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October 8, 2020

Gaby Lopez

Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, USA

Aronimink Golf Club

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We're here with Gaby Lopez, who just shot a first-round 2-under 68, leader in the clubhouse so far at Aronimink. It was a chilly morning for you, I'm sure, but you've got to feel happy with how you played today. Tell us your thoughts as you leave the course.

GABY LOPEZ: Yeah, happy with the result, I guess the kind of changes in temperature so much on the first hole to the 18th hole. Waking up early is always a little bit of a -- I don't know, you've got to be prepared and you've got to plan a lot of time ahead, and just happy. Happy to be able to make some putts, hitting it close, giving myself birdie chances. I think that's key when the greens are so big, and just try to stay as patient as possible.

THE MODERATOR: You had birdies it looked like on 2, 3, 8, 11 and 17; any big stories there? Tell us about those birdies if you can.

GABY LOPEZ: Well, I hit it close probably three times. Hit it to under 15 feet. Made a couple good putts with good speed. Nothing very interesting. I was just telling my caddie how sometimes we got to play boring golf and hit it to the middle of the fairway, hit it to the middle of the green and give yourself a chance with good speed, and that's what we did today.

Q. There's nothing wrong with boring golf if it gets you to the top of the leaderboard, right?

GABY LOPEZ: I guess. Championship golf courses are designed to not have super low scores. I guess the biggest challenge is just being mentally prepared, patient, being calm. The wind got a little strong out there, so hitting it to the rice places, being smart. We'll see what tomorrow ends up and the rest of the week.

THE MODERATOR: It was this cold when you won the playoff at Diamond Resorts earlier this year. What felt colder, back in January or today?

GABY LOPEZ: Probably January. Actually this morning it wasn't as cold as I thought it was going to be, so we got lucky with that. But yeah, January was close to the 40s.

Q. It seemed a little up and down early with birdies and bogeys and then it got really steady. What seemed to change?

GABY LOPEZ: I guess just hitting it to the middle of the green. Sometimes I hit two funky shots that ended up being short-sided and that's where exactly you can't be, being able to -- even if you're going to miss, miss in the right section of the green. I think that's important.

I mean, other than that I think I was just maybe more conservative hitting it to smaller targets with such big greens and being specific with the iron shots that we were playing.

Q. A lot of folks were thinking the back nine is the tougher nine here. You played it very steady. What were your distances on the birdies?

GABY LOPEZ: On 17 we had like 180 to the hole and I hit 5-iron, hit it to 10 feet with a straight putt.

11, I hit pitching wedge to 10 feet again. Pretty straight putt again.

Q. Does Diamond Resorts sort of feel like it was like a decade ago?

GABY LOPEZ: Oh, Lord. I mean, it feels like last year already. But it's good that kind of those memories come back at some point, being able to, I don't know, hit solid shots when you have to. It's tough out there. It's windy. It's long. I think the more determined you are with your shots the better it is. Whether it falls in or not, if you stay patient, that's probably key out here.

Q. There was a lot of talk early in the week about how long this golf course was playing. How did it play today compared to practice rounds?

GABY LOPEZ: I mean, we thought that they were going to move it a little bit because they were extremely long holes, especially because it was drier at the beginning of the week. With the north wind being a little drier, that kind of changed a little bit. But it definitely helped just the shorter distance maybe on 10. They put it like maybe 15 up, and the wind wasn't into us, in our face. It was more crosswind. So I think those shots that just didn't play exactly into the wind, that they put it up maybe 10 yards, that was key.

1 played really long, especially at 7:00 in the morning.

Q. What did you have in on 1?

GABY LOPEZ: I had 190 to the pin and I hit 4-hybrid. I didn't hit it that well, so it kind of came back, so I still had like a 70-footer. But I mean, being able to still be on the green -- that rough is kind of thick. It's kind of funny to play around. I think just staying patient.

Q. How many holes did you have hybrid in or wood in?

GABY LOPEZ: To be honest, only one. Yeah, we drove it pretty good today. It was only 1 that I had hybrid and I had a couple 5-irons, especially on the par-3s. Maybe I could have hit hybrid on 13 -- is that a par-3? I think that is. I hit 5-iron. It wasn't the play, but still made two putts --

Q. 14.

GABY LOPEZ: Yeah, 14. Especially into the wind that's the biggest thing, being able to flight the ball as much as you can. The greens are so big, so no fear of an aggressive swing or committed swing towards the middle of the green.

Q. When you come out so early and win like you did right out of the gates and then we had this big break, did you feel you were robbed of some momentum, and what did you do with the long break?

GABY LOPEZ: Not really because I still had a lot to work on. After Orlando, I missed the cut the following week and I still felt that it was a good week. But I still missed a lot of shots, missed a lot of wedges, and I think just having the time for me was great. I needed to change a little bit my swing, shallowing a little bit more so it would be more stable because of my neck injury that I had in November of the past year. So I think it was a great time, especially just being able to be with my family.

Q. Can you just remind us about the neck injury, how you sustained it? And also you were the first player to test positive for COVID. Did you ever feel anything? Did you ever have any symptoms?

GABY LOPEZ: Right, in November of last year, I think it was just from playing so much. I played over 27 weeks. That for sure just got so much stress in my neck. I had to get a cortisone shot to kind of -- the inflammation, whatever, was in there. I went through a really tough process in my off-season. I was literally chunking the ball two out of the three weeks that I was playing, and I just took Diamond Resorts as a warmup. I was going to be mentally like, you know what, whatever happens.

I guess that's probably one of the nicest surprises that golf gives you. It's whenever you least expect it, whatever you're grateful with, the fact that I was healthy, that I was swinging the club again, to me that's the biggest blessing, being able to do that.

And yes, testing positive was really surprising after six months of taking care of myself. Last minute -- I tested negative the week before, Thursday, and that Monday. So it was a little disappointing, to be honest.

That got in my head probably in the first couple weeks, trying to make a comeback a little quicker without playing or practicing for two weeks. And like I said, I'm very strict with myself and sometimes I was pushing it too hard, and when it happened it's probably the biggest thing.

I did feel some symptoms. I had dry throat, and I was very tired for two days. But on the third day and the fourth day I thought I was like 100 percent and I could probably play the weekend. (Laughter.)

But yeah, I think it's a serious thing. We all have to take care of ourselves, but I think also as athletes we have a very strong immune system. I think I assume with just being on the road and exercising and working out, that helps a lot with just being strong internally. But yeah, I think it just -- I would recommend everyone to wear a mask. I would recommend everyone to social distance because you never know how your body is going to react at the end of the day, as much as you take care of yourself. Lots of things are out of control.

Q. Were you in pain when you won? And secondly, when all things are going well in your golf game, what do you see as your biggest strength?

GABY LOPEZ: I was not in pain, and that was -- the thought that I had during the week. I'm just happy to be here, happy to be here with no pain, and what was the second question?

Q. When all things are going well in your golf game, what do you see as your bigger strength?

GABY LOPEZ: Just determination, being able to talk to myself in the right moments where stress comes out, when you miss a shot, just being able to talk to myself slowly and being able to stay calm.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks so much, Gaby. Great first round.

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