Mexico’s Gaby López rolled home a 25-foot birdie putt Monday morning on the seventh playoff hole to defeat Japan’s Nasa Hataoka and win the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Four Seasons Golf & Sports Club Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The first LPGA Tour event of the season featured a packed leaderboard and concluded with a three-way playoff between López, Hataoka and Inbee Park. Park, seeking her first LPGA Tour title since the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March 2018, was eliminated Sunday after pulling her tee shot into the water on the third playoff hole, the difficult par-3 18th.
López and Hataoka continued to replay the 18th hole and traded pars twice more before officials suspended play because of darkness. On Monday morning, the pair traded pars again on the sixth extra hole before López hit her tee shot on the seventh to 25 feet and Hataoka curled hers around a slope to 12 feet.
After López made her putt, Hataoka pulled her effort badly, missing on the low side.
The victory was López's second on the LPGA Tour, her first having come in November 2018 at the Blue Bay LPGA in China. The former University of Arkansas standout qualified for the Olympics in 2016 as a representative of Mexico, and it appears likely she will head to Japan this summer for another chance at a medal.
Although López has yet to record a top-10 finish in 21 career major-championship appearances, the confidence she gained from surviving a marathon against Hataoka, the No. 5 player in the world, and Park, an LPGA Hall of Famer, could be a significant spark. She recalled one conversation with her caddie during the playoff that reinforced her belief.
“You know, he said at one point, you've got to freakin’ believe where you’re at,” López said. “You've got to freakin’ believe the shots you’re making under pressure. You’ve got to freakin’ believe the player you’ve become throughout the years. Just kind of that gave me a little bit of energy to keep going forward and to get where I am right now.”
López, 26, will receive a return invitation to the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, which is reserved for LPGA Tour winners within the past two years.
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Staff and wire reports