Villegas leads Phoenix Open; Fowler 3 back
Thursday, February 25, 2010
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The memory of a missed 3-foot putt did nothing to diminish Camilo Villegas’s game Thursday in the Phoenix Open.
The 28-year-old Colombian tied the tournament first-round record with a 9-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over former Florida teammate Matt Every.
Villegas regrouped with a bogey-free round Thursday after making the semifinals of the Match Play Championship last weekend, but missing the short putt that would have put him in the final. He beat Sergio Garcia in the third-place match.
Justin Rose, Mark Wilson, Ryuji Imada, Rickie Fowler and Pat Perez were three strokes back at 65 in near-perfect conditions at TPC Scottsdale.
Phil Mickelson and defending champion Kenny Perry were in a large group at 68. Match Play champion Ian Poulter struggled to a 72.
Playing the back nine first, Villegas wrapped up his round by chipping in from 21 feet on the par-4 ninth for his ninth birdie.
A two-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2008, he credits a more relaxed approach to the game to his strong start to this season.
“I was getting a little too concerned with my world ranking position and money list and this and that,” Villegas said, “and I just got a little tight on the golf course. So I needed to put all those things aside and remember that I’m playing golf for a living, and there’s a million people out there that would love to be in my shoes, and have fun with it.”
In keeping with that attitude, Villegas shrugged off the missed short putt in last week’s semifinal match against Paul Casey.
“You know what? It’s OK,” he said. “I’ve got no problem with it. I wish I would have made it, yes. But you know what? It ain’t going to change me as a person.”
Villegas’ 9-under round tied the first-round tournament record shared by Steve Jones (1997) and Harrison Frazier (2003).
Every, who earned his Tour card by winning last year’s Nationwide Tour Championship event, also had no bogeys on a wide-open desert layout that was relatively quiet and calm with an estimated crowd of 69,475. That should change when even more rowdy fans stream in to what has become essentially a big party with a golf tournament running through it.
As many as 150,000 are expected Saturday, although rain could dampen the turnout.
Every ran off a string of six consecutive birdies starting on No. 17, the longest streak of its kind so far in the young PGA season.
He is coming off an unfortunate week at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Cancun, where he signed an incorrect scorecard that had been kept by his lifelong golf hero and fellow ex-Gator Mark Calcavecchia in the third round and was disqualified.
Every said he was so upset with his play that he stormed away and signed his scorecard without even looking at it.
“It’s 100 percent my fault, and he felt horrible, but it’s in no way his fault,” Every said. “He’s still my favorite player and he was a blast to play with.”
Every, who earned his Tour card by winning the Nationwide Tour Championship last year to finish 10th on the developmental tour’s money list, said he hasn’t dwelt on last weekend’s mistake, noting that he would have been near the bottom of the leaderboard going into the final round.
“I haven’t even thought about it the whole week really until somebody said something to me right after the round,” Every said. “Just because I got DQ’d doesn’t mean I’m going to stop hitting it well.”
Every played two seasons with Villegas at Florida.
“It’s pretty neat,” he said of the first-round results. “Obviously we played a lot of golf together. Not in the last few years, but he’s a really, really good player. ... It’s good to see him playing well, especially after last week. I mean, he missed that little putt and he rebounded well, so that says a lot about his attitude.”