Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Vegas ties Weekley for Hope lead

‘A LOT OF FUN’:The fun-loving Venezuelan charged up the leaderboard, while in Abhu Dhabi, Padraig Harrington was disqualified for misplacing the ball

Reuters, LOS ANGELES

Jhonattan Vegas, who learned golf playing with a broomstick and a rock in his native Venezuela, surged into a tie for the lead in the second round of the Bob Hope Classic at La Quinta, California on Thursday.

The PGA Tour rookie, making sure he enjoys himself as much as he can in competition, fired a five-under-par 67 on the Nicklaus Private course at PGA West, one of four venues hosting the five-round pro-am celebrity event.

Although he bogeyed his final hole after ending up in a greenside bunker, he ended another sun-splashed day in the California desert level with American Boo Weekley at 13-under 131.

Weekley, who has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2008 Heritage Classic, birdied his last two holes for a 66 on the Nicklaus layout.

Charles Howell III carded a seven-birdie 66 on the Palmer Private course to lie one stroke off the pace with fellow American Chris Couch, who returned a 65 at the SilverRock Resort.

Britain’s Brian Davis (66) and American Keegan Bradley (67) were a further stroke back at 11 under.

Vegas, who cruised to a six-stroke victory over Andres Romero at last year’s Argentina Open, charged to the top of the leaderboard with an impeccable display from tee to green.

He piled up eight birdies and three bogeys to hold the clubhouse lead before being caught later on by former US Ryder Cup player Weekley.

Asked how he felt to be at the top of the leaderboard in a PGA Tour event, he replied: “It’s a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it as much as I can, because we know how complicated golf can be. I’m having a good time, as I always do. I’m just loving it, trying to play the best I can. So far, things worked out.”

Vegas, who reached the semi-finals of the 2007 US amateur championship, has come a long way since first picking up the game from his father in Venezuela.

“I hit plastic balls, rocks, whatever I could find and start hitting everything around the house, breaking windows and all kinds of stuff,” he said. “That’s kind of how my game started, just by looking at my dad. He’s always been a big fan of golf and so just by looking at him, I started doing it.”

Weekley was delighted to enjoy another productive day on the greens after struggling with his putting at the end of last year.

He has switched to a new 34-inch long putter for this week and, so far, the move has reaped instant reward.

Among the bigger names competing in the third Tour event of the season, former world No. 1 David Duval was at nine under after carding a 67 at La Quinta Country Club and a stroke in front of last year’s money list winner Matt Kuchar (70).

ABU DHABI

REUTERS AND AP, ABU DHABI

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Championship yesterday for signing an incorrect score after replacing his ball in the wrong position on a green during his first round.

A TV viewer phoned European Tour officials to explain they had noticed Harrington marginally knocking his ball forward on the par-three seventh green in replacing his marker during Thursday’s first round.

Harrington had finished the first round in second, scoring a 65.

Charl Schwartzel took a one-stroke lead on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi Championship with an 8-under 64 in the first round.

The South African, who won last week’s Joburg Open, had nine birdies — eight of them on the first 12 holes.

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