Tue, Jan 27, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Perez captures first PGA title at Bob Hope Classic

AFP , LA QUINTA, CALIFORNIA

Pat Perez captured the long awaited first title of his US PGA Tour career in style on Sunday, with an eagle at the final hole of the US$5.1 million Bob Hope Classic.

Perez, 32, posted a three-under 69 in the fifth and final round of the 90-hole event for a 33-under total of 327 and a three-shot victory over John Merrick.

On a day when the wind picked up in the California desert and scores rose accordingly, Perez knocked a six-iron from 199 yards to within three feet at the last, then rolled in the eagle putt.

Perez lifted the trophy for the first time in his 198th tour start.

“I just tried to stay pretty even keeled,” Perez said. “I figured if I could just play solid and hit some good shots and kind of stay calm and just think about what I’m doing out there, I was going to be fine.”

Perez’s milestone week included a blistering first two rounds, in which he set a PGA Tour record for the best 36-hole start to a tournament at 20-under 124.

Merrick had a share of the lead on Sunday before a bogey at the 17th. He finished with a 67 for 330.

Perez said he never considered laying up at 18, even though Merrick had failed to birdie and Perez had the lead.

“It’s downwind. You’ve got a hundred yards to hit it up there. It’s 6-iron. I was going to hit it,” he said.

Even so, he said he didn’t think he’d be able to duplicate the shot.

“Even if I had to do it, I couldn’t hit it again. There’s no way, because the wind was swirling and the whole deal. I couldn’t hit that shot again. It’s a long time coming, and I’m going to enjoy it,” Perez said.

Steve Stricker started the day with a three-stroke lead over Perez, but ballooned to a five-over 77 that included a triple-bogey at the seventh and a quadruple-bogey at the par-four 10th.

He finished tied for third on 332, where he was joined by former Masters champion Mike Weir of Canada, who carded a 67.

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