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    Having already battled for five extra holes into darkness without producing a champion a day earlier, Gaby Lopez and Nasa Hataoka showed up to work at 8 a.m., just like regular folks. The early wake-up call and extra golf was worth it for Lopez, who rolled in a 30-foot putt for birdie to prevail on the seventh playoff hole Monday and capture the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. It was the second LPGA title for Lopez, who 14 months ago became only the second player from Mexico to win on tour, joining World Golf Hall of Fame member Lorena Ochoa. She earned $180,000 for the victory. The elite field featured 26 LPGA tournament champions who had won tournaments in the last two seasons. This was the LPGA’s fourth-longest playoff. The longest was 10 holes at the 1972 Corpus Christi Civitan Open, where Jo Ann Prentice beat Hall of Famers Sandra Palmer and Kathy Whitworth. Lopez and Hataoka wound up playing the difficult 197-yard 18th hole at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando eight times over two days, with two birdies from Lopez the difference. Lopez birdied from 18 feet on her final hole of regulation Sunday to earn a spot in a playoff alongside Hataoka and Inbee Park, who was eliminated on the third playoff hole. Hataoka, who had made a deft up-and-down from 30 yards for par to extend the playoff to a seventh hole as play resumed Monday, had the edge on the final hole after hitting a 4-hybrid that rode a slope along the right side of the green and curled to 12 feet from the hole. But Lopez, whose ball barely made the putting surface, went first, her putt up the hill slowing and tumbling into the cup on its last rotation. Hataoka, ranked sixth in the world, made a poor stroke, pulling her birdie attempt left. After a week of warm Florida weather, temperatures in the mid-40s greeted the women Monday and morning shadows covered the green as they returned to the 18th. The par 3 is long and tough, with a deep bunker in front and rocks and water guarding the left side of the green. Players require hybrids and fairway metals to reach the green. There were only six birdies total made on the hole all week; Lopez owned three of them. Hataoka had enjoyed her week playing alongside athletes and celebrities — the 49-player celebrity division was won by pitcher and Hall of Famer John Smoltz. But the pressure amped up once the playoff began. “Being a celebrity pro-am, I thought I was going to just enjoy it and have fun. But then being able to be in the final and do the playoff, that was a really good experience, and I think this would help me in the future,” said Hataoka, whose 2020 goals include a No. 1 ranking and an Olympic gold medal in her home country of Japan this summer. “When the tournaments start to get harder and harder, it will be a good lesson for me.” Lopez charged into contention with a 5-under 66 Sunday, and played with confidence in the playoff. She entered the week ranked 56th but now has momentum to start her fifth LPGA season. In her first LPGA victory, the 2018 Blue Bay LPGA Championship in China, she had the lead and was grouped with the world's top two players at the time, Ariya Jutanugarn and Sun Hyun Park. This time, victory took a different route. “I proved to myself that I can win in any situation,” Lopez said. “My first win was in the lead. My second win was coming from behind. And being able to put all those moments together and recall them while I’m walking on the fairway here and try to stay patient. That’s what I proved to myself the most, my ability to stay in the moment.” Park, seeking her 20th LPGA victory, was ousted on the playoff’s third hole when her tee shot hit off rocks along the left of the green and bounded into water. Park, Lopez and Hataoka finished 72 holes at 13-under 271. The victory qualifies Lopez for the 2021 Tournament of Champions. She was asked if she were relieved she wouldn't have to see Tranquilo's well-worn 18th hole for another year. “Not really. I mean, I do have a feeling for this hole,” Lopez said. “I like it. It was a perfect number for me yesterday, to be honest.”
  • An 87-year-old Florida man died after he drove onto the railroad tracks and was hit head-on by a freight train around 1:15 a.m. Monday, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The driver turned onto the tracks and was driving south in Volusia County when the northbound train struck the truck, Lt. Kim Montes said in an email. She said the train was unable to stop in time to avoid the truck. The driver died at the scene, she said. The two occupants on the train were not injured. Troopers are continuing to investigate the crash. The man's name has not been released, pending notification of relatives. He lived in DeLand.
