Lopez finds name atop leaderboard in Rogers

By: Chip Souza
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018
Gaby Lopez plays her second shot during the first round of the NW Arkansas LPGA Championship, Friday, June 22, 2018 at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Gaby Lopez plays her second shot during the first round of the NW Arkansas LPGA Championship, Friday, June 22, 2018 at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

ROGERS -- Gaby Lopez has long played in the shadow of Stacy Lewis, first as collegians at Arkansas, and later as LPGA Tour members at the Northwest Arkansas Championship.

Lopez, in her third season on the LPGA Tour, has yet to win a tour event and has just a handful of top 10 finishes. Lewis, on the other hand, has more than a dozen wins, including two majors, and won this event in 2014.

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Today’s Tee Times

Tee 1

Time^Group

7:30 a.m.^Cydney Clanton, Jackie Stoelting, Ally McDonald

7:41 a.m.^Maude-Aimee Lablanc, Caroline Hedwall, Brittany Altomare

7:52 a.m.^Emily Pedersen, Jacqui Concolino, Ashleigh Buhai

8:03 a.m.^Brittany Marchand, Nicole Broch Larsen, Celine Boutier

8:14 a.m.^Lindy Duncan, Marina Alex, Paula Creamer

8:25 a.m.^Juli Inkster, Mi Hyang Lee, Megan Khan

8:36 a.m.^Hyo Joo Kim, Annie Park, Cristie Kerr

8:47 a.m.^Danielle Kang, Jennifer Song, Haru Nomura

8:58 a.m.^Julieta Granada, Mel Reid, Mi Jung Hur

9:09 a.m.^Ryann O’Toole, Wichanee Meechai, Tiffany Joh

9:20 a.m.^Hee Young Park, Thidapa Suwannapura, Emily Collins

9:31 a.m.^Pornanong Phatlum, Karine Icher, P.K. Kongkraphan

12:30 p.m.^Jessy Tang, Maria Torres, Dani Holmqvist

12:41 p.m.^Luna Sobron, Daniela Darquea, Natalie Gulbis

12:52 p.m.^Sydney Michaels, Camila Lennarth, Brianna Do

1:03 p.m.^Emma Talley^Kim Kaufman^Robynn Ree

1:14 p.m.^Mirim Lee, Yani Tseng, Katherine Kirk

1:25 p.m.^Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji, Jin Young Ko

1:36 p.m.^Angela Stanford, Pernilla Lindberg, Sarah Jane Smith

1:47 p.m.^Jenny Shin, Nelly Korda, Caroline Masson

1:58 p.m.^Katie Burnett, Rebecca Artis, Giulia Molinaro

2:09 p.m.^Lauren Coughlin, Cindy LaCrosse, Lee Lopez

2:20 p.m.^Lauren Kim, Amelia Lewis, Joanna Klatten

2:31 p.m.^Olafia Kristinsdottir, Anne-Catherine Tanguay, Jane Park

Tee 10

Time^Group

7:30 a.m.^Kassidy Teare, Daniela Iacobelli, Sun Young Yoo

7:41 a.m.^Joeng Eun Lee, Vicky Hurst, Perrine Delacour

7:52 a.m.^Amy Olson, Brittany Lang, Yu Liu

8:03 a.m.^Alena Sharp, Lee-Anne Pace, Mo Martin

8:14 a.m.^Nasa Hataoka, In-Kyung Kim, Austin Ernst

8:25 a.m.^Carlota Ciganda, Sung Hyun Park, Catriona Matthew

8:36 a.m.^Ariya Jutanugarn, Minjee Lee, Anna Nordqvist

8:47 a.m.^So Yeon Ryu, Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson

8:58 a.m.^Mariah Stackhouse, Sandra Gal, Beatriz Recari

9:09 a.m.^Maria Fassi (a), Jaye Marie Green, Madelene Sagstrom

9:20 a.m.^Gaby Lopez, Christina Kim, Morgan Pressel

9:31 a.m. ^Dylan Kim (a), Mariajo Uribe, Cheyenne Woods

12:30 p.m.^Peiyun Chien, Bronte Law, Aditi Ashok

12:41 .m.^Laetitia Beck, Kelly Shon, Gemma Dryburgh

12:52 p.m.^Chella Choi, Tiffany Chan, Alison Lee

1:03 p.m.^Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Benyapa Niphatsophon, Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong

1:14 p.m.^Wei-Ling Hsu, Su Oh, Amy Yang

1:25 p.m.^Inbee Park, Charley Hull, Azahara Munoz

1:36 p.m.^Lydia Ko, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lincicome

1:47 p.m.^Stacy Lewis, Moriya Juntanugarn, Shanshan Feng

1:58 p.m.^Celine Herbin, Hannah Green, Jing Yan

2:09 p.m.^Paula Reto, Sandra Changkija, Ayako Uehara

2:20 p.m.^Kris Tamulis, Pannarat Thanapolbooyaras

2:31 p.m.^Erynne Lee, Haeji Kang, Leticia Ras-Anderica

Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

At Pinnacle Country Club, Rogers

The Leaderboard

Gaby Lopez^63 (-8)

Moriya Jutanugarn^64 (-7)

Lizette Salas^64 (-7)

Mirim Lee^64 (-7)

Aditi Ashok^64 (-7)

Nasa Hataoka^64 (-7)

Catriona Matthew^64 (-7)

Six tied at 6-under

Today’s Highlights

Perrine Delacour sent the crowd at No. 17 into a frenzy when she aced the par 3, 150-yard “loudest hole on the LPGA Tour.” Delacour, in her fifth year on the tour, shot a three-under 68 on Friday. Her ace also earned her a year’s supply of Gatorade.

Today’s Lowlights

No. 12 was brutal for several golfers on Friday. The par four dogleg right saw five double-bogeys and three triple-bogeys. By comparison, No. 18 saw three eagles on Friday.

The Lingo

“(Hole) 17 was definitely the highlight of the day, making birdie there. You see people following you all day, and little kids. I’ve learned to embrace it and learned how to have a little bit more fun with it and not see it as so much pressure.”

— Stacy Lewis

On Friday, it was Lopez, 24, who stood in the spotlight, firing a career-low eight-under 63 to grab the first-round lead at the Northwest Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club.

"I feel at home here, I feel so, so comfortable here," said Lopez, who also admitted she'd like to steal some of Lewis' local thunder. "I feel that every single person out here is rooting for us. But we have so much in common; I just think that brings a unity."

Lopez, whose best finish this season is a tie for 10th at the Volvik Championship, opened Friday's round with back-to-back birdies on No. 1 and No. 2 and played a bogey-free round.

"That helped my confidence a lot, that momentum, just good feelings and good sensation," she said of the fast start. "It's just confidence, even if one shot didn't go the way you want it doesn't mean the next one will be the same."

Lopez scorched the front nine with a 6-under 30, then birdied the par-3 No. 11 to go to seven-under, sharing top billing on the crowded leaderboard with a host of others.

At the par-5 14th, she made a long birdie putt and gave an emphatic fist-pump as a new name moved atop the chart at 8 under, and she held it the rest of the way, escaping trouble on No. 18 when her tee shot sailed far right and her ball came to rest at the base of a large oak tree. She chipped out to the fairway then knocked her third shot within 12 feet of the pin. She two-putted for par to end her career-best round.

There were 26 players who shot under par on Friday in near-perfect conditions with temperatures in the low 80s and virtually no wind. A mid-week rain also made the course softer, all factors that contributed to a crowded leaderboard heading into the weekend.

"The course is in great shape," Lopez said. "Today was perfect. I guess maybe the pin positions will be harder the next two days, but at the same time I'll just stick to the process, just keep doing what I'm doing."

Coming into this week's event, Lopez had failed to make the cut in her last two starts after the solid performance at the Volvik. She did not play at the Meijer LPGA Classic last week, instead spending the week with her family in Mexico City.

"No one truly understands until you're out here. Playing four weeks in a row can sound easy, but it's not," Lopez said. "Especially when you travel all the time. I love being at home. I'm a home girl; I like to spend time with my family and my coach back in Mexico. It was a new feeling this week, a new start."

Lopez said she took a few days off to take her mind off of golf, then spent time with her coach Horacio Morales working on things like grip pressure and ball position. That time off has Lopez recharged and in position to put her name in the winner's circle.

She'll have to hold off a crowded field that has seven players just one shot back including Moriya Jutanugarn, the No. 8 player in the Rolex Rankings. Jutanugarn has enjoyed success at this event in recent years, finishing second last year to So Yeon Ryu.

"I hit the ball very solid and made putts today," Jutanugarn said. "I like everything here. The course is nice. I don't know, I guess it just fits my eyes better."

Six golfers finished Friday's round at 6-under, and another 15 came in a 5-under including Lewis and another former winner of this event, Lydia Ko.

Weather could be a factor today as the forecast is calling for thunderstorms throughout the day with more rain also forecast for Sunday morning.

Lizette Salas, who also finished at 7-under Friday, said getting off to a fast start against the chance of rain was crucial.

"With the forecast coming in, I knew I had to take advantage of the weather and to go as deep as I can," she said. "I've been striking the ball well, and my putting's been coming along, so I felt good coming in, and it definitely showed."

photo

Gaby Lopez (Arkansas Razorbacks) shot an 8-under 63 to lead the Northwest Arkansas LPGA Championship by one stroke over seven... + Enlarge

Sports on 06/23/2018

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