Gaby Lopez wins Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions after 7-hole playoff

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Gaby Lopex (pictured above) finally claimed the 2020 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions title on Monday morning after a monumental seven hole play off carried over from Sunday evening.

Lopez’s 30 foot birdie putt saw off the challenge from Nasa Hataoka (pictured below) in the fourth longest LPGA play off.

It was the second LPGA title for Lopez, who 14 months ago became only the second player from Mexico to win on tour when she won the Blue Bay LPGA in 2018, joining World Golf Hall of Fame member Lorena Ochoa. In doing so, she earned $180,000 for the victory.

The elite field featured 26 LPGA tournament champions who had won tournaments in the last two seasons. Lopez and Hataoka wound up playing the difficult 197-yard 18th hole at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando eight 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 third round leader, Inbee Park, who was eliminated on the third playoff hole.

Hataoka, who had made a neat 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.

Meanwhile, Lopez, whose ball barely made the putting surface, went first and her putt up the hill slowly tumbled into the cup on its last rotation. Hataoka, ranked sixth in the world, then made a poor stroke as she pulled her birdie attempt left of the hole.

Hataoka had enjoyed her week playing alongside athletes and celebrities — the 49-player celebrity division was won by pitcher and Hall of Famer John Smoltz. But the pressure amped up once the playoff began.

“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.”

In the celebrity division, John Smoltz defended his 2019 title in style as he gained 150 Stableford points over the four days to finish well clear of runner up Mardy Fish on 141.

“I made some changes that really worked,” Smoltz said upon winning. “I tried not to stare at too many pins. I got aggressive where I could. Last year helped me a lot. There was a little bit of an unknown last year being in the last group. I learned from last year on how to stay patient and not to be too carried away.”

More photos at FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

 

 

 

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