By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Camilo Villegas turned down an invitation to play Down Under in next week's ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf to make a trip south of the border.
He made the decision to play in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba for the first time because "I heard such good things about the course, about the quality of the people from my fellow professionals."
Now that he's in Mexico, Villegas can see why everyone spoke so highly of the venue. Plus, the food has been spectacular.
"I absolutely love Mexican food," the Colombian said.
Villegas walked El Camaleon on Tuesday and planned to play it in the pro-am for the first time Wednesday. He came away impressed by the Greg Norman design. "Very nice course. Very nice course," he said.
Villegas, who turns 33 in January, has won three times on the PGA TOUR. He was an academic and athletic All-American at Florida, then spent a year on the Web.com Tour before earning his TOUR card for the 2006 season.
But Villegas sees the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica-NEC Series as another avenue to help young Latin players hone their skills.
"I don't want to be the only Colombian on TOUR," Villegas said. "With the PGA TOUR Latin America now in swing, this has been a great opportunity for more players to be developed."
The OHL Classic is the sixth and final event of the first part of the PGA TOUR's 2013-14 wrap-around schedule. Villegas will have played in five of them, so he's looking forward to heading to South America next week before returning to his U.S. base in Jupiter, Fla., in late December.
He'd like nothing better than to end the early part of the season with a win.
"But beyond that, there is also the love in my heart for being a representative of all Latin Americans in the game this week," Villegas said. "I'm excited about that."
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Camilo Villegas had to rely on sponsor exemptions and conditional status for PGA TOUR starts in 2013. He played well enough to regain his full TOUR card for the 2013-14 season, though, and is off to a good start in the season's first evnet.
Villegas was tied for the lead at the Frys.com Open when he completed his second-round 66 at CordeValle. Villegas finished at 8-under 134, and was tied with Robert Garrigus, Jim Herman and Brooks Koepka, who all are on the course.
Villegas made the turn in 3-under 33 Friday morning. He teed off on No. 10 and made birdies on Nos. 11-13. He made another birdie at the 16th, but bogeyed the next hole. He then made par on seven consecutive holes before adding birdies at Nos. 7 and 8.
Villegas had made the FedExCup Playoffs every season since they started in 2007 until missing last year. He had to attend PGA TOUR Q-School last December, but failed to regain his full TOUR card after finishing T-32. He made 23 starts in 2013, though, thanks to his conditional status and sponsor exemptions. He finished 82nd in the FedExCup in 2013 after two top-10 finishes (T-9, RBC Heritage; T-10, FedEx St. Jude Classic). Villegas regained his full TOUR status by finishing in the top 125 in last season’s FedExCup standings.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Camilo Villegas came into this week near the lead on the all-time points list for the FedExCup Playoffs.
He's also hoping to stay in them. Villegas was 110th in points entering the Barclays. Only the top 100 will advance to next week's event outside Boston.
Thursday's opening round was a pretty good start.
Villegas shot a 6-under 65 and is just a stroke off the lead at Liberty National, where he made eight birdies and just two bogeys.
It's not the first time Villegas has fared well in the Playoffs -- in 2008 he won two events and tied for third in another. It's also not the first time he's gotten off to a hot start in a tournament this season.
Five times this year Villegas has opened with a 65 or lower in a tournament. In the other four, his best finish was a tie for 48th. At The Honda Classic, he shot 64 take the lead after the first round. The next day he carded a 77 and missed the cut.
"A bad round is a bad round," Villegas said. "Doesn't matter if it's second round, third round, fourth round.
"My game is coming back. I'm gaining confidence and I'm feeling better. It's great when we have the confidence. It's not so good when you lack confidence. But I'm heading the right direction."
He's not the only one. Here's a look at who else moved up (or down) in the projected FedExCup standings:
Kevin Stadler: The leader at 7 under after a 64 Thursday, Stadler is projected to move from 87th in the standings to second. Should he go on to win that would all but secure him a spot in the field in the season-finale at East Lake.
Ryan Palmer: Like Stadler, Palmer would make a big jump. His 65 has him tied for second. He's also projected to move from 46th to seventh.
Morgan Hoffman: A 67 by Hoffman has him only three off the lead -- and projected to move from 111th to 58th, which would get him to Boston next week.
Jeff Overton: He came in right on the bubble at No. 100. A 68 has him currently tied for 14th and projected to move to 68th.
Carl Pettersson: The Swede was 113th when the week started. He's now projected at 77th after a 68.
Rory Sabbatini, Martin Flores, Pat Perez: All three started the week inside the top 100. All three are projected to fall outside the magic number after all shot 71.
Ted Potter Jr., J.J. Henry, Richard H. Lee: Thanks to 73s by Potter and Henry, and a 75 by Lee, these three are also projected to fall outside the top 100.
Overnight co-leaders Zach Johnson and Camilo Villegas are already looking up the leaderboard and the morning wave hasn't even finished at TPC Deere Run.
Will they be able to make a run at the lead this afternoon? Here's a closer look at who and what to watch for this afternoon (all times ET):
Zach Johnson, 1:45 p.m.: The defending champion got of to a good start with a 64 in the opening round but will have to play catch up, which shouldn't be much of a problem. He's recorded 17 straight rounds in the 60s there and his last eight rounds there have been bogey free.
Steve Stricker, 1:45 p.m.: The three-time John Deere Classic champion continues to play well on a limited schedule, but he'll need something lower than another 67 to sniff the lead going into the weekend here.
Davis Love III, 1:45 p.m.: Two weeks ago, Love withdrew from the AT&T National with a hip injury after an opening-round 83. The following week he tied for ninth at The Greenbrier Classic. He's in decent shape again after a 67 Thursday.
