Ariya finishes one behind champion Lopez
Emotional Lopez hangs on for Hainan win as erratic Ariya fails to grab chance
>> HAINAN ISLAND: Mexico’s 136thranked Gaby Lopez celebrated the biggest victory of her career yesterday when she triumphed at the US$2.1 million Blue Bay LPGA in China.
An emotional Lopez beat off world No.1 Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand and a late challenge from France’s Celine Boutier for her maiden victory on the US-based LPGA Tour.
Lopez carded a final-round 73 to finish at eight-under 280 on the island of Hainan — where wind has been a factor all week — to claim a one-stroke win.
She was drenched in water by her rivals by way of celebration and wiped away tears at the end.
Lopez, who became the second Mexican to win on the LPGA Tour after former world No.1 Lorena Ochoa, closed with an erratic round over the Jian Lake Blue Bay layout that featured four birdies and five bogeys, including at the last two holes.
“Today was a difficult day for me. I didn’t hit the ball very well. I was a little bit nervous. It was probably the longest day of my entire life,” said the fourth-year pro, who played college golf at the University of Arkansas.
“But trusting and hitting solid shots at the end kind of helped.
“It was the most special week I have ever had. My putting didn’t let me down all day long and yesterday.
“It’s been j ust great to have this week.”
Lopez dedicated the career-changing victory to her late grandfather.
“My grandpa passed away a couple of weeks ago. I always told him that I was going to give him my first trophy,” Lopez said.
“Sadly I didn’t, but he was with me all week long and I couldn’t be more lucky, more fortunate, to have him still alive in me.”
Lopez had marked her 25th birthday on Friday by hitting a hole-in-one at the 17th and grabbing the thirdround lead.
Ariya finished second on seven under and Boutier, ranked 150th in the world, was third, a further shot back, after shooting a sparkling sixunder-par 66.
Ariya started the day one shot off the lead and quickly found herself playing catch-up to playing partner Lopez after carding four bogeys on the front nine.
She settled down on the back nine to make three birdies, including one at the last, but it wasn’t enough.
“I feel I like the back nine better, yeah. That’s not really like me on the front nine,” said the 22-year-old Bangkok native, who has won three times this year.
Danielle Kang (68), winner of the Buick LPGA Shanghai last month, and South Korea’s Kim Sei-Young finished tied fourth at four shots back, one stroke better than fellow American Jennifer Song (72).
Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya’s sister, was equal seventh after closing with a 71, tied with world No.2 Park SungHyun of South Korea.
Defending champion Feng Shanshan was the top Chinese in ninth place as the world No.11 closed with a 68, seven strokes off the pace.
The 2018 LPGA Tour season ends next week at the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.
Gaby Lopez holds her trophy after winning the Blue Bay LPGA tournament in Sanya on China’s Hainan Island.