Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club


Perez Closes Deal With An Eagle

January 24, 2009

Perz's flatstick was the key to his win. He finished first in putts per round and putts per GIR.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) -- Pat Perez won the Bob Hope Classic for his first PGA Tour title, taking advantage of Steve Stricker's collapse and holding off John Merrick by three strokes Sunday in the wind-swept final round.

Perez finished at 33-under 327. Merrick, who began the day eight shots behind Stricker but moved in front briefly on the back nine, shot a 67.

Stricker, 33 under at the start of play after rounds of 61 and 62, had a 77 to tie for third with Mike Weir (67) at 28 under. Stricker had a triple bogey on No. 7 and a quadruple bogey on No. 10, hitting into the water on both holes.

The 32-year-old Perez, playing in the final group, locked up the victory by knocking his approach shot from 200 yards on No. 18 to 3 feet to set up an eagle. Merrick, winless on the tour, already had finished his round with a par on 18.

Perez beamed and doffed his cap after the ball rolled onto the green and the fans in the grandstands erupted in cheers. He stopped grinning only briefly, while he was bending over his final putt.

Merrick's second-place finish was the highest for the 26-year-old former UCLA star, who is beginning his third full season on the tour.

Perez, who led the first three days of the 90-hole event before falling three shots off Stricker's pace, had said the ideal conditions made the early rounds "like playing in a dome."

That changed for the closing round over the Palmer Course at PGA West.

Club selection, figuring distance and direction, all became a challenge. The wind would quiet one moment, then gust and swirl the next. Flagsticks on the greens rocked back and forth with the flags flapping, go still, then just as suddenly begin shuddering again.

Stricker, at No. 16 the highest ranked player in the field, had his hopes of winning a fifth tour title blown away in the wind.

After hitting into the water and taking a triple bogey to lose the lead on the seventh hole, he found water again on No. 10, but only after hitting out of bounds. His quadruple bogey there dropped him back into the pack.

Stricker, who had the PGA Tour-record stretch of 61-62 the previous two days, birdied No. 6 to go to 34 under and open a three-stroke lead over Perez.

Stricker's troubles then began when his tee shot on the par-4, 434-yard seventh sailed to the right and plopped into the lake along the fairway. His fourth shot on the hole carried far over the green and into the rough, he left his next shot 32 feet from the pin, lagged within a foot and tapped it in for a 7.

Then came the disaster on the par-4, 433-yard 10th hole, when he hit one tee shot out of bounds and another into the water before teeing off for the third time -- already his fifth shot. That went into a fairway bunker. It could have been worse; Stricker two-putted from 60 feet to salvage an 8.

Joe Durant's tour record for 90 holes, 36-under 324 in the 2001 Hope, seemed in peril as records fell in the early rounds. Then the wind, often a factor in the Hope over the years, finally kicked up on the final day.

Perez earned $918,000, while Stricker took home $295,800.

Stricker was 33 under after four rounds, bettering the tour's 72-hole record of 31 under set by Ernie Els in his victory at the 2003 Mercedes Classic. Stricker's 61-62 was a low for consecutive rounds; Mark Calcavecchia set the record by shooting 60-64 in the 2001 Phoenix Open, and Perez tied it with his 61-63 start in the Hope.