  • A pair of spacewalking astronauts tackled one last round of battery improvements outside the International Space Station on Monday. NASA's Jessica Meir and Christina Koch floated out to finish the work they began last week. The women had one more new battery to install in the station's solar power grid, and two old batteries to remove. “To our astro-sisters, we wish you the best of luck on this,” astronaut Andrew Morgan radioed from inside as the spacewalk began. This marked the women's third spacewalk together. They conducted the world's first all-female spacewalk last fall. NASA gradually has been replacing the space station's 48 aging, original-style nickel-hydrogen batteries with new and more powerful lithium-ion batteries. Only half as many of the new batteries are needed. So far, 17 new batteries have been installed over the past three years and 34 old ones removed. Another batch of six new batteries will be launched to the orbiting lab this spring to complete the power upgrade. The old batteries, meanwhile, will be discarded in a supply ship. These oversized, boxy batteries keep all the space station's systems running when the outpost is on the night side of Earth, drawing power from the sprawling solar wings. They're not easy to handle: Each is about a yard, or a meter, tall and wide, with a mass of about 400 pounds (180 kilograms.) During last Wednesday's spacewalk, Koch had to make do without her helmet lights and camera; they wouldn't stay attached to her helmet. She later discovered a faulty latch, which she replaced before floating out Monday. Two other astronauts will go out Saturday to complete repairs to a cosmic ray detector on the space station. The science instrument's cooling system had to be replaced, an intricate job requiring four spacewalks. Koch holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. Her 11-month mission ends in just over two weeks. Meir has another few months left on board. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The bodies of a man and a woman were found Sunday afternoon in a smoke-filled in South Florida, fire officials said. Lauderhill Fire Rescue crews received a call around 3:30 p.m. When firefighters arrived, they found smoke but no fire. They saw one person who appeared to be passed out so they forced their way into the home. They found a pot that had been left on the stove, which caused the smoke, the South Florida SunSentinel reported. Firefighters then found the second body. The identities of the victims have not been released. No additional details were available. Lauderhill is near Fort Lauderdale.
  • Sacramento Kings (15-27, 14th in the Western Conference) vs. Miami Heat (29-13, second in the Eastern Conference) Miami; Monday, 5 p.m. EST BOTTOM LINE: Sacramento comes into the matchup against Miami after losing four games in a row. The Heat have gone 18-1 at home. Miami is second in the league shooting 37.6 percent from deep led by Meyers Leonard shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. The Kings have gone 7-14 away from home. Sacramento is 5-13 when turning the ball over more than opponents and averages 15.2 turnovers per game. The teams face off Monday for the first time this season. TOP PERFORMERS: Jimmy Butler is averaging 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Heat. Bam Adebayo has averaged 17.4 points and 4.8 assists over the last 10 games for Miami. Buddy Hield leads the Kings averaging 3.6 made 3-pointers while scoring 20.1 points per game and shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. Nemanja Bjelica is shooting 53.6 percent and has averaged 14.9 points over the last 10 games for Sacramento. LAST 10 GAMES: Heat: 5-5, averaging 107.5 points, 45 rebounds, 24.4 assists, 5.4 steals and 3.4 blocks per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the field. Their opponents have averaged 107.9 points on 44.7 percent shooting. Kings: 3-7, averaging 111.2 points, 42.1 rebounds, 24.2 assists, 7.1 steals and 3.4 blocks per game while shooting 47.8 percent from the field. Their opponents have averaged 115.7 points on 46.7 percent shooting. INJURIES: Heat: Justise Winslow: out (back). Kings: Richaun Holmes: out (shoulder), Marvin Bagley III: day to day (foot). ___ The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar.
