LA QUINTA, Calif. – Here are five things to remember from Jhonattan Vegas’ victory at the Bob Hope Classic.
1. Vegas needs to keep his putter in a vault. He should gold-plate his flatstick ASAP. He scrambled for this victory.
The final day started with a 28-foot birdie putt. Then there were several key par saves on the final nine and the playoff.
• 5-foot par putts on Nos. 10 and 12 to avoid three-putting.
• A 6-foot par putt on No. 14 and a 9-foot par on the 16th hole.
• Up-and-down from inside the hazard line on the par-3 15th.
• His difficult pitch shot on the par-5 18th in the playoff carried a bunker, bounced through the rough a couple times, then hit the hole to stop 6 feet away. He made the birdie putt to extend the playoff.
• Vegas hit his tee shot in the water on the second playoff hole, but dropped, hit his 160-yard third shot to 13 feet and made the putt for victory.
2. The scary thing about Vegas? He can kill it, and when he’s on, he’s dead straight. The reason? At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he can hit it far with a controlled, balanced swing. He was third in driving distance this week (308.7 yards), and 13th in the Hope field in driving accuracy, despite hitting less than 50 percent in each of the final two rounds. He missed just two fairways in the first three rounds.
The Hope victory was Vegas’ second in his past three worldwide starts. He closed 2010 with a six-shot victory in the Argentina Open.
Vegas has now made the cut in four of five PGA Tour starts. The only missed cut? At the 2003 Shell Houston Open, which he Monday qualified for as an 18-year-old. We’ll forgive him for that one.
3. Bill Haas is starting to exhibit the potential he showed in college. When Haas and Hunter Mahan were amateurs, talent scouts had a hard time deciding which would be the better PGA Tour player. Haas was a member of the ’03 Walker Cup team. In ’04, he was the consensus college player of the year, winning the Golfweek, Haskins and Nicklaus awards. In 14 events in ’03-’04, he lost to just 42 players.
This playoff loss at the Hope will sting, considering he could’ve won by two-putting the final green from 35 feet, but it’s still the continuation of some recent good play. Haas has finished first or second in three of his past six starts. He won the Viking, was second at McGladrey and second at the Hope. He has started the year with consecutive top-10s after finishing eighth at Kapalua.
4. Matt Kuchar, the PGA Tour’s leading money winner in 2010, is picking up right where he left off. He’s the only PGA Tour player with top-10s in the year’s first three events. He was seventh at the Hope, fifth at Sony and sixth at Hyundai.
5. Three Nationwide Tour graduates – Vegas, Keegan Bradley and Chris Kirk – finished in the top 10 at the Bob Hope, which will help them greatly in the first reshuffle, which takes place after Mayakoba. Kirk, No. 2 on last year’s Nationwide Tour money list, finished 30th at Sony and seventh at the Hope to earn $185,550. Meanwhile, Jamie Lovemark, last year’s leading Nationwide Tour money leader, has struggled. He missed the cut by 11 at the Hope, after a missed cut at Sony.