Vegas wins Bob Hope Classic in playoff

By Associated PressJanuary 24, 2011, 6:26 am

Bob Hope Classic

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Jhonattan Vegas’ path to the PGA Tour started in the remote reaches of Venezuela, where the toddler imitated his father’s golf swing with sticks and stones while growing up in an oil-drilling camp.

Maybe that’s why Vegas never gave up hope when he missed a 9-foot putt that could have won the Bob Hope Classic on the final regulation hole Sunday – or even when he put his playoff tee shot into the water moments later.

The 26-year-old rookie needed a wealth of patience and perseverance just to make it to Palm Springs from that camp in the Orinoco River valley.

And when Gary Woodland made a few mistakes of his own, the man they’re already calling Jhonny Vegas hit the biggest jackpot of his pioneering career.

Vegas made a 13-foot par putt on the second playoff hole to win the Hope Classic, holding off Woodland for his first PGA Tour victory in just his fifth start.

Vegas is the first Venezuelan to win a PGA Tour event, but his remarkably steady performance over 92 holes in the five-day event suggests he’s capable of winning again – and maybe even energizing an unpopular sport in his homeland.

“Just to think about winning on the PGA Tour, that’s something,” Vegas said. “But to make it happen is something else, and it’s a crazy feeling. It was tough today to stay neutral and play golf, and that’s why. To my country, I hope this means a lot. I really hope it means people changing (their minds) about the sport.”

Vegas improbably became the first rookie to win the 52-year-old tournament with a spectacular up-and-down par after knocking his 92nd tee shot into the water 160 yards from the hole.

With the light fading rapidly behind the San Jacinto Mountains, Vegas got help from two poor shots by Woodland, who also was seeking his first tour win. Woodland’s approach shot landed in a bunker, and his sand shot trickled to the opposite side of the green.

After his drop, Vegas confidently put a 9-iron right behind the pin. Woodland missed a par putt, and Vegas holed his $900,000 putt.

“Seemed like we were out there forever,” said Woodland, a former college basketball player from Kansas. “We were grinding all day. Jhonattan got off to a pretty good start, and I was just trying to catch him all day, so the playoff was no different. It was just sudden death, but who made the first mistake? And it looked like I did.”

Vegas and Woodland eliminated defending champion Bill Haas with birdies on the first playoff hole after all three finished the final round at 27-under 333. Vegas is the third straight player to get his first PGA Tour victory at the Hope, joining Pat Perez and Haas.

Vegas and Woodland closed with 3-under 69s and Haas shot a 66.

Playing one group apart, Haas and Vegas both missed short putts on the final regulation hole. A few minutes after Haas botched a 6-footer for birdie, Vegas couldn’t connect, making his only bogey of the final day. Woodland, who shared the lead with Vegas after each of the final three rounds, got into the playoff with a birdie on the final regulation hole.

Vegas cut a confident figure on the Palmer Private course, wearing a neon-peach shirt with starkly white pants and Nike hat. He was followed by his mother and his father, Carlos, who got his son into the game while selling food and tending a nine-hole course in that oil camp.

Vegas left home at 17, moving to Houston to study golf and English before playing at the University of Texas.

“Life for me hasn’t been always the best,” Vegas said. “I had to fight to get where I am. I’m a fighter, and if I set a goal in front of me, I’m just going to die just to get there, and fight hard to accomplish what I set out in my mind.”

Vegas’ victory should give a boost to his desire to revive the sport in his native country, where golf has been under criticism from President Hugo Chavez, who has closed six courses in the past seven years. Vegas has expressed a desire to speak with Chavez, hoping to change the president’s mind about the sport that Chavez has decried as a pastime of the rich.

“I hope they know about the story, and that it is possible to get to the PGA Tour and win,” Vegas said of his fellow Venezuelans. “I hope people realize that all over the world.”

The Masters will have a bit of Vegas flair this year – and not just from Jhonattan. His father wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“I know it’s a dream that my dad and my American friends have to go to the Masters, just to walk around,” Vegas said with a broad smile. “That’s what they told me. It’s like, ‘Before I die, just please get me to the Masters.”

Ryan Palmer shot an 8-under 64 in the final round to finish fourth at 26 under, while Brian Gay’s 10-under 62 shot him up from 37th place to a tie for fifth with Kevin Na (67) at 24 under.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm