Mexican Gaby Lopez has installed herself in the top part of the leaderboard of the 2022 AIG Women’s British Open at Muirfield, after two first rounds of 67 and 73, an up-and-down couple of days that still put her right into the mix heading into the weekend and allowing Mexican golf fans to dream about a second major in Scotland after Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa’s victory in St Andrews in 2007.
“We hit beautiful shots with side winds and into the wind, that’s exactly what I have been working on for the past couple of weeks. Being able to finally get that work to pay off is kind of nice,” said Lopez, with a chance to clearly improve her best finish in her five previous British Opens, a T29 in Carnoustie in 2021.
For 28-year-old Lopez, the key to her good performance this week is a combination of hard work and mental attitude. “These conditions bring more focus to the game and every single shot. You’ve got to take your medicine and you’ve got to accept that, in links golf, sometimes is about a little bit of luck,” she said.
Some of that medicine was tough to swallow on Friday. With a morning breeze that was much cooler and stiffer than earlier in the week, Lopez had four bogeys and one birdie on the back nine of her second round, including a dropped shot at the par-5 17th.
“It's one of those days that whenever you aren’t in sync or don’t have the perfect tempo, the wind can take the ball everywhere,” Lopez said. “I made a couple bad swings. I was able to get up-and-down a couple times, but overall I just feel that probably didn't swing it as good as yesterday but happy with the overall result -- able to stay up there and keep fighting.”
Those last two words – keep fighting – sums up the attitude that has made Lopez a fan favorite and the hope of a nation in women’s golf.
“I feel that I’ve found myself falling into different struggles and up-and-downs during my career. This year has been just a learning curve of what actually works,” said Lopez, who finished T40 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and T21 at the Amundi Evian Championships, the last two majors in 2022.
Her second round at Muirfield, with three bridies and five bogeys, demonstrated Lopez’s ability to adapt and embrace the conditions. “Even if it’s blowing and cold, it’s going to be tough for everyone and we just have to be ok with that,” she said about her attitude in the links.
“You’ve just got to be able to kind of go back to your breathing and be able to control what you can control, which is every step you take, how fast you walk to the ball and being able to take control of the little things,” explained Lopez. “All of the sudden, you can also control the golf ball”.
Beyond the results, Gaby Lopez is very satisfied by the fact that she is “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” As she said: “There were times this year when I tried to swim hard against the current. Sometimes you have to accept where you are and go back to the things that work for you. The only way to get out of tough periods is to work hard.”
“I am blessed to have the support of my family, my caddie, my coach, and Lorena,” said Lopez. “My caddie, Lorena and I have a chat and she is always cheering and giving advice. When I am in Mexico, I always try to see her and play with her. The opinion of such a great player is very important to me and she knows me well,” said Lopez about the energy and the advice she gets from Lorena Ochoa.
“Because everything is very different in the wind, you just have to have a picture in your head of how the golf hole looks and just try to make a decision every day, on every hole, it’s very different. And putting is a very unique experience,” explained Lorena Ochoa in 2007 as she prepared to win the first major for Mexican golf in the Scottish links.
And Gaby Lopez is taking that advice to heart this week in Muirfield: “Sometimes when you make a little twitch to the club, to your swing or to our routine, all of a sudden you feel like a different putter or a different player.”