It’s well documented that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hates golf.
“Golf is a bourgeois sport,” Chavez said in 2009.
Chavez’s government has even shut down some courses to make way for public housing.
But Chavez and his loyalists will have to work a little harder to get golf from the mind of Venezuelans after one of their own won the Bob Hope Classic on Sunday.
Jhonattan Vegas, the first Venezuelan on the PGA Tour, made a 13-foot par putt to win on the second playoff hole. It was just his fifth PGA Tour start.
The Venezuelan government even closed the course where Vegas’ father, Carlos, was a groundskeeper.
But moving forward, Vegas wants his win to help spur golf growth in his home country.
“I really hope it means people changing (their minds) about the sport,” he said Sunday.
“I hope they know about the story, and that it is possible to get to the PGA Tour and win,” Vegas said of Venezuelans. “I hope people realize that all over the world.”
Good start, young man.
Slipping from second to third in the world rankings hardly would rank as newsworthy – but that’s yet another piece of evidence that Tiger Woods’ career has been that incomparable.
He will sit third in the world order, behind Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer. To understand how significant that is, consider that Woods hasn’t been that low since a five-week stretch in October 2004.
Back then, Woods had fallen to third, behind Vijay Singh and Ernie Els.
Woods moved back to No. 2 in November 2004, then traded the top spot with Singh in the spring of 2005 before wresting it away on June 12, 2005. He then held on to it for an incredible 281 weeks, not losing it until Oct. 30, 2010, when Westwood earned No. 1.
As an even greater testament to the Woods era, you would have to go back to May 16, 1999, for the next most recent time when he didn’t rank first or second. At that time, David Duval was first and Davis Love III was second.
The game’s governing bodies look set for a rethink after Padraig Harrington’s disqualification from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Harrington was found to have inadvertently moved his ball in the first round when removing a marker on the seventh green. But he wasn’t penalized until after his round, when a TV viewer called in the infraction. The Irishman subsequently was DQ’d after having signed for a lower score.
“Obviously in the light of this and what happened to Camilo Villegas (the Colombian was disqualified in Hawaii earlier this month) the significance of the disqualification penalty has been brought sharply back into focus,” said Grant Moir, the R&A’s rules of golf director.
“Certainly with the introduction of ever-increasing scrutiny and enhanced images, there is a fresh impetus to have a look at it and see if the rules are still appropriate.”
But don’t hold your breath. It took the governing bodies 18 years to rule on grooves.
Breaking up is hard to do.
Rory McIlroy had a tough six weeks in the run-up to Abu Dhabi. He contracted swine flu and was confined to his bed for a spell, didn’t touch a club for six weeks and broke up with long-time girlfriend Holly Sweeney.
McIlroy admitted that breaking up with his high school sweetheart of six years wasn’t easy. “Definitely,” was his simple answer when asked if it was the toughest decision of his life.
“I don’t really want to go into a lot of detail, but me and Holly talk every day. We still get on great. I think we both understand what we want, and that’s basically what it is.
“I didn’t have a great couple of weeks before Christmas, but you’ve got to do what’s right for yourself. At this time of my life, I just want to put this time into my golf, and that is it.”
The second floor of the Ability Center for Special Needs school in Abu Dhabi sits empty.
Even though there are plenty of children in the city that could use physical therapy and learning sessions, the school doesn’t have the money yet to fund the expansion.
But there’s good news.
The center is one of two local charities – along with the Emirates Autism Center – to benefit from Monday’s Saadiyat Beach Classic, the annual charity golf tournament organized by Gary Player.
“One hundred percent, this money will make a big difference,” Ability Center board member Ahmed Ghazi told The National.
Last year, the pro-am raised about US$327,000.
“We are expecting more students,” public-relations manager Noha Mamdouh said. “We are one of the only ones in Abu Dhabi who take cerebral palsy cases, and we are expecting to expand, but we have empty classrooms and we need equipment, which is very expensive.”
Player, designer of Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, said “I am always proud when golf brings people together for a good cause.”
European Tour stalwarts Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Matteo Manessero and Colin Montgomerie headline the tournament. Rory Mcllroy and his four-person team won in 2010.