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Venezuelan rookie shares lead at Hope

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Jhonattan Vegas shot 5-under 67 Thursday for a share of the second-round lead at the Bob Hope Classic.

Boo Weekley shot 66 to match the Venezuelan rookie at 13-under 131 in the five-round event on four courses. Charles Howell 66) and Chris Couch (65) were one back. First-round leader Derek Lamely (73) was five back a day after shooting 63.

"It's good to be hitting the ball well and putting well, especially on a course like these where you've always got a lot of birdie opportunities," said Vegas, 26, seventh in money on the Nationwide Tour last year.

Although many pros still don't know him, others already call him "Jhonny Vegas." As for the spelling of his name, Vegas said he isn't sure why his parents did it.

"I'm happy they did it that way because it's something different," Vegas said. "You only see one Jhonattan spelled that way. So once you see it, you know that it's me."

Vegas 26, moved to the United States in 2002, spending nearly two years improving his English enough to attend the University of Texas. Last year, he became the first Venezuelan to earn a card.

Golf is viewed with a raised eyebrow in Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez calls it a pastime of the rich.

"I'd love the chance to tell people about golf in Venezuela," said Vegas, who made the cut at last week's Sony Open but didn't play Sunday due to the weather-shortened field. "I really hope to sit down with (Chavez) and talk to him and tell him it's not that way."

The Hope typically is dominated by low scores, and both leaders said they won't be surprised if the winner finishes at 30 under.

"We've played two of the easier courses, me and Mr. Vegas, so it just all depends on what can happen (today)," Weekley said. "I feel like I can go out there and shoot 3 or 4 under, keep myself in the hunt … and still have a chance somewhere down the line there."

Ryder Cup: Davis Love was named captain of the U.S. team for the 2012 event in Medinah, Ill. "I'm a players' captain," he said. "I'm not going to tell the best players in the world how to play golf. I'm going to stay out of their way and let them show their talents." Tuesday, Europe named two-time Masters champ Jose Maria Olazabal as captain.

Venezuelan rookie shares lead at Hope 01/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 10:33pm]
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