By Tim Wharnsby
OAKVILLE, Ontario (Reuters) – Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas closed with three straight birdies for a one-stroke win at the Canadian Open on Sunday, earning redemption after a nightmarish finish in his previous event.
Vegas, who blew a six-shot halfway lead at the Barbasol Championship last weekend, closing in style this time with an eight-under-par 64 at Glen Abbey.
He finished at 12-under 276 to edge Spanish tour rookie Jon Rahm (67), Scot Martin Laird (67) and U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson (69).
Vegas began the final round five shots behind overnight leader Brandt Snedeker, teeing off in the ninth from last pairing, 80 minutes before the final group.
“We had Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, a bunch of guys, really close,” Vegas said. “Great players. If I got lucky, it was going to be a playoff. Super surprised when nobody got to 12.
“I had a six-shot lead going into the weekend (last week) and lost by three. I was five back starting today and won by one. It’s a crazy sport.”
The 31-year-old Vegas recorded his second PGA Tour victory, his previous success coming in his second career event, the Bob Hope Classic in 2011.
His victory earned him a last-minute spot in the final major of the year, the PGA Championship starting at Baltusrol in New Jersey on Thursday.
Vegas started strongly with five straight birdies, beginning at the second hole, to set himself up for his fantastic finish.
Several players had a chance to force a playoff, including Johnson and fellow American Steve Wheatcroft (69).
Johnson needed an eagle at the par-five 18th, but had to settle for birdie after his second shot covered the pin but carried 20 feet beyond the hole and over the green.
Wheatcroft needed a closing birdie but made a bogey after thinning his third shot from a greenside bunker into a water hazard, a shot he blamed on a lack of sand underneath his ball.
“I hit it kind of right where I wanted to and the club absolutely bounced off the sand. There was nothing in there,” he said.
Snedeker, the 2013 winner, managed only a 71 to finish in a tie for fifth at 10-under with German Alex Cejka (69), American Ricky Barnes (68) and Wheatcroft.
“I put myself in a position to win a golf tournament and to play the way I did today is disheartening,” Snedeker said.
Jared du Toit (71), a 21-year-old Canadian amateur who began the day one shot behind Snedeker, faded to finish equal ninth as the local drought extended another year.
No Canadian has won the Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher in 1954.
(Editing by Andrew Both)