Vegas wins playoff to claim first PGA golf title
La Quinta: Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas sunk a dramatic 10-foot par putt on the second playoff hole after finding water off the tee to win his first US PGA title at the 90-hole Bob Hope Classic.
Vegas captured the 990,000-dollar top prize at the five million-dollar event and became the first Venezuelan to win a US PGA title, earning a two-year tour exemption and an invitation to the Masters in April.
"This is a dream come true," Vegas said. "Making it happen is something else."
Vegas raised a Venezuelan flag over his head to the cheers of the crowd moments after his tension-packed putt on the 10th hole ousted American Gary Woodland one hole after both men eliminated reigning champion Bill Haas.
The South American missed a nine-foot par putt on the 18th hole in regulation for his only bogey of the fifth round to set up the playoff.
Haas, trying to become the first back-to-back Bob Hope champion since American Johnny Miller in 1976, fired a 66 Sunday to match Vegas and Woodland, who each fired fifth-round 69s, on 27-under par 333.
Vegas and Woodland ousted Haas on the first playoff hole with tense birdie putts but Vegas found water off the tee on the second playoff hole, the par-4 10th, while Woodland kept his tee shot dry.
But Vegas responded by blasting his third shot onto the green only 10 feet from the cup to give himself a par chance while Woodland found a bunker with his approach and blasted his third shot to the far edge of the green.
Woodland`s hefty par bid rolled seven feet past the cup and moments later Vegas sank his par putt to claim the crown.
"I had the opportunity coming in, and Gary and Bill made it a great playoff but God was with me," Vegas said. "Thank God I won."
Vegas fired 32 birdies over the first four rounds, played on four different layouts alongside celebrity amateurs before Sunday`s final round on the Palmer course, to match the second-best 72-hole total in US PGA history.
In regulation, Vegas eagled the par-5 sixth, reaching the green in two and dropping a 12-foot putt to reach 27-under and seize a three-shot lead over Haas and last-group partner Woodland, who struggled early.
Woodland birdied the par-5 second but took bogeys at two par-3s, the third and fifth holes. He answered with three birdies in a row, but Vegas also birdied the eighth, the South American keeping his lead at two strokes.
Vegas and Woodland each parred the next six holes as Haas made a charge with birdies at the par-5 11th and 14th holes and another at 16 to reach 27-under, one stroke behind Vegas and one atop Woodland but with two fewer holes to play.
Haas, who fired a 62 on the Palmer course Saturday, made a three-putt par at the 18th, botching a birdie putt that would have won him the title in regulation.
"I thought I hit a nice putt but the five-footer proved too much," Haas said.
Vegas, put on warning for slow play with six holes remaining, stretched his streak of tension-packed pars to eight by sinking eight-footers at 15 and 16.
But Woodland, injured as a rookie in 2009 and in only eight events last year, birdied the 16th to pull within a stroke with two holes to play.
At the par-3 17, Vegas notched another par while Woodland`s six-footer for par lipped around the cup like a horseshoe and stayed out, dropping him two behind Vegas with the par-5 18th to play.
Vegas sent his tee shot into a bunker and was 150 yards short of the green on his second shot while Woodland found the rough off the tee but blasted into rough pin high at the back of the green on his approach.
Vegas put his third shot 25 feet short and a level below the cup while Woodland pitched inches from the cup from 45 feet to set up a birdie that would put him into the playoff.
That left Vegas a tense putt which rolled to a stop nine feet past the cup, leaving him in need of his 10th par in a row for the victory. The putt rolled by to the left and Vegas tapped in to join Haas and Woodland in the playoff.