  • Burmese pythons are the bad guys of the Everglades — devouring entire populations of small mammals, raiding wading bird nests and disrupting the natural balance of predator and prey. The invasive snakes are an environmental disaster and state and federal wildlife managers have put a bounty on their heads, and enlisted teams of hunters to track them down and take them out. But there are about 50 pythons that scientists actually want slithering around out there — specially equipped snakes that help researchers figure out the habits and patterns of the elusive exotic constrictors. To protect these valuable snakes from South Florida’s python posse, they are getting fitted with a bit of bling. Scientists have begun fitting fluorescent orange tags and adding three-digit scale marks to protect so-called “Judas snakes” -- pythons equipped with tracking devices that can help researchers devise control techniques or pinpoint prime breeding areas in nearly inaccessible swamps. Those snakes represent a considerable investment, as much as 11 grand each in time and tracking missions. “Our research pythons are extremely valuable animals because they allow us to collect data on behavior, range, hormone cycles, habitat use, and all kinds of useful information,” said Jill Josimovich, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist leading a python tracking study at Everglades National Park. “That’s why we want to make it easy for people to identify them.” With more hunters on the prowl for pythons than ever, Josimovich and her colleagues at the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Conservancy of Southwest Florida are hoping to mark every study reptile currently participating in research and new recruits. So far, about 40 snakes have been marked or tagged, but new VIPs (very important pythons) are constantly being captured and released. USGS also produced a flier to tell hunters what to do if they find a study snake: “If you spot a python that has any fluorescent orange tags or three-digit scale marks on its side, congratulations, you’ve just discovered a very valuable research animal that is helping us save the Everglades!” That value is measured in data and dollars. In a 2016 study with 25 radio-tracked Judas pythons led by the University of Florida, scientists collected information to track movements, determine habitat preferences and count the number of “betrayal” events -- when a Judas snake led researchers to other snakes during the December to April breeding season from 2007 until 2012. The cost, which included airplane telemetry flights at $8,403 and helicopter flights at $13,906, came out to $11,029 per python. Josimovich said two different kinds of tags are being tested. They are inserted with an applicator pistol that doesn’t harm the animals. The other technique that uses scale marks as IDs is similar to freeze-branding, which destroys the cells that produce pigment on the snake’s skin, leaving bright white marks. The Judas snakes are important tools because pythons are incredibly hard to spot in the wild. “Some studies concluded that if you are out on foot looking for pythons you have a 1 percent chance or less of detecting one,” Josimovich said. She is currently working on implanting female hormones on male snakes so that their feminized scent will hopefully attract many males. Since settling in the Everglades’ marshes and tree islands in 2000, the python has become the face of South Florida’s losing battle against invasive species. In 2017, two state-funded programs run by the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began paying hunters to catch pythons -- the bigger the snake, the more money -- with bonuses for egg-bearing females. The district last year doubled the number of python removal agents to 50, adding to FWC’s python removal contractors. Another hunting effort, the Python Challenge, used to happen every three years but will now take place annually. This year, wildlife managers are tapping the hype surrounding the Super Bowl in Miami to launch the 2020 Python Bowl, a competitive hunt with cash prizes. More than 400 people have signed up for the competitive hunt that runs from January 10-19. With so many hunters -- professional and amateurs -- on the prowl in the Everglades, protecting the few good pythons has taken on some urgency. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s python research and removal project, which started in 2013 in Collier County, currently works with 30 male “sentinels” to help locate female pythons in very hard to reach areas. It has tracked more than 60 snakes since the start of the project. “We are still tracking our first snake, Elvis, almost 7 years later. He is the longest continuously tracked Burmese python on the planet,” said Ian Bartoszek, environmental science project manager at the organization. “Tracking tagged pythons has given us a unique insight into their life history and helped us identify breeding hotspots in our region.”
