Villegas finding form, enjoying week in Canada

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July 27, 2012
David McPherson, special to the PGATOUR.COM

A rain-softened Hamilton Golf & Country Club surrendered a slew of low numbers Friday in the second round of the RBC Canadian Open. Tim Clark matched the course record with an 8-under 62 while three others came within one shot of matching that feat.

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Also going low, posting a 6-under 64 to move inside the top 10, was Camilo Villegas, who could use a good showing this week.

"It's not the longest course," he said after the round on a Hamilton G&CC layout that measures just shy of 7,000 yards. "It gives you a lot of options, but you have to leave it in the right spots. There's a big difference between putting uphill and downhill."

For the Colombian, it was a much needed shot of confidence. He's struggled for the better part of the past year and a half. Heading into this week's event, the 30-year-old stood 140th in the FedExCup race with his best finish a tie for 18th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. A top-10 finish here could move him inside the top 125 and increase his chances of earning a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs.

"It's been tough the last year, year and a half, but it's the nature of the sport," Villegas said. "We keep battling, trust me. We wake up every morning trying to get better. Sometimes it's a lot of fun and sometimes it's a little more struggling."

Driving the ball well off the tee (averaging just over 302 yards) and putting his approaches close (and for the most part below the hole in regulation), Villegas got off to a hot start. He had his flat stick started working early, making birdie on four of the first five holes. After driving the 317-yard par-4 fifth hole, his eagle putt came up just short.

Villegas cooled off on the back side, finishing one-under going home to finish at 64. This vaulted him to the first page of the leaderboard and moved him from a 39th-place tie at the beginning of the day to a tie for 8th heading into the weekend with Bud Cauley and Troy Matteson.

"I got off to a great start and kept it going," Villegas said. "I made a great par-saving putt on 18 after leaving it in a really bad lie in the thick rough below the hole."

It was only when the Colombian came up short of the hole and found the thick greenside rough that he had a bit of trouble. He scrambled well though and made several clutch par-saving putts. Villegas' sole blemish was a bogey on No. 14, the 450-yard par 4, when his 9-iron approach found the aforementioned gnarly rough. And, despite a good chip, he couldn't make the one-putt for par.

All class, Villegas smiled most of the day and laughed with playing competitor Stuart Appleby. At times, it looked like the pair was involved in a match play event. At one point, the Australian joked with the Colombian as they walked to the next tee, following another birdie by Villegas, "It was my turn to show you the line on that one!"

On the 224-yard, par 3 sixth hole, a 10-year-old boy was cheering on his tee shot, and then yelled: "Nice shot!" Villegas gave the kid a high-five; then, after everyone in the group teed off, he signed a ball for the young fan. Later, while waiting for his caddie, he signed a few more hats.

With Canadian Brendan Little on the bag (Mike Weir's former caddie), Villegas looked loose and relaxed.

With inclement weather forecast for tomorrow afternoon, tournament officials made the decision to have players go off in threesomes again tomorrow. While waiting to do an interview with the Golf Channel, Villegas received a text on his iPhone with this info, which surprised him.

"At the end of the day it doesn't matter that much," Villegas commented about the decision to move tee times. "You just have to change your mentality."

"It's good to post a good score and to have the numbers to be in contention," Villegas concluded. "I'm looking forward to the weekend."

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