Good vibes help Vegas to double down at Glen Abbey
In the final round of the 2017 RBC Canadian Open, Jhonattan Vegas shoots 65 and birdies the par-5 18th hole in a sudden-death playoff to dispatch Charley Hoffman. Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Venezuelan-turned-Texan Vegas became the fourth man to successfully defend a title on the PGA TOUR this season, notching his third win overall. FIVE OBSERVATIONS 1 Vegas had missed five straight cuts coming to Glen Abbey. His victory recalls, most recently, Billy Horschel at the AT&T Byron Nelson, where the former FedExCup champion was trying to break a streak of four straight MCs and -- seemingly out of nowhere -- won the tournament. “Just being the defending champion was something really positive,” Vegas said. “Having the fans really support me through the whole week, seeing the enthusiasm when I got here, everyone was like: ‘You know what, you're going to repeat again and you're going to win for us.’ The positive energy really helped me to play good golf.” What happened in Canada only reinforces the truism that any player can win in any given week. Vegas moves from 87th to 28th in the FedExCup standings, and is looking to improve on his career-best 29th-place finish last year, when he was T24 at the TOUR Championship. 2 Just three South American countries have been represented in The Presidents Cup: Argentina (Angel Cabrera, four times), Colombia (Camilo Villegas, once) and Paraguay (Carlos Franco, twice). With the win at Glen Abbey, Venezuela’s Vegas moved from 17th to ninth on the International team’s points list. He said he would relish the opportunity to take on the powerhouse U.S. squad at this year’s Presidents Cup at Liberty National Sept. 26-Oct. 1. How would he do in match play? If form holds, pretty well. Vegas is 2-0 in sudden-death playoffs on TOUR, and he went 2-1-0 at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play earlier this season. Vegas notched 3-and-1 victories over Thomas Pieters and Scott Piercy but lost 1 up to Bubba Watson, who won the group to advance to the round of 16. 3 Sam Saunders was briefly the feel-good story of the week as he went for his first TOUR win at the same tournament where his late grandfather Arnold Palmer got his, way back in 1955. Things were looking good as Saunders went out in 3-under 32 Sunday, but he made five bogeys on the back nine, including two on his last two holes, to shoot 72 and finish 19th. Had he succumbed to nerves? Saunders, who turned 30 on Sunday, admitted he probably had. “I've been at this for long enough now,” he said. “I've got a lot of scar tissue, you know. And that's okay. Most guys struggle before they break through. I'm not doing that bad. My third full year on the PGA TOUR, it could be a lot worse. “There are so many great players out there that never even make it to this level. So, I'm glad that I'm here, and it will feel that much sweeter when eventually I do get that first win.” Steve Flesch at the 2004 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational is the last man to win on his birthday. 4 Starting the week at 71st in the Official World Golf Ranking, Ian Poulter would’ve needed a win in Canada to make it to this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Although he didn’t quite get there, he shot a final-round 64 to finish solo third at Glen Abbey, continuing a career revival that began with his runner-up finish at THE PLAYERS Championship earlier this season. Poulter led the field in strokes gained: putting at the RBC on Sunday, making more than 128 feet of putts. And a week after he finished T14 at The Open Championship, his third-place finish vaulted him from 77nd to 43rd in the FedExCup race. Oh, he’s also up to 62nd in the OWGR. All in all, he’s not doing too bad for a guy who was just hoping to hang onto his TOUR card this year. “It’s amazing how things change,” he said. The one flaw in his final round, he said, was his failure to birdie two of the three back-nine par 5s. He finished a shot out of the playoff. 5 Third-round leader Charley Hoffman could manage only a 4-under 68 Sunday and remained winless this season. After making a birdie at the par-5 18th to force extra holes, Hoffman got out of position in the sudden death on the same hole, losing when he failed to match Vegas’ birdie. “Didn't make that many putts of any significance at all on the back nine, unfortunately,” Hoffman said. Sunday marked the 17th time that Hoffman has had the lead or co-lead after any round on TOUR (six first-round, seven second-round and four third-round leads/co-leads). A four-time winner, he has nevertheless failed to convert any of those leads to victory. The silver lining: He moved from 24th to 12th in the FedExCup, and from 16th to 10th in Presidents Cup points. FIVE INSIGHTS 1 Vegas putted better than most, finishing 14th in strokes gained: putting (.837) for the week. But he was red-hot when it mattered most Sunday, rolling in better than 142 feet of putts, his best performance on the greens all season and the fourth best day of his career. Vegas had averaged just 66 feet of made putts for his first three rounds at Glen Abbey. 2 Gary Woodland (solo fourth, 19 under) tied Vegas with 27 birdies for the week, tops in the field. The two figured prominently in Vegas’ first win as well, at the 2011 CareerBuilder Challenge, where Vegas beat Woodland and Bill Haas in a sudden-death playoff. 3 Dustin Johnson, No. 2 in the FedExCup and No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, said he was encouraged with his game after finishing T8 at the RBC, as well he should be. Johnson led the field in greens in regulation (57/72) as he heads to this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he is the defending champion. 4 Keegan Bradley, who fired a final-round 65 to finish T14, led the field with a gaudy 6.508 in strokes gained: off the tee on Sunday, and leads the TOUR in total driving this season. 5 Sean O’Hair, who also shot a final-round 65 and finished T10, birdied all four par-3s Sunday. It was the first time in his career that he has birdied all four par-3s in a single round. TOP 3 VIDEOS 1. We wonder how many people have attempted this shot since 2000? 2. Half man. Half amazing. Nothing but cup. 3. These guys are good.
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