  • For generations, members of three families who are intertwined by marriage have gone to their final rest at the Tuten-Bell-Moody Cemetery in Jasper. One of them, though, never got the chance. James Tuten Bell, part of what then was a well-to-do plantation family, may have been visiting Tampa when he died here Aug. 22, 1942. He was laid to rest in a pauper’s burial ground owned by the city, Ridgewood Cemetery. Ridgewood disappeared from public view through the years and the property became the southeast corner of the King High School campus, opened in 1960 at 6815 N. 56th St. Tuten Bell was forgotten, too, until the cemetery was rediscovered in November and ground penetrating radar detected 145 caskets. Death certificates show some 250 people were buried there, most of them African Americans. The Tampa Bay Times combed through news archives and published brief profiles of 14 of them, including Tuten Bell — a white man. The story made its way to his descendants. Now, they have a request: They want to find Tuten Bell and bring him back. “I would like to see him buried with other family members,” said Niki Tuten Maxwell, whose family is the first to come forward among descendants of those buried at Ridgewood. Maxwell, 40, never knew the man who was her cousin three times removed and has yet to find a relative who did. They now live all across the country. Still, said Maxwell, a genealogist who lives near Twin Falls, Idaho, “He’s family.” The descendants’ request is 'possible, but very difficult,” said Jeff Moates, regional director for the Florida Public Archaeology Network. Lists of those buried at Ridgewood, found recently in city files, assign a number to each grave — indicating there may be a searchable map somewhere. “If that detailed map exists and can be found, we might know who is buried where,” Moates said. “But where is it?” No map could be found in city files or in those kept by the Hillsborough County Clerk’s Office. If the remains can’t be relocated, Maxwell said, she’s open to another option: “Place a marker at the cemetery site listing who is buried there.' If the bodies remain, Moates said, Florida law requires that “verified descendants” be provided “reasonable access to the cemetery.' It is up to the property owner and the descendants to define “reasonable,' Moates said. “I think if a relative wanted to visit every day, that would be unreasonable. But one Saturday a week or month might be reasonable.” The Hillsborough County School District is awaiting input from the state of Florida before making a decision about the future of the cemetery property, said district spokeswoman Tanya Arja. Steve Tuten, 60 and of Clearwater, read the profile in the Times of those buried at Ridgewood and shared it with Maxwell, his cousin. “I was surprised,” said Tuten, whose father’s name was James Tuten, because he had never heard of this James Tuten Bell. “Shouldn’t this guy be in our family graveyard?” he asked Maxwell. 'Is he related to us?” He is, Maxwell confirmed. 'We are connected through William Tuten, who came from England and settled in South Carolina,” possibly as early as the colonial period, she said. William Tuten became a wealthy plantation owner whose descendants spread to Florida and married into the Bell and Moody families, creating the Tuten-Bell-Moody bloodline. “They were social equals, so several members of the families married several members of the other,” Maxwell said. “The families would only marry social equals.” In 1824, the Bells became the first white settlers in the Jasper area, between Tallahassee and Jacksonville near the Georgia state line. The cemetery is there because Jasper became the family hub. James Tuten Bell was born in 1894 in Jasper, where he and three siblings were raised by parents John and Addie Bell, Maxwell said. It was common for parents to give children a number of last names to honor their bloodlines, Maxwell said. By 1917, Tuten Bell was married and employed as a barber in nearby Georgia. “That seems to indicate that he went his own way,” Maxwell said. “He left Jasper and north Florida where most of the Tuten Bells had settled to get his own identity.” The genealogy trail ends there, for now, she added. “We don’t know why he came to Tampa the week he died.” The Tampa Tribune reported that Tuten Bell was a Jacksonville man and “fell dead” while standing on a corner along Franklin Street. His death certificate, on the other hand, says he was a resident of Tampa. Both list his age wrong, with Tribune saying he was about 65 and the death certificate about 42. He was 48. Maxwell can only speculate how Tuten Bell ended up in a pauper’s cemetery. Perhaps no wanted to claim him. Perhaps it was difficult for authorities in Tampa to locate next of kin. The death certificate also says Tuten Bell was single and says his place of birth and the names of his parents are unknown. The undertaker is listed on the document as the “informant,” the title given to whoever fills out personal information about the deceased. Usually, the informant is a relative or close friend. The tip about forgotten Ridgewood Cemetery came from cemetery researcher Ray Reed. Maxwell said the family was pleased to see the school district act on it — and for a forgotten ancestor to come to light. “Now, he can at least be remembered,” Maxwell said. “That’s what we want.”
