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Birdie spree powers Lopez

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Mexico’s Gaby Lopez birdied the last three holes for the second consecutive day to fire an
eight-under par 63 on Sunday and win the LPGA Dana Open by one stroke.

World No. 67 Lopez outdueled American Megan Khang down the stretch to finish 72 holes on 18-under 266 over a rain-softened Highland Meadows layout in Sylvania, Ohio.

The 28-year-old from Mexico City delivered a bogey-free final round for her third career LPGA title after winning at China’s Blue Bay in 2018 and taking the 2020 Tournament of Champions.

“I didn’t really bring an attitude,” Lopez said.

“It was more of creating a quiet space before hitting the golf ball and committing to that before every single ball.”

“It’s so easy to get ahead of yourself, especially coming down the stretch, but if you keep it in the present, that’s when magic happens.”

Khang was second, her best LPGA result, on 267 after a closing 64 with Germany’s Caroline Masson third on 268 and US teen Lucy Li, Chinese teen Yin Ruoning and American Sarah Schmelzel on 269.

Lopez, who began the round four strokes off the pace, sank a crucial 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th to finish ahead of Khang, with a scream and fist pump of delight after the feat.

“I knew I had to make it because Megan was going to make hers,” Lopez said.

“What I thought was I practiced exactly for this moment. I want to be here and I’m just going to take care of this putt.”

Lopez shook off short missed putts to birdie five of her last nine holes.

“Having that calmness and quiet space was exactly what we were working on. And it has paid off,” Lopez said.

“It just gets more simple if I do that, not overthinking. Not making more drama than it is.”

Khang had reeled off six birdies in a nine-hole span to grab the lead, a run that started at the third, fifth and par-3 sixth holes.

She added a three-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth, a 20-footer for birdie at the ninth and a 12-foot birdie putt at the 11th to reach 16-under and seize the lead alone.

Playing partner Lopez made a run of four birdies in eight holes from the third through 10th and sank another at 13 to move one off the lead.

Khang escaped a fairway bunker to par the 15th but Lopez had a tap-in birdie at the 16th to grab a share of the lead.

Lopez blasted out of a bunker at the par-5 17th to inches from the cup and tapped in for birdie, grabbing the lead alone after Khang lipped out on an eight-foot birdie putt.

Both blasted out of greenside bunkers at the par-5 18th, Khang setting up a tap in while Lopez left herself 15 feet over a ridge from the fringe and made the tricky putt.

Challengers remained in the last four groups but Li, who had 14 pars and a birdie at the par-3 sixth in the first 15 holes, made bogey at the 16th and Germany’s Caroline Masson couldn’t manage an albatross at 18.

Khang, who had matched her best prior LPGA finish by sharing third at Palos Verdes in April, was the first LPGA player of Laotian and Hmong descent, her parents coming to the United States in the 1970s after the Vietnam War.

Li, a 19-year-old prodigy of Chinese heritage, won twice on the US women’s developmental tour to secure a 2023 LPGA berth.

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