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."