Jordan Spieth, 2:25 p.m.: The 19-year-old is in danger of missing the cut after an opening-round 1-under 70. The projected cut is currently 2 under. It's already been a successful season for Spieth, however, who has locked up his card for next season.
Camilo Villegas, 2:45 p.m.: Like Johnson, Villegas will have some catching up to do despite opening with a 64. That said, the last time Villegas opened with a 64, he followed it with a 77 the next day and missed the cut at The Honda Classic earlier this year.
Zach Johnson hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation in the first round on Thursday.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Zach Johnson picked up where he left off at the tournament he calls his hometown event.
The defending John Deere Classic champion matched his best round in 12 starts at TPC Deere Run, a 7-under 64 that gave him a share of the first-round lead.
“That doesn’t stink,” said Johnson, who grew up 90 minutes west of the Quad-Cities and has served as a player representative on the tournament board since 2005.
A nine-time winner on the PGA TOUR, Johnson is tied with Camilo Villegas, who needed only 26 putts to post a 64 of his own. They hold a one-shot lead over the trio of Brendon de Jonge, Daniel Summerhays and Matt Bettencourt.
Another 20 players are within three shots of the lead, including three-time John Deere Classic winner Steve Stricker and Davis Love III, who each carded rounds of 67 playing with Johnson in a featured morning threesome.
The 7,257-yard, par-71 D.A. Weibring-designed golf course yielded 91 subpar rounds, but showed some teeth in the afternoon, when only Kevin Streelman and Boo Weekley (66) could close to within two shots of the leaders.
With 41 wins between them, Johnson, Stricker and Love drew a sizable morning gallery as what is likely the most accomplished grouping in the tournament’s 43-year history.
Camilo Villegas reflects on his 64 in the first round of the John Deere Classic with Fred Albers from PGA TOUR Radio on PGATOUR.COM and SiriusXM.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – At the most comfortably cool John Deere Classic in recent memory, Camilo Villegas rode a “chill attitude” and a very hot putter to a 7-under first-round 64.
It matched the lowest score of a not-so-cool season for the three-time PGA TOUR winner and gave him a share of the early lead along with defending champion Zach Johnson.
“Made some great putts and just kept out of trouble,” said the 31-year-old native of Colombia, whose remarkable 4.315 strokes-gained-putting fed a round that included eight birdies and required just 26 putts. “I was very pleased with the way I handled myself out there. It was a nice, relaxed, chill attitude and I enjoyed every single bit of the round.”
Ranked 124th in the strokes-gained-putting for the year, Villegas particularly enjoyed the TPC Deere Run greens. He had a string of five straight one putts while reeling off birdies on four of five holes to start his back nine.
Second in the FedExCup standings with a pair of playoff victories in 2008, Villegas hasn’t been quite so relaxed the past three years. He finished outside the top 100 in the FedExCup standings in both 2011 and 2012 and stands 102nd this year.
“It’s the game of golf,” he said of struggles. “It’s a messed up game. You make a little mistake here, a little mistake there, and the numbers just don’t add.
“I truly believe that sometimes we overanalyze. When guys start playing bad, they get calls. ‘I can help you.’ Then you’ve got the mental coach, the golf swing coach, you’ve got the physical trainer. You have all these people who have the answer, and nobody has the answer. It’s only you.”
That’s not to say Villegas has abandoned his own team of advisers. “I keep working at it,” he said. “I work hard with the team. But when it comes to playing, it’s just time to play.”
Easier said than done?
“Let me tell you, in this game everything is a lot easier said than done,” he said with a smirk.
That includes playing with a “chill attitude.”
“This job is great when you’re playing good,” he said. “It kicks your butt when you’re not performing. But you can kick your butt even harder when things are not going good. So I’m trying not to be that guy that kicks his butt a little bit harder, just enjoy every second of it.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- After missing nine cuts in 25 starts last year -- and two of three this season -- PGA National proved to be a welcome sight for Camilo Villegas on Thursday.
The 2010 winner of this event, Villegas shot a 6-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round.
"It's a tough golf course," said Villegas, who leads Branden Grace, Graham DeLaet, Rickie Fowler and Robert Streb by one. "And I like tough golf courses."
Thursday, he me made it look just the opposite with four birdies and an eagle. Though it also helped to be playing lift, clean and place after overnight rains saturated the property. The wind was unusally calm, too.
Still, Villegas took advantage of the benign conditions better than anyone else despite having arrived here without a card after he failed to finish in the top 125 on the money list last season.
"It's not only the golf course, but I'm sleeping in my own bed, I've got mom and dad here, I've got good home cooking," said Villegas, explaining his comfort level here. "There's a lot of good things, a lot of good vibes around here, and maybe that has to do with my good play."
It's certainly a change from the last couple of years when Villegas' results sank as low as his confidence.
"This game is great when you're playing good," he said. "And when you're out here missing cut after cut, I don't care what people say, yes, we're blessed to have this job, but it's not that much fun."
It wasn't much fun for defending champion Rory McIlroy, who muddled his way through a round of even par that included two birdies and two bogeys.
A year ago, McIlroy moved to No. 1 in the world with his victory here. Thursday, he admitted that he's still trying to get comfortable with his equipment and his swing.
"It's hard to commit to the shot that you need to play every time," McIlroy said. "I felt like I hit the ball OK, not as good as I can, but it's getting there."
Tiger Woods echoed a similar sentiment following a 70 of his own, only about his putter.
"I hit good putts," Woods said. "I was getting fooled on the grain; some of it was snagging, some I would blow right through the top side.
"The green speeds are a little bit faster than they were (Wednesday), but it's an adjustment I need to make."