The 18th hole at the Tranquillo Golf Club is so hard to birdie, it felt like the playoff at the LPGA season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions might go on forever. And it sort of did. Mexico's Gaby Lopez and Japan's Nasa Hataoka played the No. 18 five extra times on Sunday evening (Inbee Park played it with them twice, eventually getting knocked out by a bogey on her third try) until darkness made it impossible to go any more.
So Lopez and Hataoka returned to the tricky 197-yard, downhill, water-to-the left, windy par 3 on a chilly Monday morning. After the pair made pars again on their sixth try, Lopez, who had birdied the hole twice in regulation—two of just five birdies made for the entire week—was able to do it one more time on the seventh playoff hole. It was enough to best Hataoka, securing Lopez, 26, her second career LPGA Tour victory.
Interestingly, it looked like Hataoka was going to be the one to finally break out of string of pars when she hit her tee ball to the front of the green on the seventh playoff hole, and it ran forward, catching a slope and curling towards the hole, stopping 10 feet away. It was the closest any player had gotten to the pin throughout the entirety of the playoff.
Lopez's tee shot hit the green but was short of the hole, and she looking at a line similar to the one she'd had minutes before. The previous attempt she'd left short. She didn't make that mistake again. The 25-footer fell, making Hataoka's birdie putt look suddenly much more difficult.
Maybe it was a misread, or maybe she didn't feel confident about the pace. Either way, Hataoka's putt was a miss from the moment it left her clubface. The ball broke left early, missing the hole completely.
Lopez's first LPGA win was in China, at the 2018 Blue Bay LPGA, near the end of her third season on tour. She did it playing while playing in the final group with the then No. 1 and No. 2 in the world: Sung Hyun Park and Ariya Jutanugarn. Lopez, who was ranked No. 136 at the time, but held off both players for an unlikely first victory. It was the first time a Mexican woman won on the LPGA Tour since Lorena Ochoa's last win in 2009.
This second win came while playing again against a field of LPGA champions, with the 26 participants this week all being tour winners from the previous two seasons. Having won against the two of the best players in the world and then coming from behind to win against a field of only champions, Lopez has proven to herself that she has capabilities and potential beyond her two-win resume.
"I don’t need to prove to anyone else but myself," Lopez said. "I proved to myself that I can win in any situation."