Published: Thu, January 23, 2020
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Gaby Lopez wins LPGA season opener in 7-hole playoff

Gaby Lopez wins LPGA season opener in 7-hole playoff

But at the end of four rounds, five playoff holes and the gloaming of another day, a playoff between Japan's Nasa Hataoka and Gaby Lopez of Mexico was suspended because of darkness a little after 6 p.m. ET.

Smoltz, who made six birdies on Sunday, earned $100,000 for the victory. The tour's second annual event pairs LPGA tournament winners with sports and entertainment celebrities and is the first of the LPGA's 34 events this season.

A victory by Hataoka would be her fourth on the LPGA Tour, which would tie Hiromi Kobayashi for the third-most by a Japanese player, behind Ayako Okamoto (17) and Ai Miyazato (nine).

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. The longest was 10 holes at the 1972 Corpus Christi Civitan Open.

Lopez and Hataoka wound up playing the hard 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.

The light was already fading when they played the fourth playoff hole, where Hataoka putted from off the green to two feet on the way to par and Lopez two-putted.

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South Korean superstar Park In-bee, seeking a 20th career title, was eliminated at the third playoff hole when her tee shot at the hard par-three 18th at Four Seasons Orlando bounced near the cup and into the water.

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. Ultimately, Hataoka and Lopez had to come back on a chilly Monday morning to resume play as temperatures dipped into the 40s. The par 3 is long and tough, with a deep bunker in front and rocks and water guarding the left side of the green.

When Lopez and Hataoka scrambled to get up-and-down for pars on the third playoff hole, Park was eliminated.

There was one champion crowned on Sunday: John Smoltz, former Atlanta Braves standout starter and reliever and baseball Hall of Famer, repeated as champion in the celebrity division. But the pressure amped up once the playoff began. "I thought I was going to be able to make it".

"I definitely left a lot out there, but it's a good start", said Thompson, who carded a 3-under 68 in the final round, falling short of winning on home soil.

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