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LPGA'S DANA OPEN

Gaby Lopez birdies last three holes to capture Dana Open for third LPGA victory

September 04, 2022
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Gaby Lopez of Mexico reacts to her birdie on the 18th green during the final round of the Dana Open in Sylvania, Ohio.

Gregory Shamus

Gaby Lopez stood over a 15-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole of the Dana Open and knew the importance of the moment. With playing partner Megan Khang in tight for a likely birdie on the par-5 home hole at Highland Meadows Golf Club, Lopez understood she needed to make the putt or else there would be playoff in Sylvania, Ohio.

The fiery 28-year-old from Mexico calmy stepped up and drained the birdie putt before letting out a loud “VAMOS” while pumping her fist as she went to collect her ball from bottom of the cup. Lopez made eight birdies on Sunday, including three consecutive on the last three holes, to shoot eight-under 63 and capture her third career LPGA victory.

“I practiced exactly for this moment,” Lopez said. “If the ball rolls over this spot, it’s going in. We got the job done.”

Lopez was well back after 36 holes but shot a Saturday 66 to vault into contention. Still, she started the final round in 11th place and knew she needed to make an early run with the leaders playing well behind her. She quickly made birdies on Nos. 3 and 4, then made another on the par-5 seventh hole to make her presence known.

On the back, Lopez birdied 10 and 13 before closing with the three straight to close her 63, good for an 18-under-par 266 total. She hit her approach to kick-in range on 16 and got up and down from greenside bunkers on the last two holes, both par 5s.

“Today it felt more like a Friday round,” Lopez said. “Having that calmness and having that quiet space is exactly what we’ve been working on. It paid off. It gets more simple when I do that.”

Lopez’ first victory came four years ago at the Blue Bay LPGA in China. Two years ago she beat Inbee Park and Nasa Hataoka in a playoff to win the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.

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Meanwhile, Khang is still in search of her maiden LPGA victory after coming close yet again. The 24-year-old American shot 65-67-64 the last three rounds and made five birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the front nine Sunday, but it was still one short. She finished in solo second place.

“There is always a little bit of disappointment, but Gaby played an amazing round as well,” Khang said. “A lot of mixed feelings but I gave myself chances, and just going to take what I learned from this week and carry on for my career.”

The final grouping of the day featured Lucy Li, Lexi Thompson and Caroline Masson. Li, 19, held the lead by a shot to start the day after getting into the field this week via a top-10 finish last week at the CP Women’s Open in Canada.

Li burst onto the golf scene eight years ago as an 11-year-old when she became the youngest ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, held at Pinehurst No. 2. She played a practice round that week in 2014 with Thompson.

Because of two victories on the Epson Tour, Li has LPGA status locked up for next year, although that does not give her status for this year. So she’s had to rely on a combination of exemptions and performance.

Li didn’t have her best on this Sunday at the Dana Open and made one birdie and 14 pars in the first 15 holes, while most of the rest of the field was taking advantage of the softer conditions. Still, she birdied the final hole to shoot 70 and tied for fourth place, three shots behind Lopez. Her top-10 finish exempts her into next week’s Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati and she’s already received a sponsor’s invite the following week for the AmazingCre Portland Classic in Oregon.

“I played good all week,” Li said. “I hit it good today, just some of the putts wouldn’t fall. It was a good, solid week. I tried my best and that’s all I can control.”

Meanwhile, Thompson had another final-round disappointment. She started the day only a shot off the lead and parred each of the first 14 holes, then closed with three bogeys and a birdie to shoot two-over 73. She tied for 16th place and was the only player inside the top 40 who shot over par in the final round. Thompson was hoping to grab her 12th career LPGA title but her first since 2019.