Snedeker’s Hot Start Finally Nets a Victory at Pebble Beach

Nigeria's Azubuike Egwuekwe, right, and Ogenyi Onazi run with national flags as they celebrate winning the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament after defeating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final, at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Nigeria's Azubuike Egwuekwe, right, and Ogenyi Onazi run with national flags as they celebrate winning the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament after defeating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final, at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Pebble Beach, Calif. — Brandt Snedeker didn’t have to take a back seat to anyone at Pebble Beach.

A runner-up to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson each of the last two weeks, Snedeker finished off a record performance yesterday with a 7-under 65 for a two-shot victory over Chris Kirk in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Snedeker holed a 10-foot birdie on the 17th hole, and then tapped in for par to finish at 19-under 267. That broke the tournament record by one shot held by Mickelson (2007) and Mark O’Meara (1997), who each had a 20-under 268 when Poppy Hills was still in the rotation.

In five starts this year, he already had a win, two second-place finishes and a third. He never had much of a chance against Woods at Torrey Pines or Mickelson at the Phoenix Open, who each had big leads going into the final round.

Snedeker was tied with James Hahn, a 31-year-old rookie from the Bay Area, and seized control with an eagle and three birdies on the opening seven holes. Snedeker responded to his only bogey, a three-putt at No. 9, by rolling in birdie putts on the next two holes.

Snedeker goes to No. 4 in the world, the highest ranking of his career and second only to Woods among Americans.

Hahn wound up with a 2-under 70 and tied for third with Jimmy Walker (66) and Kevin Stadler (65). The day wasn’t a total loss for Hahn. He previously tied for fourth at the Humana Challenge, and his tie for third gets him into Riviera next week. He hasn’t missed a cut this year and is already 11th in the FedEx Cup standings.

The only drama on a pristine day on the Monterey Peninsula came from Patrick Reed. His 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole gave him a tie for seventh with Fredrik Jacobson, and kept Jacobson from qualifying for the Match Play Championship by 0.0002 points.

The final spot in the 64-man field based on the world ranking instead goes to Shane Lowery of Ireland, who did not play this week.

Mediate Wins
Champions Debut

Boca Raton, Fla. — Rocco Mediate birdied the 18th hole and finished with a 1-under par 71 to win the Allianz Championship.

He finished the tournament at 17-under 199 and became the 16th player to have a winning debut on the Champions Tour.

Mediate’s 4-foot birdie putt came after Tom Pernice Jr. missed a 5-footer at No. 18 that could have forced a playoff.

Tennis

Nadal Loses
Chile Finale

Vina Del Mar, Chile — Rafael Nadal lost to Horacio Zeballos in three sets in the VTR Open final yesterday, settling for a runner-up finish in his first tournament after being sidelined for seventh months with a left knee injury.

Nadal was an overwhelming favorite, shooting for this 37th singles title on clay. But Zeballos won 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-4 for his first singles title on any surface, looking every bit the equal of the seven-time French Open champion.

It was only the fifth singles final that Nadal has lost on clay.

Fed Cup: Italy Ousts U.S.

Rimini, Italy — The United States was eliminated in the first round of the Fed Cup, losing to Italy 3-2 when Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci defeated Varvara Lepchenko and Liezel Huber in the decisive doubles match.

Errani and Vinci, the top-ranked doubles team, won 6-2, 6-2 against an understrength American team. The U.S. was without Serena and Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens because of injuries.

The U.S. led 2-1 after Lepchenko beat Errani 7-5, 6-2 in Sunday’s first reverse singles. But Vinci stopped Jamie Hampton 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to set up the crucial doubles in the best-of-five World Group series.

Italy will host defending champion Czech Republic in the semifinals, a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The Czech Republic defeated Australia.

Soccer

Nigeria Claims
African Crown

Johannesburg — Nigeria won its first African Cup of Nations title since 1994, beating Burkina Faso 1-0 on Sunday Mba’s left-footed volley off a rebound in the 40th minute.

Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi became only the second person to win the tournament as a player and coach. He was the Super Eagles’ captain when they won in 1994. Nigeria also was the 1980 champion.

With its victory before a crowd of about 87,000 at Soccer City, 52nd-ranked Nigeria advanced to a first-round group with Spain, Uruguay and Tahiti at June’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Man U Expands Lead

London — Manchester United opened a season-high, 12-point lead in the English Premier League, defeating Everton 2-0 on goals by Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie.

The 40-year-old Giggs beat American goalkeeper Tim Howard in the 13th minute at Old Trafford to become the only person to score in every season of the Premier League, which began in 1992-93. Van Persie scored in first-half stoppage time, his league-high 19th goal this season.

Seeking to extend its record for league titles to 20, Manchester United (21-3-2) has 65 points, while defending champion Manchester City (15-3-8) has 53 following Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Southampton.

Everton (10-4-12) is sixth with 42 points, six behind fourth-place Tottenham for the final Champions League berth.

Also yesterday, Aston Villa climbed out of the relegation zone by beating West Ham, 2-1, on Christian Benteke’s penalty kick in the 74th minute and Charles N’Zogbia’s goal on a free kick in the 78th.

Baseball

Cubs Add Hairston

Mesa, Ariz. — Outfielder Scott Hairston and the Chicago Cubs have finalized a two-year contract.

The 32-year-old Hairston hit .263 with a career-high 20 homers, 57 RBIs and 25 doubles last year in his second season with the New York Mets.

He also has played for Arizona (2004-07), San Diego (2007-09, 2010) and Oakland (2009) during a nine-year big league career. Hairston has a .247 career average with 95 homers and 279 RBIs.

The deal had been agreed to last month pending a physical and was completed Sunday. Outfielder Tony Campana was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot. Chicago has 10 days to trade him, assign him outright to the minor leagues or release him.