Gaby Lopez into lead in LPGA Tournament of Champions

Mexico’s Gaby Lopez bags two late birdies for a one-shot lead at the Tournament of Champions in Florida.

FILE PHOTO: Gaby Lopez carded a five-under-par 67 in the first round.   -  AFP

Mexico’s Gaby Lopez bagged two late birdies to grab a one-shot lead at the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Tournament of Champions in Florida on Thursday.

The 28-year-old World No. 53 notched birdies on her 16th and 18th holes en route to a five-under-par 67 at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando.

Lopez’s strong finish completed a solid opening round which had begun on the par-72 layout’s par-five 10th hole with a bogey six. However that was the lone blemish for Lopez, who went on to reel off three birdies on the front nine before adding three more down the stretch.

That was good enough to give her a slender lead over four players tied for second on four under - World No. 1 Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Ryann O’Toole and Yuka Saso of Japan. “Today was a pretty clean round,” Lopez said afterwards.

‘Great job’

“I think we barely made any mistakes. My caddie and I did a great job with strategy, just being able to attack the pins that we were comfortable with. The ones that we were not, just going to be smart. And, yeah, being able to hit the shots that I want, it’s really nice.”

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Korda’s 68 came in a roller coaster round which included three bogeys, five birdies and an eagle.

The American got off to a rocky start with two bogeys in her opening four holes, before she recovered with three straight birdies on the fifth, sixth and seventh holes. Another birdie on the 10th was followed by a brilliant eagle three on the par-five 11th which took her to four under before her third bogey of the round on the 12th. She regained that dropped shot with a birdie on the 15th before closing with three pars.

“I was just kind of spraying it everywhere, left, right, you name it,” Korda said of her erratic start.

“I was just like, ‘O.K., so this is going to be a grind today’, which it was. I still hit some loose shots here and there coming in, but hit it close on those three holes and kind of capitalised on that.”

Korda’s sister Jessica, the defending champion, is among a group of three players a further shot back on three under, two off the lead, after carding 69s. Jessica Korda finished the day alongside Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukam and Canada’s Brooke Henderson.

Stacy Lewis and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom are three off the lead on two under with France’s Celine Boutier, England’s Georgia Hall and Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit.

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