DIAMOND RESORTS TOC PLAYOFF TO RESUME MONDAY
Four days, 72 regulation holes and five playoff holes were not enough to determine a winner of the 2020 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. After swapping five pars at the par-3 18th hole as daylight waned, Mexico’s Gaby Lopez and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka will return to the Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando on Monday, Jan. 20, at 8 a.m. Eastern to determine a winner. Inbee Park was eliminated on the third playoff hole.
In the playoff, Lopez and Hataoka each successfully got up and down for par twice in the five-hole span. On the third playoff hole, 19-time LPGA Tour winner Park found the pond left of the green and while she nearly jarred her second tee shot, she was eliminated from the playoff when Hataoka and Lopez both parred the hole.
Park started the day with a two-stroke lead but shot an even-par 71 on Sunday and was caught by the surging Lopez and Hataoka. After starting the day five strokes off the lead, Lopez nailed a lengthy birdie putt on No. 18 in regulation to jump into the playoff with a final-round 66.
“I told myself that I was prepared for any scenario,” said Lopez of that putt to get into the playoff. “So either I had to do a playoff, or if I came second or third, I was mentally prepared for any scenario. I feel that that's the case, that I'm mentally prepared for whatever happens tomorrow is going to be fine.”
Hataoka, who trailed Park by three strokes coming into the final round, shot a 3-under 68.
“First playoff (hole), I was a little bit nervous, but as you go like one by one, my nerves kind of died down,” said Hataoka.
LPGA TOUR RECORD FOR LONGEST SUDDEN-DEATH PLAYOFF
10 holes, 1972 Corpus Christi Civitan Open, Jo Ann Prentice defeated Sandra Palmer and Kathy Whitworth
9 holes, 2012 Kingsmill Championship, Jiyai Shin defeated Paula Creamer
8 holes, 2018 ANA Inspiration, Pernilla Lindberg defeated Inbee Park, and Jennifer Song eliminated after third sudden-death hole
7 holes, 2004 LPGA Takefuji Classic, Cristie Kerr defeated Seol-An Jeon
JOHN SMOLTZ DEFENDS CELEBRITY TITLE
In the celebrity portion of the competition, John Smoltz successful defended his 2019 title at +150 in the Modified Stableford scoring system. Mardy Fish, who won the celebrity competition in 2016 and 2018 when it was played as the Diamonds Resorts Invitational, was second at +141, followed by 2017 DRI winner Mark Mulderin third at +138.
“This was a big week for me,” said Smoltz. “Besides the defending part, I wanted to see how my body was going to hold up walking five days. I brought my trainer in. But this is a big hurdle mentally because, when you get tired or you get stiff, you've still got to make a good golf swing, and I was able to make enough of them. Fortunately, I had a nice lead coming into the last four holes, which helps.”
INBEE PARK FIRST OUT IN SEASON’S FIRST PLAYOFF
Inbee Park last competed in a playoff at the 2018 ANA Inspiration, where she was eliminated by Pernilla Lindberg after the Swede birdied on the eighth playoff hole. Fast forward to 2020, where the 19-time LPGA Tour winner and seven-time major champion was thrust into a playoff with Gaby Lopez and Nasa Hataoka after shooting even-par on the day to finish the final round at -13.
Park parred No. 18 twice to continue through the extra holes. Her third extra-hole tee shot then missed the green, with her ball shooting into the water on the right after bouncing off nearby rocks. After another drive, Park’s ball settled on the fringe near the tournament hospitality tents. With Lopez and Hataoka parring their putts, Park picked her ball up as the first casualty of the season’s first playoff.
“I think just No. 18 got me yesterday and today. I didn't think that was that bad of a shot, but it just held a little bit at the end,” said Park, who went par-birdie-bogey-par on No. 18 during the event’s four rounds. “I mean, today's round itself, it was a little bit disappointing. I didn't hit many shots close or made a lot of putts. Yeah, if I shoot under par, I shoot one, but that's all.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Park was satisfied with her play after her first January start since 2016.
“This is only my first event back for 2020, and I have already played good golf this week,” said Park. “Just not great today, but it has been great for the last three days. I definitely feel a lot of confidence after playing this week. So I think it's going to be good.”
MI JUNG HUR JUMPS UP LEADERBOARD FOR TOP FOUR FINISH
Country musician and former Korn Ferry Tour player Colt Ford played alongside Mi Jung Hur in the final round of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, where she started the day in a tie for 11th. When Hur signed her scorecard, she had recorded 10 birdies and finished at -12 after shooting a 63. Ford said he had never seen a round of golf like that in his life.
“I just do my best, and I'm glad he's saying that, as I'm the first one who's playing really good golf in his life,” said Hur, blushing. “I hope I can show him more good golf for future.”
Hur last shot a 63 at the 2019 Indy Women in Tech Championship in the first round, where she eventually went on to secure her fifth career win. The score tied the 18-hole tournament record set by Danielle Kang this year in the first round. Hur said she loved the way she played and did not feel the pressure of having to win it all.
“Because I was out of the top ten after the third round, I wasn't thinking about leading,” said Hur. “I just wanted to do my best, and that's what I did today.”
CME GROUP CARES CHALLENGE – SCORE 1 FOR ST. JUDE
The CME Group Cares Challenge is a season-long charitable giving program that turns aces into donations. CME Group donated $20,000 for each hole-in-one made on the LPGA Tour in 2019, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $500,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
In Friday’s second round, Celine Boutier made the first hole-in-one of the 2020 LPGA Tour season, acing the 178-yard fifth hole with a 4-iron.
The 2019 LPGA Tour season saw 32 aces from 31 different players, for a total of $620,000 donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This more than covers the average cost of $425,000 needed to treat a pediatric cancer patient.