WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Carlos Vegas stood by his son on the practice green and imparted to him the simplest putting knowledge he could: soften his grip on the putter, be gentle on the greens and keep steady.
Less than 24 hours later his son, Jhonattan, used the advice to help him drain a 13-foot putt to win the Bob Hope Classic on the second hole of a playoff at the PGA West Palmer Private course in La Quinta, Calif.
“I think [Dad’s advice] was huge today,” Vegas, 26, said. “I think sometimes we get really tight with putting and we start hitting everything right or left. So I just kind of let things happen and that's kind of what I did today.”
Vegas became the first Venezuelan to win a PGA Tour event, a victory that earned him US$900,000, an invitation to the prestigious Masters in April and the respect of his country – not bad for the only Venezuelan who has ever been good enough to play in the world’s best golf league.
Vegas was tied with Gary Woodland and defending champion Bill Haas at 27-under par following 90 regulation holes. But Vegas put his tee shot on the second playoff hole into the water. But after a masterful approach following his drop, he rallied to drain the putt and claim the title for Venezuela.
“To my country, I hope this means a lot,” Vegas said. “I really hope it means change. I hope it means people changing about the sport. And some people get a little different idea of the sport.”
Before Vegas’ marquee win, he had played in four PGA Tour events since 2008. On the PGA Tour, he had earned about US$47,000 before Jan. 23. Vegas also played on the PGA Tour’s lower-level tour, the Nationwide Tour, where he had logged 15 top-25 finishes and US$431,917 in winnings collectively in 41 events.
CONCACAF to ask FIFA for fourth World Cup bid
The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football’s (CONCACAF) executive committee said it will lobby FIFA for a fourth guaranteed World Cup slot at the governing body’s executive committee meeting in March.
“We believe that CONCACAF deserves another full place at the World Cup finals due to the performances of our teams on the field and the actions of our confederation off it,” CONCACAF President Jack Warner said in a statement. “We are unified in our efforts to make this happen.”
CONCACAF has 3 ½ bids, with the fourth-place finisher advancing to a two-game playoff against the fifth-place finisher from CONMEBOL, which is comprised exclusively of South American teams. Uruguay defeated Costa Rica, 2-1, on aggregate to advance to the World Cup, where it placed fourth.
CONCACAF could have a tough time convincing FIFA it should have another guaranteed slot. Since the field expanded to 32 teams in 1998, no CONCACAF team has made the semifinals, and only the United States has reached the quarterfinals.
Manu Ginobili soaring for Spurs
San Antonio has the best record in the National Basketball Association (NBA) – and it is in large part because of the play of a 6-foot-6, 205-pound guard from Bahía Blanca, Argentina.
Manu Ginobili, a candidate for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, is averaging 18.6 points, 4.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. As a result of his strong play, the Spurs have a phenomenal record of 38-7 – at least 3 ½ games better than any other team.
“He’s a stud,” San Antonio coach Greg Popovich said. “He’s been a competitor, he’s won championships here and overseas and he’s been MVPs of things. He scored the two free throws down the stretch, then he scored the winning bucket and then he took the charge. That pretty much says it all about what he’s capable of doing.”
Ginobili is expected to be named an All-Star later this week. Ginobili, who last made the Western Conference’s All-Star team in 2005, has led the Spurs to NBA titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
MMA: Anderson Silva prepares for another title defense
Anderson “Spider” Silva is trying to make it a great eight – eight consecutive Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight title defenses.
The only man between Silva, a 35-year-old native of São Paulo, Brazil, and extending his record of title defenses is his former training partner: fellow Brazilian Victor “The Phenom” Belfort.
“It’s better to train in Brazil near family and friends at home,” Silva said at a media conference promoting the fight. “In Los Angeles, things are very hard. It takes one or two hours commuting from home to the gym by car. In Brazil, everything is closer.”
Silva and Belfort are scheduled to enter the octagon on Feb. 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada as the main event in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 126.
American Football: Historic hire in North Carolina
There again is a Latino head coach in the National Football League (NFL).
Ron Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, and a former player and defensive coordinator in San Diego, was named head coach of the Carolina Panthers last week.
Rivera, 49, becomes the first Hispanic head coach since Tom Flores, who last coached in 1994 with the Seattle Seahawks. In 12 seasons, Flores won 105 games, but is best known for leading the Raiders to victories in Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII. The only other Latino to coach an NFL team was Tom Fears, who led the New Orleans Saints from 1967 to 1970.
“It gives me comfort that he’s a former player – a much better player than I ever was,” said Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, a former Baltimore Colts receiver, at a media conference. “But the fact that he was a former player and I was a former player, it seemed to be a pretty quick bonding with us.”
Now, it’s Rivera’s turn to take Carolina, which had the league’s worst record (2-14) this past season, and turn the Panthers into a contender.
“I’m thrilled to death for the opportunity. I almost want to say relief,” Rivera said at a media conference announcing his hire. “When you get into playing you strive for one thing, that’s to be a Super Bowl champion. When you get into coaching, you strive to be a Super Bowl-winning head coach. That’s what my goal is.”
Rivera won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears (1985) during his time in the Windy City from 1984 to 1992. He started his assistant coaching career in 1997 with Chicago Bears. He had spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers before taking the top job in Carolina.
Baseball: Edgar Rentería signs with Cincinnati Reds
World Series Most Valuable Player Edgar Rentería, a native of Barranquilla, Colombia, joined his seventh team when he signed a one-year, US$3 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
Rentería, 35, was a key part of the championship run last fall by the San Francisco Giants. In 10 postseason games, he hit .286 with two home runs and six RBI to go with seven runs scored, becoming the first Colombian to be named the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
Rentería, who can play shortstop and third base, joins the Reds, who won the National League Central Division before being bounced from the playoffs by Philadelphia.
“I feel happy for the opportunity to keep playing shortstop full-time,” Rentería said. “That was the main reason to accept the offer from the Reds.”
Rentería had signed a two-year, US$18.5 million deal with the Giants in December 2008. But San Francisco offered him a one-year, US$1 million deal during the offseason, but Rentería turned it down.
Rentería also had played for the Florida Marlins (1996-1998), St. Louis Cardinals (199-2004), Boston Red Sox (2005), Atlanta Braves (2006-2007) Detroit Tigers (2008) and San Francisco Giants (2009-2010).