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February 3 2011

5:36 PM

Latin America stars share limelight

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Villegas (left), Vegas (center) and Cabrera (right) will spend at least 36 holes together at TPC Scottsdale.

Among the most intriguing groups in the first two rounds of the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the Latin American trio of Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, Colombia’s Camilo Villegas and Venezuela rookie Jhonattan Vegas, the winner of the Bob Hope Classic two weeks ago.

By putting the veteran Cabrera, a two-time major winner, with two of the PGA TOUR’s brightest young stars in Villegas and Vegas, the threesome will help draw attention to the development of golfers in South America. Golf will be part of the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro.

“Hopefully this is the first of many, many outlets that we can share more and enjoy together," said Cabrera during a Spanish-only conference call this week with his two playing partners. "I wish that it continue."

Added Villegas, a three-time TOUR winner: "All this shows progress. We see that there is more support, sponsors. That's what it takes to grow golf in Latin America."

Vegas’ victory was the first for a golfer from his country, and the positive impact was felt immediately.

"The victory has been very good for Venezuela, for Latin America," Vegas said. "It opens many windows, more support to continue to promote golf in our country."

Vegas said he received a congratulatory call from Venezuela president Hugo Chavez, who in the past has been critical of the building of golf courses in the country. Vegas said he is not interested in mixing politics and golf.

“I just want to give joy to the Venezuelans,” he said.

After his win, Vegas followed that with a tie for third at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open. He now leads the FedExCup standings, the first rookie to hold the No. 1 spot since the creation of the FedExCup.

“It's amazing what has been achieved and crucial to South American golf," Cabrera said. "Building this kind of enthusiasm and expectations is the best seed you can plant in Latin America to develop the sport of golf."

Vegas, though, knows that he must not get caught up in the hype of his early TOUR win.

"I must not lose focus," he said. "The important thing is to continue the pace that we have."

To hear the full press conference in Spanish, click here.

NEW BREED VS. ESTABLISHMENT

This week it’s TOUR rookie Jhonattan Vegas vs. two-time major champ Angel Cabrera. Click for more details

PLAYER NOTES

Jhonattan Vegas Just the fourth rookie since 2007 to crack the top 10 of the FedExCup standings in any week of the regular season. The last PGA TOUR rookie to crack the top 10 in the standings was Brandt Snedeker in week No. 33 of the 2007 season after he won the Wyndham Championship (moved to ninth overall).
Camilo Villegas Making his sixth appearance at the Waste Management Open this week, Villegas typically gets off to a fast start.  He has played four of his five career opening rounds under par (67.60).
Angel Cabrera Has two wins on the PGA TOUR and both are major championships (2007 U.S. Open   and 2009 Masters).  Outside of the majors, his best finish on the PGA TOUR is a third at the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship.
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