  • The nation is marking the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with tributes Monday recalling his past struggles for racial equality, observing the federal holiday named for him against the backdrop of a presidential election year. In an early tribute to King, Vice President Mike Pence spoke Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee, at a church service in which he recalled the challenges and accomplishments of the slain civil rights leader. Before the service, Pence toured the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where King was fatally shot on April 4, 1968, while standing on a balcony. “I’m here to pay a debt of honor and respect to a man who from walking the dirt roads of the Deep South, to speaking to hundreds of thousands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, touched the hearts of the American people and led the civil rights movement to triumph over Jim Crow,' Pence said Sunday at the Holy City Church of God in Christ. Pence spoke about King’s religion and how he “challenged the conscience of a nation to live up to our highest ideals by speaking to our common foundation of faith.' Acknowledging the nation’s divisions, Pence said that if Americans rededicate themselves to the ideals that King advanced while striving to open opportunities for everyone, “we’ll see our way through these divided times and we’ll do our part in our time to form a more perfect union.” As a presidential election looms this fall, divisions rankle, according to recent opinion polls. Among black Americans, more than 80% said last year that President Donald Trump’s actions in office have made things worse for people like them, while only 4% said they thought Trump's actions have been good for African Americans in general. That's according to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The same poll found about two-thirds of Americans overall disapproves of how Trump handles race relations. Trump is seeking to woo black voters, knowing he is unlikely to win them over en masse but hoping for more black support in critical swing states later this year. His campaign has stepped up outreach efforts, including to African Americans and Latinos, marking a departure from 2016 when Trump's volunteer “National Diversity Coalition” struggled to make an impact. The campaign already has spent more than $1 million on black outreach, including radio, print and online advertising in dozens of markets, the campaign has said. In King's hometown of Atlanta, Monday's commemorations could draw attention to the continuing leadership role of the clergy in African American thought and politics. The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, will be the keynote speaker at a service Monday at organized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. It will be held in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which King and his father both led. Wesley has argued that Christ should be remembered as a political radical and that Christians should challenge injustices of the established political and social order. King's economic and antiwar activism can sometimes be bleached out of celebrations of the holiday, he has said. Wesley has been on sabbatical in recent months from the pulpit at his church, which has grown rapidly under his leadership. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican appointed earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp, planned to attend the Ebenezer Baptist Church event. Ebenezer Baptist is now pastored by the Rev. Raphael Warnock, one of several Democrats who could challenge Loeffler in a November special election. Monday's planned gathering is one of a series of events honoring King's legacy, including a Saturday night gala in Atlanta hosted by the King Center and a series of service projects organized by community groups. ___ Associated Press writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
  • Democratic presidential contenders celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and his legacy with parishioners at a Baptist church, where Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren engaged in the handshake that didn't happen in the frosty aftermath of the last debate. “This is THE handshake,” presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard said as Sanders and Warren reached across her to shake hands in the front row of Zion Baptist Church. They and rival Amy Klobuchar attended the service before they were expected to join Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and other contenders in a crowd of tens of thousands marching to the Statehouse. In last week's debate, Warren and Sanders clashed in an exchange over what was said during a private conversation about a woman's chances of becoming president. Sanders extended his hand afterward, and Warren pulled back. Now, in the closing days before the first votes are cast in the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, the party's leading hopefuls are splitting their time between the critical early-voting states of South Carolina and Iowa at events celebrating King. While Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats vote first for their nominee, South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary is a crucial proving ground for a candidate's mettle with black voters. The state's showcase holiday celebration, Columbia's King Day at the Dome, is a notable event for Democratic politicians. Sanders spokesman Michael Wukela said the King event in South Carolina was about “respect pure and simple,” noting that racial inequality in areas including criminal justice and poverty highlights the relevance of commemorating a civil rights icon here. “If you can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with people who face these challenges every day yet still manage to embrace a vision of hope and grace, then you don’t deserve their respect, much less their vote,” he said. King Day at the Dome began in 2000 as a reaction to state lawmakers' decision that year to keep the Confederate battle flag flying from the Statehouse's copper-covered cupola, a place of prominence that drew opposition. Tens of thousands of people marched through Columbia’s downtown from the prayer service to the Statehouse. Lawmakers eventually agreed to a compromise that moved the flag to a flagpole, albeit one prominently situated in front of the building. The deal also recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the state and created Confederate Memorial Day. In 2015, following the racist massacre of nine Bible study participants at a historic black church in Charleston, lawmakers voted to remove the flag from the grounds. In years past many Democratic presidential hopefuls have made their way to the north-facing facade of the Statehouse, including John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Last year, Sanders and Sen. Cory Booker, who has dropped out of the 2020 race, attended. Many of the candidates in the wide field planned to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday for the Brown and Black Forum, recognized as one of the nation's oldest minority-focused presidential candidate events of its kind. Traditionally a debate, the event in recent years has been more of a one-on-one candidate forum. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is not competing in the early-voting states but has put some of his multimillion-dollar ad spending there — plans to join a King Day parade in Little Rock, Arkansas. Tech businessman Andrew Yang is in the midst of a 17-day bus tour of Iowa and plans to remain there. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”