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Venezuelan rookie earns first PGA victory

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Jhonattan Vegas made a 13-foot par putt on the second playoff hole to win the Bob Hope Classic on Sunday, holding off Gary Woodland for his first PGA Tour victory.

The first Venezuelan to win a PGA Tour event, the rookie won in his fifth tour start despite hitting his tee shot in the water on the 92nd hole of the five-day tournament. Vegas capitalized when Woodland made two poor chip shots, pumping his fist in celebration after his putt fell.

"It's a dream come true," said Vegas, 26. "It's something you dream about, but you have to make it happen."

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' victory should boost his desire to revive the sport at home, where it's largely unpopular and criticized by President Hugo Chavez. Vegas left home at 17, moving to Houston to study golf and English before playing at the University of Texas.

"I hope they know about the story, and that it is possible to get to the PGA Tour and win," Vegas said. "I hope people realize that all over the world."

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 failed to connect from 9 feet, making his only bogey of the final day.

Vegas and Woodland closed with 3-under 69s and Haas shot 66. Ryan Palmer (64) was fourth at 26 under.

Woodland and Vegas shared the lead after each of the final three rounds.

EUROPEAN: Martin Kaymer overtook Tiger Woods for the No. 2 ranking in the world, winning the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship by eight shots after shooting 6-under 66. Kaymer held a five-shot lead going into the day and had no problem securing his third win in four years in Abu Dhabi, finishing at 24-under 264. It was the biggest winning margin and lowest total score in tournament history.

CHAMPIONS: John Cook birdied five straight holes after the turn to win the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii, shooting a second straight 8-under 64 for a two-stroke victory over Tom Lehman. Cook, 53, had eight birdies in his bogey-free round for a 22-under 194 total. He finished last season with a successful title defense in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Venezuelan rookie earns first PGA victory 01/23/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 10:18pm]
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