MIAMI (AFP) — Nasa Hataoka and Gaby Lopez remained locked in battle for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tournament of Champions Sunday as darkness halted the playoff after five holes.
South Korean superstar Inbee Park, seeking a 20th career title, was eliminated at the third playoff hole when her tee shot at the difficult par-three 18th at Four Seasons Orlando bounced near the cup and into the water.
Unable to do better than bogey she bowed out as both Hataoka and Lopez made par — part of a run of five straight pars for each in the sudden-death decider, all at 18.
Mexico’s Lopez capped her final round with the only birdie of the weekend at 18, the last of five birdies in her five-under 66 for 13-under 271.
Japan’s Hataoka was the first in the clubhouse on 13-under, firing four birdies and one bogey in her three-under par 68.
Park had started the day with a two-shot lead, but that evaporated with bogeys at the second and third and two more birdies the rest of the way weren’t enough.
Park remains in search of her first victory since the Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona in March of 2018.
“Eighteen got me yesterday and today,” said Park, who bogeyed the hole on Friday.
“Today’s round itself was a little bit disappointing,” she added. “I didn’t hit many shots close or make a lot of putts.”
However, she said the week offered some encouraging signs as she tries to climb the world rankings and make the South Korean Olympic team, hoping for a chance to go to Tokyo and defend the gold medal she won at the 2016 Rio Games.
Lopez is seeking a second career title to go with the 2018 Blue Bay trophy she claimed in China, while Hataoka, who turned 21 last week, is in search of her fourth crown.
The light was already fading when they played the fourth playoff hole, where Hataoka putted from off the green to two feet on the way to par and Lopez two-putted.
With lights from the hospitality area trained at the hole, the players landed their tee shots on the green within feet of each other and both two-putted for par.
Fans were chanting “One more hole” as Lopez and Hataoka talked it over with a rules official and elected to return on Monday morning to decide things.