5 Things: Villegas leads; Team Reed's return; more

Camilo Villegas opened up the Wyndham Championship with a 7-under 63.
Camilo Villegas opened up the Wyndham Championship with a 7-under 63. ( Associated Press )

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday marked the start of the Wyndham Championship, the final regular-season event before the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin.

While many of the top players are sitting out this week in order to rest, there is still a lot to play for at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.

You have players who are trying to get into the top 125 and qualify for The Barclays next week, including Sang-Moon Bae (126), Charlie Beljan (127) and Greg Chalmers (128).

You have players trying to hold onto their position inside the top 125, including Paul Casey (125), Jhonattan Vegas (124) and Nicholas Thompson (123).

You have players trying to impress U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and potentially earn one of three captain's picks, including Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker.

"Everybody is playing for something this week," said Davis Love III, who at No. 161 in the FedEx Cup standings will likely need a runner-up finish or better this week to keep his season alive. "And yeah, the field might not be as deep as some other weeks around it, but the guys that are here are here for a lot of different, very important reasons, and playing hard to try to get something out of this week."

Here are 5 Things you need to know from the first round of the Wyndham Championship, where Camilo Villegas leads by a shot over Webb Simpson and William McGirt:

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1. CAMILO ON TOP EARLY: Camilo Villegas doesn't have a top 10 this season, yet he entered the week at 105th in the FedEx Cup standings. That will get him into The Barclays next week, but if he wants to extend his stay in the playoffs, he'll need a good finish this week at the Wyndham Championship.

A victory at Sedgefield would not only earn him a spot in the Deutsche Bank and BMW championships, the second and third legs of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but would give him a shot at the Tour Championship.

Villegas hasn't won on Tour since the 2010 Honda Classic, but Thursday he fired a 7-under 63 to grab the opening-round lead in Greensboro. He went bogey-free with five birdies and an eagle. His eagle came on a 3-foot putt at the par-5 fifth, part of a 4-under stretch from Nos. 4-7.

Not only is the former Florida Gator searching for his first top 10 of the 2013-14 season, he's looking for just his third top 25, as well.

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2. GOING FOR GLENEAGLES: Among the players vying for one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson's captain's picks is Webb Simpson, and he did not disappoint Thursday.

Simpson birdied his first four holes on the day en route to carding a 6-under 64 and seizing a share of the lead through 18 holes. He went bogey-free through 16 holes and hit more than 80 percent of his fairways and greens.

"I am looking forward to (the Ryder Cup) more now," Simpson said. "I don't think it will affect me negatively. . . . I've got to play well to make the team and I texted with Tom a little bit and I want him to know I want to be on that team and, you know, hopefully I'll play well the next three weeks or at least solid golf to make it hard for him not to pick me. That's my goal."

Simpson has Ryder Cup experience, going 2-2 for the U.S. in its 2012 loss at Medinah, and has four finishes of T-3 or better this season, including a victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October. Two of those top-3 finishes have come this summer, at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June and The Greenbrier Classic in July.

Another Ryder Cup hopeful, Brandt Snedeker, shot 2-under 68 Thursday.

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3. TEAM REED'S RETURN: "Team Reed" is back at it.

Patrick Reed said that his wife, Justine, would use Wednesday's Pro-Am as a trial run to see if she's up to caddying a full event. It must have gone well, because Justine looped for the defending champion Thursday.

"She's such a huge competitor and so am I, and I feel like that's why I am where I am today," said Reed, who earned a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team last week. "She pushes me extremely hard, and I push her as well. With that, I feel like that's the reason why we've been successful, and that's why we've had such a great career so far."

Justine was on the bag last year when Patrick Reed broke out with his first Tour win at the Wyndham Championship. She took time off earlier this season while she was pregnant with the couple's first child, Windsor Wells, who was born in May.

Reed's return to Greensboro did not go exactly as planned. He shot a 1-over 71 Thursday.

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3. HOME COOKIN': William McGirt is from Lumberton, N.C., about a two-hour drive from Sedgefield Country Club. But he hasn't exactly put on a show for his hometown supporters in the past.

That is, until Thursday

McGirt, who has missed two cuts and never finished higher than 52nd in four years at the event, played the back nine at 5-under 30 en route to an opening-round 6-under 64. That tear included a 24-foot birdie putt at the par-4 18th hole.

"I've never played that well here. It's nice to get off to a good start," said McGirt. "I had mom and dad up here today and a bunch of old friends from home so it's nice to actually play well in front of them for once."

And if McGirt carries his success into the weekend and ticket requests start to pour in? "I'll probably turn my phone off," he said.

At 91st in the FedEx Cup standings, McGirt will make the 125-player field at The Barclays next week. After that, though, depends on how well he plays. A victory in Greensboro is currently projected to move McGirt inside the top 30, which would qualify him for the season finale, The Tour Championship.

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5. PLAYOFF WATCH: The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings after this week qualify for The Barclays, the first of four playoff events. Here's a look at Nos. 120-135, and where they stand after one round:

  • 120. David Toms – T-19, 3-under 67
  • 121. James Hahn – T-49, 1-under 69
  • 122. Robert Allenby – T-9, 4-under 66
  • 123. Nicholas Thompson – T-73, even-par 70
  • 124. Jhonattan Vegas – T-19, 3-under 67
  • 125. Paul Casey – T-4, 5-under 65
  • 126. Sang-Moon Bae – T-49, 1-under 69
  • 127. Charlie Beljan, T-119, 2-over 72
  • 128. Greg Chalmers – T-119, 2-over 72
  • 129. David Lingmerth – T-19, 3-under 67
  • 130. J.J. Henry – T-9, 4-under 66
  • 131. Ben Curtis – T-36, 2-under 68
  • 132. Jonathan Byrd – T-119, 2-over 72
  • 133. Richard Lee – T-98, 1-over 71
  • 134. Mike Weir – T-9, 4-under 66
  • 135. Brian Gay – T-147, 4-over 74

Brentley Romine contributed to this report.