Ariya fin­ishes one be­hind cham­pion Lopez

Emo­tional Lopez hangs on for Hainan win as er­ratic Ariya fails to grab chance

Bangkok Post - - SPORTS -

>> 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.

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