leaving as tap-in par.

Hataoka and Park both found the putting surface but both missed their birdie efforts on the low side sending the trio back to the tee with three pars.

Playing in the same order, Lopez learned from her previous attempt and this time found the green to the right of the flag leaving a good look at birdie which slipped by but she would make par to stay in things.

Park replicated her tee shot of the first play-off hole finding the right side of the green but again had to settle for a par but it was Hataoka who looked in danger of being eliminated.

She missed the green to the right by a long way and had to get up-and-down to stay alive. She hit a solid chip and holed a fairly lengthy putt to match her partners.

Park’s challenge was ended at the third play-of hole as her tee shot ricocheted off some rocks and into the water lurking left of the green.

Lopez and Hataoka missed the green to the right side but both chipped within a couple of feet to tap in for pars to keep the shootout going.

With the light fading on the fourth play-off hole Lopez found the right side of the green while Hataoka once again missed just right.

The Japanese star got up-and-down for her par leaving Lopez with a putt for the win. She wasn’t able to take the opportunity and also carded a 3 to send the tournament into a Monday finish.

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.

Finaly, the Tournament of Champions had a winner after the seventh play-off hole as Lopez drained a long birdie putt to go one better that Hataoka’s par.

This is the Mexican’s second LPGA Tour victory adding to her success from the latter stages of 2018.

Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions report: Anything else?

Ex-baseball player John Smoltz successfully defended the celebrity title that he won 12 months ago as he brushed aside the rest of the field.

The Celebrities competed alongside the pros in all four rounds and scored in a stableford format and once again Smoltz showed his class.

He was impressive from start to finish and tallied up 150 points for the week with his highlights a pair of 68s in the second and fourth rounds.

Blair O’Neal, who was teeing it up this week while six months pregnant, played her way into the top 10 and finished with 129 points.

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