For the past four weeks, Gaby Lopez has been battling a back/neck injury by following the hardest doctor’s advice a golfer can get — stay off the course. But, after a month of rehab, a lot of rest and a slower-than-desired return to the game, Lopez performed like she never left.
In her first round at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards, Lopez soundly defeated Chella Choi, 6 and 5, taking the lead on hole one and never relinquishing it.
“Sometimes just taking some time off kind of fixes everything,” Lopez said. “Being able to rest, being able to sleep better and just take care of myself, other than golf first. Sometimes we don't take that time and I've learned through seven seasons that it's as important as practicing your putting.”
Returning to the green was the last part of Lopez’s recovery, as putting can strain the neck. With more time to practice with her woods and irons, Shadow Creek is the perfect course for Lopez to make her return. Featuring three par-5s on the front nine — the par-5 18th hole has been converted to the tournament's ninth hole, guaranteeing that every match sees the course’s signature hole — eagle opportunities, and excitement, are guaranteed.
“This setup is actually even better for us because we all want to play 9, which is originally 18, because it's such a fun par-5,” Lopez said “We see a lot of par-5s on the PGA Tour, and they have an iron shot into the par-5, and we barely have that. Being able to attack those par-5s with an iron shot and being able to present the spectators and TV some eagles, it just shows how good (the women) are as well.”
On Thursday, Lopez faces Cheyenne Knight, who defeated Gemma Dryburgh, 2 and 1, in Round 1. With an early finish Wednesday, Lopez is prepared to bring her A-game to Round 2, knowing, “There is no small competitor out here.”